Summary: Dollars and sense…
Spending money is one thing the Wakefield twins are very good at, but earning money isn’t that easy. Especially earning $87.50 in just three weeks. [Wing: Didn’t Jessica easily earn around that amount just a few books ago by selling Ginny’s artwork to local stores and taking a cut of it? Why can’t she do that again?] [Raven: Because Ginny told her to strongly do one?] That’s how much Jessica and Elizabeth need to take a bus trip to visit their great-aunt Helen.
Mr. Wakefield has told the twins that they must be responsible for earning their own bus fare. [Wing: … but why?] Elizabeth’s Idea of dog-sitting is the perfect solution, especially since their friend Ken is helping them. [[Wing: Is he earning the money for himself or for their bus fare?] But that’s when Joe comes along. The poor dog has been abused and the three suspect that Joe’s owner is the guilty one.
If Jessica, Elizabeth, and Ken keep quiet about Joe and collect their pay, the twins will have all the money they need. But what’s more important – the trip or a dog who needs help? [Wing: Yeah, that dog is dead if it has to rely on the Wakefields.]
Tagline: Can the twins prove that they’re not babies any more? [Wing: Well, considering the dog on the cover and what happened the last time a Wakefield took care of a dog, I’m going to say NOPE. Also, who is that dude on the cover? Is that supposed to be Steven? Because too young. Ken? Because EVERYONE LOOKS LIKE A WAKEFIELD.]
[Dove: It’s Ken. Steven has brown hair.]
That dog is a dead dog, and once again the Wakefield looks are taking over Sweet Valley.
[Dove: About three weeks ago, I said to Raven: Shall I tell Wing this is a book where the dog “goes to live on a farm” in the end? Raven said no, because he doesn’t want to see our site burn.]
Jessica comes running into Elizabeth’s room to show her an ad for crystal glassware; the women in the ad wear elegant long gowns and the men dark suits, while the table is covered in lace cloth and set with sparkling crystal and china. Elizabeth agrees it is romantic and pretty, and she’s curled up reading a French cookbook. I’d make fun of her for taking curling up with a good book to reading a cookbook, except I’ve done something similar. I love to read good cookbooks even though I hate to cook. Jessica doesn’t care about the cookbook, but does care about fancy dinners and dressing up and dancing with a cute boy.
Cue the We Look Alike But We’re Really Quite Different
- Jessica dreams about clothing and boys and the weird incesty thing she has going on with Steven.
- Elizabeth dreams about her writing being published in a magazine and winning blue ribbons and the weird bestiality thing she has going on with other people’s horses.
- Jessica likes spending time with her friends and talking and having fun. Elizabeth likes spending time with her friends and talking and having fun. The twins are totes different, as you can see.
- Jessica’s a Unicorn and they think they are as special as the mythical beast and royal enough to wear purple. Elizabeth claims to have nicknamed them the Snob Squad (to herself?) because all they talk about is clothes, other girls, and boys. I know she means for that to read that they are mean toward other girls, but mostly it just makes the Unicorns look like a bunch of queer girls who like both girls and boys. Wing: Queering Sweet Valley one book at a time. [Raven: The series doesn’t embrace it fully until Bruce Patman’s coming out story, SVT #121: Bruce on the Loose.]
Even though literally half a second ago Jessica was giddy and excited about the ad, Elizabeth says she is now staring glumly out the window because she’s bored that they’re stuck in the house because of all the rain. She wants to do something different. Steven perks up in the other room.
Elizabeth suggests they cook something different, such as “delicately seasoned chicken breasts wrapped around paper-thin slices of cheese and ham, sauteed in herb butter, and covered with a light cream sauce.”
First of all, I’m pretty sure you mean the paper-thin slices of cheese and ham are wrapped around the chicken breasts because I can’t see that working very well otherwise. Second of all, even I know that sounds like chicken cordon bleu, and I can’t imagine the worldly Wakefields have never run into that in Sweet Valley.
There’s then a fun little exchange where Jessica thinks chocolate mousse is pronounced like “chocolate mouse” and is disgusted, while Elizabeth teases her that it’s actually “chocolate moose” and is a fancy pudding. I now want chocolates in the shape of animals. [Raven: How about this?]
Then Jessica has a Great Idea. They are going to have a dinner party. They’ll make the chicken recipe and the mouse, invite some friends and tell them to dress up in fancy clothes, and use the best china and crystal goblets in the house. I have to admit, this does sound like a lot of fun.
Elizabeth agrees, though she is concerned that she will end up doing most of the work. TRUE STATEMENT. She wants to invite Amy, Nora, and Julie, but says that Amy might not like the idea of dressing up. Jessica is adamant that Amy wear a dress, though. She can dress up without wearing a dress, you damn gender essentialist. Jessica also wants to invite all the Unicorns, which seems UNBALANCED. She then settles on Lila and Ellen and — oh, wait, they could invite boooooooys. One boy for each girl, and they can wear suits.
Elizabeth and I are both very doubtful about the practicality of this plan. Jessica ignores this and barrels forward, thinking they should invite more people, and talking about Lila will be jealous that she didn’t think about it first, and wondering if Alice will let her get a new dress. That’s actually a good point; I’m shocked that by the sixth grade, Lila hasn’t thrown a formal dinner party for at least one of her birthdays.
They run downstairs to ask for permission, and find Alice, Ned, and Steven all reading various sections of the newspaper. Steven, of course, loves the sound of food (and, one assumes, Jessica all dolled up), but hates the idea of putting on a suit. Jessica shoots him down anyway by telling him he’s not invited, and saying they’re going to invite fourteen kids from school. Which is a lot for a formal sit-down dinner that Jessica and Elizabeth will prepare all the food for.
Alice is also concerned about this, and Elizabeth is quick to reassure her that they’re only inviting twelve people, it will be fourteen with the twins. Because that changes everything, obviously.
ALICE AND NED SHOOT THEM DOWN. ALICE. AND. NED. ACTUALLY. SAY. NO. TO. THE. TWINS.
