Title: April Fool!
Tagline: Is Elizabeth pretending to be Jessica – or is Elizabeth really Elizabeth?
Summary: It’s April Fools’ Day and the Wakefield twins are about to play their biggest and best trick ever. Usually Elizabeth and Jessica pretend to be each other. But this year they won’t switch identities, everybody will just think they did.
When April 1 comes, the twins’ trick works perfectly – too perfectly for Elizabeth. Everyone believes she is Jessica pretending to be Elizabeth. And being Jessica always means getting into trouble. By the end of the day, Elizabeth is beginning to wonder whether she is the biggest April Fool of all for agreeing to be part of this charade.
[Raven: Or are WE the fools for recapping this ridiculous series? You decide!]
[Wing: We are certainly the fools for having to read this book. I raced through it as fast as I could and still wish I could get that 15 minutes back. In order to get through this recap, I’ve embraced my inner Jessica and put on a face mask (mint and charcoal). It will be dried in 10 minutes. I will devote that much more time to this book, and then that’s it, straight to the final thoughts section, even though I normally love Raven’s recaps. This book is just that boring.]
Ah, a rare thing… a book title containing an exclamation mark / point. Although scouring the SVT series, it seems it has another eight such books to keep it company.
I quite like April Fools’ Day, but I appreciate that the mileage of others may vary on this issue. The day generally consists of half the people partaking and recounting hilarious pranks, while the other half sneer and condescend at the pranksters and pray for a swift resolution to the enforced jollity. Any form of awkward interaction gets the thumbs up from me.
Elizabeth Wakefield, everyone’s second favourite twin, commences the proceedings from the comfortable branches of her Thinking Tree. Seriously, she currently spends so much time there in she’s in danger of transforming into the Three-Eyed Raven. She contemplates Mr Davis, who will announce the winner to an essay writing competition the following day. Liz has high hopes, as her essay on whales is apparently FUCKING INCREDIBLE. She hopes to win a subscription to a magazine for her insightful words.
Idly, she ponders over which magazine she’d choose, should the whale essay bear glorious humpbacked fruit. Her options? A year of the mystery periodical Weird Shit That’s Actually Boring, or a year of Horse Cock Monthly.
But better than simple mysteries and horse porn, the following day is special for another reason… it’s April Fools’ Day!
Apparently, the twins have a sure-fire winner of an April Fools’ trick, one that has proven very popular in the past: they would pretend to be each other! Oh, what hilarity must ensue! This “prank” was almost a tradition, and most of their friends and family looked forward to it each year.
[Wing: I’m not sure why they look forward to it. Just because it’s tradition? Because the twins actually suck at pretending to be each other despite what we’re told about them being able to pull off Twin Magic with such ease?]
So, let’s move into the usual cookie cutter crap that describes Sweet Valley’s favourite pre-teen mirror images.
“Liz,” said Jessica, looking closely at her twin, “have you noticed that we look alike?”
“I have, Jess,” said Elizabeth. “That’s because we are identical twins.”
“Identical twins?” Jess sounded confused, as she always was when confronted with colours, shapes and sounds. “What does that mean?”
“It means that I fucking own you,” said Elizabeth, moving closer. She teased her cigarette end close to Jessica’s exposed cheek. “Four minutes older, bitch. Don’t you forget it.”
“I- I- I wont!” stuttered Jessica, reeling back from the stench of gin on Elizabeth’s breath. She could see the sweat glistening against the tattoo on her sister’s neck, veins popping and pulsing in a drug-addled rage. She really can’t handle Crystal Meth, Jessica thought. Poor Elizabeth!
For April Fools’ Day this year, Jessica has a better idea than the usual “You-Be-Me-And-I’ll-Be-You” schtick, and Liz is all ears. When Jessica arrives, she spills the beans. Instead of switching places, and doing the exact thing that everyone expects them to do, the twins won’t actually change identities… they’ll just pretend that they have!
[Dove: Except for the fact that this is still the same school year as Best Friends, which happened, I’m guessing in September. They must be in March. That means the twins have only been dressing differently for six months. So how exactly did the “we’ll switch places” prank actually work, since according to Best Friends, nobody could tell them apart when they dressed the same? My only thought is that someone would approach one of the twins and say, “Uh… Jessica?” and whichever Wakefield it was would yell, “Ha ha! April Fool!” and the approacher would wander off, shaking their head, thinking, “Jeez, those Wakefield twins are fucking annoying.”]
Actually, that’s pretty neat. A refreshing take on what would likely be an obvious prank otherwise.
Approved. So far.
Jess supplies further information. The twins would emphasise their differences, so Jessica would wear her wildest outfit and slap on the facepaint a little too thick, in an attempt to make their classmates believe she was Elizabeth pretending to be Jessica. On the other side of the coin, Elizabeth would befriend the lowest and most rejected waif in sixth grade while dictating that the rest of her class has no fun whatsoever, driving onlookers to believe it’s Jessica trying to mimic her sister.
In a twist of fate, some of the staff of Sweet Valley Middle School came up with a similar idea. This lead to Mr Nydick taking English classes while dressed in a terrible tweed-paisley combination suit and tie, and Mr Bowman being sent to prison for inappropriately touching kids.