Actual parenting from the Wakefields! They point out that it’s a huge undertaking and that sort of work is not really appropriate for their age, and all that “fancy food” (I STAND BY MY STATEMENT THIS ISN’T ALL THAT FUCKING FANCY, ESPECIALLY FOR SWEET VALLEY) is expensive, but they haven’t thought at all about how they’ll pay for it. Of course they haven’t, Ned. You give those girls pretty much everything they want! [Raven: Gotta say, nice work from the Elder Wakefields. ADULT SUPERVISION!]
Alice says they can have dinner parties when they’re “a little older”; Dove, when do they start having them? High school? Junior high? Next week? [Dove: I don’t think it ever happens, but in a later book, Alice randomly decides the twins aren’t old enough to go to parties with seventh and eighth graders, despite the fact they do that all the time.] She suggests they instead have a cookout; Ned just finished fencing in the backyard and they could have a nice party out there.
You mean, the same place they’ve already had parties? The same place you have a pool? I wonder when the regulations about having a fence around your pool started showing up. I think they came from the coasts inward, because that’s often how things work. After a quick bit of research, at least as early as 1998, Los Angeles was requiring new builds of swimming pools to include an enclosure around the pool, but I didn’t see anything about existing structures (though there were disclosure requirements when selling a house with a pool that did not have an enclosure). I would have thought pool fence safety regulations would have been much more stringent much earlier in the Los Angeles area.
Anyway, Jessica doesn’t want to have a cookout, because everyone does that, and hot dogs and hamburgers are boring anyway. She wants to do something special. Steven’s ears perk up at that. Elizabeth agrees with Jessica, but she can tell their parents aren’t going to budge, so she tries to convince Jessica they can figure out a way to make a cookout special. Jessica doesn’t care about that and sulks off to her room.
Back upstairs, Jessica throws a fit over their parents treating them like babies, and Elizabeth wonders if they can figure out a way to prove to them that they’re responsible. Jessica, of course, decides all is hopeless and she has nothing to look forward to for the rest of her life woe woe is her. (Also, she claims she’s depressed. Not really how depression works, JESSICA.)
Elizabeth reminds her they have a four-day weekend coming up, but Jessica doesn’t care about that, either, because it doesn’t matter when there’s nothing special to do and she wishes they could go somewhere. Weren’t you just moaning and pouting because you wanted to have a party? Would you make up your mind about what you want to do that will make you feel more grownup!
Conveniently, Great-Aunt Helen’s birthday is right around the same time. They both really like visiting her in Sandy Harbor, because she is interesting, the beach is great, and the kids they met were fun. (The boys, Elizabeth teases her sister, and it’s kind of adorable.)
Then it is time for Elizabeth to have a Great Idea. They should go visit Great-Aunt Helen over that long weekend. Jessica thinks this is a delightful idea, and they rush downstairs to ask. Their parents are still together, but Steven has fucked off back to his room to dream about chocolate mousse covering Jessica.
The Wakefield adults are both too busy at work to get away for the weekend, but Jessica says, “We didn’t mean everyone. We meant just us.” Because fuck you, family. You wouldn’t let her have a fancy dinner party. She’s going to let you fucking burn now.
Alice and Ned are leery about this idea, too, because it is a long trip to Sandy Harbour and they’d have to take a bus and it’s not clear they’re ready to travel so far by themselves. Since they are in the sixth grade, these are all valid points, especially in a place like Sweet Valley where they and their friends don’t frequently use public transportation.
Ned asks if they’ve checked to see how much the tickets are, but not even Elizabeth thought about that. Jessica rushes off to call the bus station, but Elizabeth sits down next to Ned, concerned about why their parents are so worried about money right now. She flat out asks if he can’t afford to send them on the trip.
He says that’s not the point, he’s just worried that they don’t understand the value of money, and they hadn’t even considered the fact that trips cost money, just like they didn’t consider that “fancy food” (STILL NOT FUCKING FANCY) costs money. (Also, regular food costs money too, obviously.) He actually says that money doesn’t grow on trees. CAN’T YOU BE MORE CREATIVE THAN THAT, NED?!
Alice adds that they’re not accusing Elizabeth and Jessica of being irresponsible (BUT YOU SHOULD OH YOU SHOULD WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST NEARLY THIRTY BOOKS?!), but it is a problem that they come up ideas without thinking them through, and they have to stop to consider what they involved.
These are actually good points. I … I am shocked to see more parenting from the Wakefields. WHAT STRANGE WORLD IS THIS?
Jessica bounces in to say that it is only twenty dollars! Alice is shocked and asks if that is round-trip, but Jessica has no idea. Just proving you parents’ point, Jessica. She says she only asked how much it cost to go to Sandy Harbor from Sweet Valley. Ned tells her that a round trip ticket is forty dollars, then, and with two of you, it’s eighty dollars. Yay, you can math, Ned.
Jessica, clearly without thinking, actually says that’ s a lot of money. Ned agrees, and that finally makes Jessica realise she might not get to go on this trip, either. The Wakefield adults confer silently for a moment, and then Ned says that if they can prove they’re responsible, they can go to Sandy Harbor. How will they do that, Elizabeth asks?
By earning the money for their fares, of course, and finally the plot kicks into gear: they have less than three weeks to earn eighty dollars. (At what point does that $7.50 get added? Or is the summary a lie?)
[Dove: I think this is a your family/my family thing, but in my house, visiting family is a chore. So I was astounded the twins had to pay their own way. I was like, damn, why don’t I get asked to pay my own way when being dragged halfway up the country to see my rellies? Then I could get out of it gracefully.]
They brainstorm for awhile. Jessica suggests they sell something, maybe Elizabeth’s books because she has so many. Elizabeth refuses and suggests they sell Jessica’s bracelet instead. Jessica, of course, won’t agree with that, and then says they should make something to sell, like that orange cake Elizabeth made last week. They can sell four for $20 each. Right, Jess. I see that happening.
They tell Alice about it when she checks in on them, and when they tell her their plan, she’s supportive, which is great, but also practical (also great): the bakery sells the same cakes for around $10, so she asks if they think people would pay twice the price for Elizabeth’s.
I am SHOCKED that Jessica doesn’t decide they should put some sort of Unicorn thing on it because that would, of course, make it worth way more than twice the price.
Elizabeth offers to make eight cakes instead, until Alice reminds them there are expenses with that, too, because they’d have to buy all the ingredients to make the cakes. Alice is doing some A+ parenting in this book. I think I must be hallucinating. Maybe I fell and hit my head and just didn’t know it until now?
Now that they’re thinking about the expenses that go into making something to sell, Elizabeth suggests the come up with something they could do to make money. (I bet Steven has a suggestion or two.) Her example is that Ken Matthews mows lawns to earn money, and when Jessica shoots that down (fair point, it’s a ton of work), she also knows someone who has a newspaper route. Jessica calls that an awful job because you have to get up really early and then what if it rains? ALSO, it is not really the type of job you have for three weeks and then fuck off on holiday. (Teen!Wing had a paper route for awhile, and it was a lot of fun, actually. We delivered after school, so I could only do it when it wasn’t marching band season, but I loved the precision of rolling the papers and then throwing them to hit the porch exactly. I got really good at that. The last few months, I had a car, and could throw from the driver’s side window, across the car itself, across the lawn, and still hit the porch. Good times, good times.)
[Dove: Now I have to highlight the difference between English and American paper rounds. Mine looked like this (from the bottom of the hill, to the top and down every single side-street), a twisty-turny-thighs-of-steel hike, on foot, carrying nearly 200 newspapers, which had to be pushed through the letterbox in full, not thrown at the front door. And I did two of these a week. For £3.52 per week. A world of fuck-no. Also, never move to the town I linked to. As established in The Bully, this is literally the English equivalent of Sweet Valley. And you are Nora Mercandy. And you don’t have a famous uncle.]
[Wing: Well, generally people walk their paper rounds here, too (unless the paper has switched to commercial delivery where everything is done by professional drivers), I just happened to have a route when I was older than most of the other after school delivery people. Not a ton of letterboxes around here, though, and we got paid significantly more. Plus tips at the holidays, which were sometimes surprisingly large.]
Elizabeth looks out the window, sees the rain has stopped and the sun has come out, and sees people walking their dogs. This gives her another Great Idea: they can start a dog-walking service! Because of course dog owners would rather be doing other things than walking their dogs. I don’t know about “rather be doing,” but there are certainly times I have to be doing something else (like working) and could use someone to walk my dog. Alas, I would never hire sixth graders to walk Monster Dog. I wouldn’t even hire high school kids. Monster Dog hates other dogs, and it would just be too much of a risk. So instead, she must wait for me to come home from work each day. Poor Monster Dog.
Jessica is self-aware here, because she doesn’t like dogs, and Mrs Bramble’s cocker spaniel was enough for her. Yes, please do throw back to the book where you NEARLY GOT A DOG FUCKING KILLED. Sally is such a sweet, trusting dog, and you are the WORST, JESSICA. I am going to go burn my t-shirt. [Raven: We will source you more if you do.] [Wing: Gee, thanks.]
Anyway, they settle down to figure out how much they can charge … by figuring out how many dogs they can walk a day and how much the will need to charge to earn what they need. Which isn’t terrible, except that it completely ignores the marketplace for current dogwalkers and what they charge. Just like they forgot to do about two seconds ago with the bakery. Have you learned nothing, Wakefields?!
Elizabeth figures they can walk two dogs each every day after school for the next ten school days (because Jessica refuses to work on weekends; you really don’t want this trip, do you, Jessica?), they can charge $2 per dog in order to get exactly $80.
Elizabeth is going to make flyers so they can photocopy it at school the next day and hand them out after school; she then dares to suggest that Jessica skip a Unicorn meeting in order to hand out flyers.
Elizabeth’s flyer: DOG-WALKING SERVICE. $2.00 PER DAY. CALL ELIZABETH OR JESSICA WAKEFIELD.
I assume you can see where this is going wrong.
To prove that she has learned something, Elizabeth realises they need money to make flyers. She has $3 and Jessica has less than $1; copies are 20 cents each. That seems surprisingly high. I’m pretty sure I could make copies for less than 10 cents each well into the 2000s.
Jessica suggests they borrow money from Ned and Alice, but Elizabeth points out they are trying to prove they can handle things on their own. She wants to try to borrow $5 from Steven, and Jessica says she knows just how to handle him. The perverted incest jokes write themselves.
She talks sweetly to him while he’s playing basketball in the drive, telling him she’s thinking about making some chocolate chip cookies, and asks whether he wants her to make extra so he can take some to school. He knows that she’s up to something, of course, and they have a legit delightful and funny exchange:
Steven looked at her suspiciously. “What do you want this time, Jessica?”
“Why, Steven,” Jessica said innocently. “What makes you think I want anything?”
“Because your name is Jessica Wakefield.”
Steven is willing to lend them the money, but only if they pay interest (which is fair); then he says he’ll accept 50% interest. Elizabeth admits she doesn’t know much about interest, but 50% sounds outrageous. That’s because it is. On the other hand, you apparently don’t have any friends with spare cash, despite knowing multiple people with after school jobs, so clearly you have no choice but to put up with Steven’s usury.
So now they have to earn $87.50 (thanks for clearing that up, Jamie Suzanne!), and he still expects chocolate chip cookies. Steven’s well on his way to using women for money and food for the rest of his life — oh, wait, he basically does that already. Nevermind. [Dove: As someone who knows who Steven ends up with: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Also, you’ve already met this character.] [Raven: Please say it’s Mr Nydick!]
The next day, Jessica makes Elizabeth hide the flyer when Lila comes around, because she doesn’t want Lila to know she has to work to get money. Lila ignores Elizabeth as she comes up to remind Jessica they have a Unicorn meeting at Janet’s house that afternoon (Janet is president of the Unicorns and Lila’s cousin; Lila actually tells Jessica that Janet is her cousin here, as if Jessica hasn’t known since book number one); Jessica is miserable over having to miss it, especially when Lila asks what could possibly be more important than a Unicorn meeting. She also makes Jessica come with her right then to tell Janet she’ll miss the meeting. Lockstep, Jessica, and double time.
Elizabeth lets Jessica off the hook for copying the flyers, and so she is alone when Ken turns up to ask what she’s doing. He says he loves dogs, but his parents won’t let him have one because they think he’s not old enough to be responsible for one, and they won’t give him the chance to prove he is responsible. Elizabeth is, of course, sympathetic, since she’s going through similar things with her own parents, but does not immediately invite him to join their dog-walking syndicate and Fix Everything, because she’s off her game this morning. Still, he volunteers if she ever needs help, and she feels optimistic because of course dog owners across Sweet Valley will throw handfuls of money to have an amazing Wakefield child walk their dog.
Jessica is late to meet her after school, of course, but at least she does show up, and they start trying to hand out flyers. It does not get off to a good start; the first person they see is an elderly woman walking a poodle, but when they ask if she’s interested in their dog-walking services, she says that walking Fifi (Fifi) is the only exercise she gets. Not to be ignored, Elizabeth pushes a flyer on her anyway in case she changes her mind. Jessica points out that was a mistake because the flyer cost twenty cents and the woman’s clearly not going to call them. (Poodles come in a few sizes, from teacup to midsize to giant, but I’m picturing something smaller and fuzzy. They’re generally very smart and are often pampered. Wing!Dad has a poodle, and she’s a bossy little sweetheart.)
The next person they see is a young man walking a big labrador that keeps tugging on its leash; he’s doubtful that either of the girls could handle his dog, or even both of them together (…look at me, not saying something dirty), and though Elizabeth tries to argue with him (because that’s the way to get customers), Jessica’s aware this is a terrible idea and puts a stop to it. (Labradors have the softest ears and super sweet faces.)
Things continue in this vein until they’ve only given out five flyers in two hours, and they are both disheartened and exhausted. How exactly do you plan to walk two dogs in an afternoon if you can’t walk for two hours looking for dogs?
Elizabeth decides they should stick the rest of the flyers on cars parked along the road, even though, as Jessica points out, they have no way of knowing if the drivers even have dogs, which is both a waste of time and money, but also building ill will. I hate when people put something on my car, and would never use that service even if I did need it. Stay the fuck away from my car.
That night, they get their first call, from a Mrs Foster who wants them to walk her dog on Tuesday and Thursday at 330; the next call is from the dude with the labrador (Baxter is the puppy’s name) and he says he’s very busy that week, so if they think they can handle Baxter, he’ll let them give it a try. That sounds like a bad, bad idea, dude. He needs Baxter walked Tuesday through Friday, so that’s two dogs on Tuesday and Thursday and one on Wednesday and Friday, far below what they need. We don’t yet know what time they’ll be walking Baxter, so I can’t tell if they’ve already managed to double book themselves or not. Another call comes in for a woman who needs two dogs walked on Wednesday and Friday afternoon.
Ned and Alice are impressed by the twin’s ingenuity, but I am mostly curious as to why these people seem to be scheduling one week at a time for the dogs. It’s normally a service that you have come every day or every couple days, but for weeks at a time, months, sometimes even years.
They’re all optimistic over dinner, but then the phone doesn’t ring again for the rest of the evening, so that was premature. Also premature is Elizabeth figuring that they’ll earn $20 for the week, since her flyer said $2 a day and at least a couple of those days are two dogs from the same owner. If this doesn’t blow up in their faces, I am going to be very disappointed.
On Tuesday, they show up for their first job, walking Bitsy, a small cocker spaniel. Those are adorable dogs with floppy ears and soft fur. ADORABLE. Jessica is relieved, because Elizabeth hasn’t told her which dog they’re getting next. You’d best not be walking those dogs together without permission from their owners, WAKEFIELD.
NOPE THEY ARE OH MY GOD YOU FUCKERS. INCONSIDERATE, POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS, AND I WANT SOMEONE TO PUNCH YOU IN YOUR PERFECTLY MATCHED FACES.
Baxter licks their faces, their owner is chill with two strangers he’s already shown signs of doubting taking his rambunctious dog out with a strange dog, and once they’re alone, Jessica wails about how it was so disgusting that Baxter licked her face. She’s not wrong. I do not understand people who let their dogs lick their faces; some people even kiss their dogs on the mouth. I’m grossing myself out.
Anyway, Jessica strolls along with Bitsy while Elizabeth has to jog to keep up with Baxter. Then Bitsy races past her and when she spins around, Jessica is calmly putting her hair into a ponytail.
Jessica fucking Wakefield, I hope you fucking burn. You do not let a dog run like that, not when you aren’t familiar with it, not when you don’t know its recall, not when you don’t know how to handle dogs. It could get hurt, it could hurt someone or some other dog, it could be killed. HOW THE FUCK HAVE YOUR PARENTS AGREED THIS IS A GOOD IDEA AFTER LAST TIME?!
On Wednesday, they pick up Baxter first, and then go off to pick up two Yorkshire terriers. (Another breed that’s often pampered like a poodle and is tiny and soft with pointy little ears.) Jessica is dismayed that she has to walk both at once and upset that she’s missing a Unicorn pool party at Lila’s house. Look, just admit you aren’t ready for responsibility and don’t want to go on this trip and quit. You’re only making everyone miserable and putting dogs in danger.
Because she’s tired of listening to Jessica whine (you and me both, Elizabeth), she suggests they walk the dogs downtown so they can window shop while they work. Jessica is worried about someone she knows seeing her, but they’re all at Lila’s Elizabeth points out. Thought you were trying to distract her! I’m worried about how very, very wrong this is going to go.
Sure enough, Jessica sees a gorgeous jumpsuit in a window and she’s “just got to try it on.” Of course she does. And then, because Jessica doesn’t want her to start whining again, Elizabeth agrees to hold all three dogs despite knowing how rambunctious Baxter can get. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU ALL?!
Jessica takes more than twenty minutes, Baxter drags Elizabeth down the street and the terriers are too small to do anything be pulled along, and Jessica comes out all breezy and lighthearted. Elizabeth, punch her in the fucking face, kick her out of this job, and keep the money for yourself. She’s not going to get any better.
On Thursday, Elizabeth complains to Amy (her BFF who wouldn’t want to wear a dress) about how Jessica is already complaining and goofing off. Dude, she’s terrible, but you fucking enabled her! Amy is sympathetic, but can’t help, because she has Booster practice that afternoon and is then baby-sitting after that. Doesn’t that mean Jessica also has Booster practice that afternoon?
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that as soon as Elizabeth meets up with Jessica, Jessica begs Elizabeth to do the work of walking Baxter and Bitsy (big labrador, small cocker spaniel) because they’re learning new cheers at practice and if she misses it, she’ll be really far behind. So much for responsibility. I mean, it is responsible for her to show up for practice, but she should have worked this out with Elizabeth beforehand and not double-booked herself.
Friday, Jessica is more than fifteen minutes late to meet Elizabeth; Ken comes by and says he saw Jessica with a bunch of kids headed to Casey’s Place (the ice cream parlor). Elizabeth is furious and is tempted to storm over and embarrass Jessica in front of all her friends. SO FUCKING DO IT. STOP ENABLING HER. [Raven: Yeah, I hate this version of Jessica. I like Scheming Jess, not Shirking Jess.]
Elizabeth has three dogs that day and no idea how she’s going to handle them all. Ken to the Rescue! AND he doesn’t even want to be paid. Ken. Get your shit together. She offered you half of what she’s paid. It’s not that much. It’s a job. You have a job. You know what it’s like to earn money. COME THE FUCK ON.
They do have fun walking the dogs together; Baxter, in particular, is happy that Ken is so willing to play with him. Ken, in turn, is wistful when they’re done because he loves dog so much and is sad that his parents won’t let him have one. I feel for you, kid. I love dogs, and I’m so glad I had one growing up.
They then talk about how Elizabeth is disheartened about not earning enough money, but oh, what luck! The woman who owns the terriers is going out of town for the weekend and wants to know if Elizabeth can keep the dogs at her house on Saturday or Sunday. UMM. She doesn’t make it sound like an emergency has popped up, either for her or for the person she originally had scheduled to watch her dogs, SO WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THEM?!
She’s willing to pay 20 whole entire dollars for the two days, too.
Ned and Alice are not thrilled with the idea, and point out that if anything happens to the dogs, Elizabeth and Jessica will be responsible. First of all, I’m pretty sure only Elizabeth deserves any of the blame or the reward. Second of all, CLEARLY THEY WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE JUST LIKE JESSICA LET AN OLD DOG GET OUT AND BE IN DANGER OF DEATH AND WAS NOT ACTUALLY PUNISHED FOR IT. FUCK.
Finally, they give in. I’m sure this will be just fine.
When Jessica gets home, she apologises to Elizabeth in a honey-sweet tone about completely forgetting the dogs due to her ice cream craving. Elizabeth uses the same tone on her when she tells her about the terriers and makes Jessica promise that she’ll be home all day on Saturday to watch them and bathe them and feed them — and as soon as Jessica makes that promise, Elizabeth says she’s going roller skating and won’t be around. Fair trick, BUT YOU KNOW SHE CAN’T BE TRUSTED.
On Saturday, Jessica is pouting in the backyard and watching the terriers frolick. Her word, not mine. She doesn’t want to spend the entire day alone with them, and is under strict instructions to feed them, keep the gate closed, and bathe them. I’m still weirded out that random preteen kids are being trusted to bathe these dogs while they watch them for approximately 48 hours, but whatever Jamie Suzanne needs, I guess.
The terriers come nipping at her feet, yelping, and jumping around. She refuses to play with them, but when their yelps turn to howls, she goes to get their food. Their owner left special food for them, and Jessica is disgusted by it. That’s pet food, kid. Almost all of it smells terrible.
She’s interrupted by Lila and Ellen showing up at her gate. Since she’s trying to keep all of this a secret from them, she’s less than thrilled. I would be too, to be honest, mostly because call first, people! Or, now, text! Give me some warning!
They’ve come to invite her to the mall, but she won’t go, not because she made a promise to Elizabeth, but because she’s certain that if she skips out on the work again, Elizabeth will tell Ned and Alice. She should have done already.
Conveniently, Ken turns up looking for Elizabeth and tells Jessica that if she wants to go to the mall, he’ll stay and watch the dogs. Good lord, Ken, I know you’re hard up for a pet, but this is getting ridiculous.
When Elizabeth gets home, she’s exciting to see that someone is playing with the dogs, but less than thrilled that Jessica left him to do all the work, including bathing them. She goes off on a rant/lecture about how irresponsible Jessica is (true) and how she doesn’t deserve to go on the trip (also true), but Ken teases her into a slightly better mood by telling her not to waste her lecture on him. That’s kind of cute.
And then there is this:
Elizabeth couldn’t help smiling. “Sorry. I’m just so furious. Jessica thinks she can get away with everything. I guess it’s partly my fault, too, because I cover up for her. Well, this time, I won’t. I’m going to let her know exactly what I think. And I can’t wait!”
WELCOME TO THE FUCKING PARTY, ELIZABETH. WAY TO CATCH UP. You’ve enabled her since book one, which makes me think you’ve been enabling her since you could talk, maybe even earlier than that. Stop! Let her face her own consequences. REAL CONSEQUENCES, DO YOU HEAR ME, NED AND ALICE?
Jessica breezes into the yard in a great mood (I assume because shopping) and asks how the dogs are doing. Elizabeth starts to tear her head off, and it is great. Jessica, of course, doesn’t understand what the big deal is because it’s not like she left the dogs alone (and, honestly, Ken is a much better option to have taking care of them), but that’s not the point, Elizabeth says (ALSO TRUE).
Their fight is interrupted by a black sports car pulling up into the driveway. A man gets out of it followed by a beautiful white dog. Are you … are you about to leave your dog with a couple of preteen strangers? Sir. SIR.
He’s Quincy, and he’s come to leave his dog for a week while he’s out of town on business. JAMIE FUCKING SUZANNE, I HAVE SUSPENDED MY DISBELIEF THROUGHOUT THIS BOOK, BUT YOU CANNOT EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE THAT A MAN WITH THIS MUCH MONEY OR AT LEAST THIS MUCH INVESTED IN HIS APPEARANCE WOULD LEAVE HIS PERFECTLY GROOMED DOG WITH PRETEEN STRANGERS WHO DON’T EVEN WORK AT A BOARDING KENNEL BUT AT THEIR HOME AND FORCE THE MATTER WHEN THEY SAY THEY HAVE TO ASK THEIR PARENTS BUT THEIR PARENTS AREN’T HOME. ARE YOU SERIOUS, JAMIE SUZANNE? YOU SERIOUSLY EXPECT THIS STORY TO WORK AT ALL AT THIS POINT? YOU EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE THAT HE HASN’T ALREADY MADE ARRANGEMENTS AT A FANCY BOARDING HOUSE WITH A VET ON PREMISE OR AT LEAST ON CALL AND CERTIFIED GROOMERS AND LITTLE SUITES FOR THE DOGS
(not that I speak from experience) OR AT THE VERY VERY LEAST AT HIS VET’S OFFICE. YOU CANNOT EXPECT ME TO BUY THIS SETUP FOR ONE FUCKING SECOND. I DON’T EVEN CARE THAT HE’S SUPPOSEDLY ABUSING THE DOG, THAT MAKES IT EVEN LESS LIKELY THAT HE’D DUMP IT WITH A COUPLE OF PRETEEN STRANGERS WHO MIGHT NOTICE SOMETHING AMISS AND TELL THEIR PARENTS GODDAMN.
[Raven: Yaaaay! Wing goes Boom! And she’s correct to do so, I might add.]
He offers them $40 for the week, which thrills Jessica to no end because that means they’ll have enough money for their trip. One: who the fuck says you get to go, Jessica? You’ve done next to none of the work. Hold firm, Elizabeth! Two: That is a fucking ripoff considering they’re getting $20 to watch 2 small dogs for 48 hours. KNOW YOUR WORTH, GIRLS.
The dog is Joe, and he sits quietly, has his head down always, and my heart is already breaking for him. I’m writing this recap with Monster Dog on the couch next to me, passed out from all the excitement of having visitors in the house earlier, and I just had to go give her a cuddle. She likes cuddles, but she’s already fallen back asleep. Doggies. So silly.
Jessica also thinks they can come up with a way to not pay Steven back, which is crap and also a sex joke. Elizabeth shoots this down, because Jess keeps leaving her to do all the work (though not the sex), and says that if they’re going to take care of a dog for a week (IF? HIS OWNER IS ALREADY GONE), Jessica is going to do her fair share.
Ken calls them over to look at Joe, who is simply standing motionless in the yard. When Ken reaches out to pat him on the head, the dog shies away. Elizabeth thinks this is weird because dogs usually come running to you. How the fuck many dogs have you known? Dogs running at you aren’t always friendly. Dogs who don’t run can be super friendly. Dogs can duck away from strangers touching them without having been abused. I mean, probably this dog was abused because that is the type of story this series would tell, but dogs act in a billion different ways for a billion different reasons. None of you are the fucking dog whisperer, and actually, even a lot of his treatment of dogs is shit.
Joe is dirty and smells like he hasn’t had a bath in a long time. His nails haven’t been clipped either. Ken thinks he looks like a purebred Siberian Samoyed, but he’s too skinny and dirty to be a pampered pet and instead seems like a stray. (Siberian Samoyeds look like fluffy teddy bears, OMG.)
Elizabeth feeds him some of the terriers’ food (not always a great idea, especially when the terriers are eating special food), and though he’s slow to start eating, eventually he devours it and drinks a bunch of water they bring him.
They then decide to give him a bath, because yes, let’s further terrify the dog who is already skittish and worrisome. A+ decision making. He’s scared of the hose, but using a bucket, they eventually get a bath started. Joe immediately whimpers, and they find cuts and bruises all over his body. Oh god, this dog. My heart hurts.
Once they’ve finished bathing him, they decide that he’s truly beautiful. Did you … did you look at the fluffy teddy bear picture I linked above? Because I have my doubts that the dog looks all that beautiful or that his wet hair is all that gorgeous. Also, Jamie Suzanne is beating us over the head with the idea that the bruises may be hidden by his beauty, but they all know the bruises are still there. Which is surface level metaphor, but considering the world of Sweet Valley, a surprisingly deft one.
Ken finally says that someone has been abusing Joe. He’s furious (me too), and neither Elizabeth or Jessica can imagine why anyone would want to hurt a dog. Even Jessica doesn’t intentionally hurt them, just nearly kills them via her negligence.
They figure it’s probably the owner, Mr Quincy, because who else could do it.
Jessica then makes the smartest suggestion of the book, which is that they tell their parents. And Elizabeth. ELIZABETH. FUCKING. SHOOTS. IT. DOWN. Because their parents said no complaining and no whining and if they go to them, Alice and Ned will say it’s their problem and they should take care of it. Elizabeth. I thought you were supposed to be the logical clever one. THIS IS A LOAD OF BULLSHIT. In-universe, you allegedly have a great relationship with both your parents most of the time. This is exactly the sort of thing you would take to them. [Dove: Also, twins, remember when you had a sexist teacher, and you didn’t want to bother the parents with these petty problems? Only it wasn’t a petty problem? Someone needs to teach these kids how to rate problems in terms of importance.]
Remember what I said about suspending my disbelief, Jamie Suzanne? YOU FUCKING FAILED AGAIN AT CONVINCING ME TO DO THAT.
The trio set out to make Joe like them and to take care of him for the week. Ken buys dog toys, a soft brush for Joe’s fur, and really high quality dog food. Oh, you sweet kid. I hope you get to keep Joe at the end of this. He also brings medicine for his cuts that he got from a veterinarian. I am not even going to deal with the many layers of questions I have about that. Moving on.
Joe’s actually playing a little with them, which is sweet and heartbreaking and made me go cuddle Monster Dog again, because when I got her from the shelter, she was — you know what, time for Wing Story Hour. The book doesn’t need us at the moment. [Raven: *settles down for story time*] [Wing: While that’s delightful, you’ve already heard this story. Probably many times. The joy of knowing me is that you hear about Monster Dog regularly.]
Lo these many years ago (okay, not that many), I went to a local dog shelter to see if I could volunteer. I ended up walking around to look at dogs while I waited to talk to someone, and found this sweet, skinny adult dog who just stared and stared with big eyes. I signed up to have a meet and greet with her (basically, a shelter employee/volunteer takes you and the dog into a room so you can see if you get along). Monster Dog promptly crawled into my lap and refused to move no matter how the shelter person tried to get her to run or play. That was it. I was sold. She came home with me the very first second she could.
She was a few years old when she turned up at the shelter, and banged up, and far underweight. I bought a ton of toys and a soft bed and treats and all sorts of things when I brought her home. (She is not my first dog, but the first one I’ve had in many years, so I went a little overboard, I know.) Monster Dog did not understand: that the bed was hers, what to do with the bed, that the treats were hers, that I wasn’t going to leave her the second I walked out of the room, or what to do with toys.
I had to teach my dog how to play with toys. It was so fucking heartbreaking.
(She now loves toys and has her own damn toybox. She’s the best. Also, a toybox full of toys is the least of the things I’ve bought for her comfort, but let’s move on without talking about that ridiculousness.)
/Wing Story Hour
[Dove: No, let’s not move on just yet. I want to put it our there that Wing bought a sofa for her dog. No, she didn’t update her existing sofa around the same time as getting the dog. What happened was: Wing spent two years sitting on a pile of cushions, stating that there was “no need” for a sofa, and she didn’t want to spend money on something she didn’t need. Dog arrives and Wing’s like OMG, MY DOG NEEDS A SOFA. Thus a sofa was bought. Also, all of Monster Dog’s toys look like penises.]
[Wing: That’s not even the most ridiculous part (though my siblings would disagree considering how many times I made them sit on the floor when they visited, but promptly bought my dog a couch). I then went on to buy a new car so Monster Dog would be more comfortable. Yes, it was a car I’d been eyeing for awhile anyway, but I spent nearly three years not buying it because I didn’t really need it, then promptly bought it after taking Monster Dog on our first road trip.
Dove is not wrong about the penises, though. While not all Monster Dog’s toys look like penises, a surprisingly large number do.]
Jessica even comes home early that afternoon to check on Joe, and Elizabeth is amazed that a dog has been able to win Jessica’s heart. Right.
Ken comes over every day to help take care of Joe, and Joe starts trusting them more and more. He even learns the tricks that Ken teaches him (sit, stand on his hinds legs and beg, and stay still. That last one is hard for Monster Dog, but probably fairly easy for Joe due to how he was staying so still all the time anyway. Poor puppy), and he and Ken are really forming a bond. There’s another bath on Thursday, and it’s adorable, Joe steals the hose, makes them chase him with the towels, etc. Even Alice and Ned are entertained and tell Elizabeth what a good job she’s doing (and they tell her to share the money with Ken for doing so much of the work! There continues to be somewhat decent parenting in this book). Elizabeth wonders what they would think if she told them the truth, but doesn’t. Because she is making terrible life choices. Again.
The trio try to brainstorm ways to keep Joe from going back to Mr Quincy. They can’t tell the police, because almost all the cuts have healed, and Joe looks so much healthier now. THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING DAY ONE.
Then Jessica decides they should make it so that Mr Quincy can’t recognise Joe by dying his hair black. She’s had the temporary dye for awhile because she’s been considering dying her hair black. Sweet Valley Twins 666: Jessica Meets Satan (and Beats Him at His Own Game). [Dove: Nope, Elizabeth meets Satan. And wins. (If you’re going to read that link, make sure you read the story before it: Double Penetration, which is not actually smutty, despite the title, but there is porn. Oh, just read them.]
Oh god. First they cut his hair because the dye box is for one head of human hair. I actually think even Jessica would need two boxes, as long as her hair is supposed to be, but whatever, I’m done arguing about suspension of disbelief on far more important plot points, I’m going to roll with this. They chop off all his hair, they dye him, and then they decide that they’re going to try to convince Ken’s parents that he should get to keep disguised!Joe as his own dog.
The shenanigans in this book are giving me second hand embarrassment.
Sure enough, Ken’s parents shoot down the idea, and they are left trying to find another place to hide Joe. Then Ken thinks about taking him out to his cousin’s ranch which is a whole entire 10 miles out of town, where there are already three dogs. Jessica thinks that’s a great idea because Mr Quincy will never find him that far away.
Jessica. Jessica. Ten mil– you know what, never mind. Rolling with it. Whatever.
The next day, they take Joe out to the ranch. On the bus. Is that even allowed? The ranch is perfect, it has dogs and space to run and horses and I’m pretty sure Elizabeth wants to move in immediately.
Cousin Fred agrees to keep Joe if he gets along with George and Harry, his two German shepherds. (Beautiful big dogs often used for police and protective work. Very loyal and sweet.) The dogs run up, and it is at this point that Monster Dog would be trying to eat their faces in her rage. Oh, sweet Monster Dog. I love your antisocial little heart. The dogs circle and sniff and then seem to get on well.
Elizabeth thinks they need to get back so they’re at home when Mr Quincy arrives, but Jessica wants the blueberry pancakes that Cousin Fred offers. Elizabeth gives in. Goddamnit Elizabeth. You keep swearing you’ll stand up to Jessica. FUCKING DO IT.
Mr Quincy is waiting at the house when they get there, and has been waiting for awhile. Alice and Ned are already not thrilled that the girls disappeared without leaving a note or anything, and now they have to say that they’ve lost the dog. This is going to go well.
Jessica’s lies save the moment, at least: she says that he was gone when they went out to feed him and they’ve been looking for him all day. Ken adds that he thinks he might have left the gate open when he left the afternoon before, but Elizabeth is quick to say it isn’t his fault, and the Wakefields agree.
Mr Quincy starts shouting that he wants his dog back and he should have known better than to trust a couple of irresponsible children. YES YOU FUCKING SHOULD HAVE. I HAVE BEEN SAYING THAT ABOUT EVERY GODDAMN DOG OWNER IN THIS BOOK.
Ned takes them looking for Joe again, but of course they don’t find him. He’s very disappointed in the girls and points out that Joe could have been hit by a car because they were irresponsible. Well no shit, Ned. You should have shut down this whole dog thing from the beginning after what Jessica did mere weeks to months ago. While you and Alice have been doing some decent parenting, this part is absolute crap.
Elizabeth is both guilty for making her parents feel like that and angry at Mr Quincy for being such a shit when he abused his dog in the first place. Now, if I had left my dog somewhere and came back to find her gone (and I would never have fucking left her with preteen fucking strangers), I would be apoplectic. My guess is that Mr Quincy is going to turn out to actually have abused the dog, but since we don’t know that for sure, his rage is completely valid.
Then Elizabeth realises they haven’t been paid the second half of the money, they won’t get paid, and they’ll probably have to give back the original $20. Now they can’t go to Sandy Harbor. Even if you had the money, do you really think your parents would let you go after, as far as they know, YOU LOST A FUCKING DOG?
Ken calls the next morning to say that Joe ran away from the farm. Ken wants them to go to the farm with him and help search. The girls can go because their parents haven’t grounded them. AND WHY THE FUCK NOT, ALICE AND NED? I am taking back all of the positive things I said about your parenting in this book. [Raven: On balance, I’m still giving them a thumbs up. Because they got some things right, instead of just fucking up everything. Sometimes a win is as simple as “they did not glue their eyes shut and burn down the house.” Gold stars for everyone!] [Wing: … the bar is really low in Sweet Valley.]
Oh, but whoops, Ken can’t go because he’s already been once and that’s enough for a weekend. It seems weird that they won’t let him visit his cousin pretty much whenever he wants, since they let him ride the bus out there alone in the first place.
It starts raining, Jessica refuses to go out into the rain to look for Joe, and besides, Joe could be anywhere by now. Elizabeth decides that they have to confess about what happened. Ken wants to know how that will help, and I do, too, at this point; Elizabeth says that doesn’t matter, they have to be honest. Where the fuck was this honesty yesterday?
(Gee, lots of rain and wash-out dye. I wonder…)
They, of course, find Joe at the house with all his dye washed away. Alice and Ned have already called Mr Quincy to come get him. Before they can tell Alice and Ned the truth, Mr Quincy shows up. Joe won’t go to him, he cowers and whimpers behind Ken, and finally Ken bursts out that Mr Quincy was abusing him. Mr Quincy looks stunned and then nervous. Did you really fucking think no one would notice? The fuck is wrong with you? On so many fucking levels.
Mr Quincy tries to grab Joe, but Ned stops him because he believes they’re telling the truth and dog abuse is against the law. I guess Ned is back to being a criminal attorney. (Kidding, that’s easy information to know whether or not you’re a specific type of lawyer or even a lawyer at all.) Mr Quincy finally says that they’re lying, but they can keep the dog because he’s costing too much in dog food anyway. Ned says that if he ever sees Mr Quincy with a dog again, he’ll start an investigation; Mr Quincy says that he never wants to see another dog again. How exactly did you end up with this one in the first place? Why? I have so many questions about the logic of this plot. [Raven: I’d be all over it if the “make sure Quincy remains dogless” plan was mentioned in all the future books… “I’m home,” shouted Ned from the hallway. “Give me five minutes to update my Quincy Surveillance Journal and then I’m all yours.”] [Wing: I am charmed. I need that Ned to be the real Ned.]
They call over Ken’s parents so they only have to tell the story once, and finally tell the truth to all the parents. The parents are impressed by them saving the dog’s life, which is true, but they all sort of brush over the fact that they lied and weren’t responsible enough to tell their parents the fucking truth oh my god.
Ken gets to keep Joe. I’m shocked.
They bring out cake (that Alice baked that morning, but of course), which draws Steven down, the girls are getting the last of the money they need for their trip, Ned’s going to pay Steven back too (and is shocked at how much interest he was charging his sisters), and all things are wrapped up in a neat bow.
Look, Jessica absolutely does not deserve to go on that trip, but neither of them really can be trusted to travel on their own. They lied! They didn’t come to their parents when there was real danger! What if something happens while traveling? Are they going to lie about that too? Not ask for help? Don’t encourage this bullshit!
Teaser for the next book is Amy and Elizabeth talking about how March is almost over and April Fools’ Day is coming. Amy wants to come up with something wild this year, and thinks it is kind of boring that Elizabeth and Jessica switch identities each year. The same thing every year and occasionally in times in between? That is boring.
Jessica then pops into the room because she’s got a Great Idea that will fool everyone. Except, I assume, Amy, who is still in the damn room.
Yay doggies. Animal abuse can fuck right off. Somewhat decent parenting undermined by the shitshow parenting at the end. As always, wrapped up in a neat little bow without anyone learning any lesson other than lying to get what you want works every time.
[Dove: I hate this book for the simple reason that the twins never learn to rate a problem. You’re twelve, you can’t deal with animal abuse yourself (… well, Jessica can negligently dole it out). Call a parent, take the dog to the vet, be sensible. Oh, and spoilers: we don’t see Great Aunt Helen until #56 The Wakefields Strike it Rich.]
[Raven: This book was okay, if you manage to willingly suspend your disbelief to a hitherto unfathomable amount. Although I hated Jess as she shirked and lied her way out of doing any work toward the fundraising goal, I did enjoy the slivers of genuine Adulting from the Sainted Elder Wakefields. Quincy was a bit to Panto Villain for my tastes, but his dog was legit adorable. Overall, adequate but forgettable. Onwards!]
[Wing: The Wakefields don’t strike it rich until #56? LIES, PUBLISHER. ALL LIES.]