So, this book will have Elizabeth pretending to be an OTT Elizabeth, and Jessica pretending to be an OTT Jessica. All the while, everyone will think Liz is Jess and Jess is Liz.
(That sounds… pretty fun, actually. But confusing. Seriously, go reread this book, as it’ll make this recap make so much more sense.)
Liz is initially confused, but Jess supplies the hard sell. The payoff will come at a party after school once the pranking day is done.
The girls discuss their wardrobe for the festivities, before Jess dashes off to speak to The Sainted Alice. This leaves Elizabeth to wallow in the fun they’ll have at school the following day.
Next morning, it’s all systems go. Their first victim, predictably, is Steven, who queues for the bathroom while Elizabeth ablutes. As she exits, replete in a gingham blouse that’s just so Elizabeth, she wishes her brother a very happy April first…
Steven stared at her suspiciously. Then he grinned. “You mean Happy April Fools’ Day, don’t you, Jess?”
Ding! The game is afoot!
Despite her protestations, Liz can’t convince her brother that she is, in fact, Elizabeth. Steven feigns a heart attack, which is without doubt the SHITTEST April Fools’ gag I’ve ever seen. For some ludicrous reason, Liz buys it and anxiously calls for their mother. While Steven gloats about how he “got her good,” Jessica darts into the bathroom ahead of him.
When Jessica exits the bathroom, she’s outdone herself. Denim miniskirt, hot pink t-shirt, lashings of makeup and a touch too much perfume. But why the hell isn’t she wearing anything purple? The Unicorns will be mad as hell, unless their jape is to tell everyone that purple is a shitty colour. Or maybe Lila will tell everyone that she’s had Ms Arnette killed, only to reveal that April Fool, she’s only in critical condition after the hitman bungled the job.
At breakfast, Alice pulls her prank. Oh my god, she’s dyed her hair red! Everyone thinks she looks like a fucking Jaffa Cake, but they are too polite to mention it. After some more “haha, we know you’ve switched places, with Liz/Jess, Jess/Liz’ badinage, Daddy Wakefield unveils his own comic genius… his tie is on backwards.
Oh, my fucking sides.
[Wing: Lawyers, dude. Lawyers.]
Okay, so my patience is wearing a little thin now.
Jessica’s jape is pretty inventive, given the premise of their usual prank. But the rest of the Wakefields?
I mean, fake heart attack? Red wig? Backward motherfucking tie? APPALLING.
Come on, Jamie Suzanne, this was a GREAT opportunity for some creativity. I’m not expecting a Roseanne Halloween Special on every page, [Wing: Well I just noped out of this recap in favour of watching Roseanne again.] but there was SO MUCH scope for fun and frolics here. Maybe even a callback to previous books… Alice could’ve told her kids she WAS running away with Fabio, or that Marvellous Marvin had died. Or hell, Ned could’ve told Steven that his real dad was the High School Basketball Coach before sending him off for practice.
But no, we get a backward tie and a massive disappointment.
At school, things don’t get much better. But hey, at least these pranksters are only twelve.
Jim Sturbridge is wearing a Groucho Marx nose and moustache. How the hell is that an April Fools’ prank? Does he think people will believe that he’s grown a fucking moustache overnight? [Dove: Again, I must point out: Jim came up with that incredibly feeble play about apes. And he didn’t recognise his best friend when she curled her hair. So, yes. That moron probably does think that.]
Actually, I have to ask this… is April Fools’ Day different in America, or something? [Wing: … since you haven’t told me what it’s like in England, I can’t actually answer that. Practical jokes, gotchas, sometimes really nasty pranks.]
Ricky Capaldo – who the blue fuck is this guy? – has a more classical approach: shaking hands with sticky jizz fingers. Nice.
Jess and Liz both try to convince their classmates they have not switched places this year. Of course, no one believes them, which plays right into their hands.
Jerry McAllister thrusts a camera in Jessica’s face, primed to take “Elizabeth’s” picture. As you can no doubt guess, the camera squirts water!
Things take a more interesting turn when Lila appears. She clocks Elizabeth and, presuming that Liz is Jess, just as everyone else has thus far, she admonishes her for not wearing anything purple. Despite Elizabeth’s protestations, she takes Jessica to task for “neglecting her Unicorn duties,” and demands she show up to a predetermined spot after classes end in order to partake in an “extra special job” just for her.
So the lack-of-purple thing is tackled. Good. But neither twin is wearing purple, and I think that any Jessica played by Elizabeth would’ve been dressed from head to toe like Barney the fucking Dinosaur. [Wing: Hell, she might have gone so far as wear purple paint.]
Elizabeth tries to get out of it, claiming that she has to help decorate the school gym for the party that evening, but Lila no-sirs that shit.
“Ha-ha,” Lila said. “Don’t try to pull that tired old April Fools’ joke on me, Jessica Wakefield. We all know that Elizabeth is the one who’s doing the decorating.” Lila stuck her nose in the air and flounced away.
Good old Lila. A perfect exit.
Homeroom teacher (and sexist pig) Mr Davis enters, and is the next to be pranked. Charlie Cashman has left an apple on the teacher’s desk, supposedly courtesy of school swot Winston Egbert. The apple, of course, contains a plastic worm.
Everyone laughs. Everyone except the reader, obviously.
Mr Davis is similarly unamused, and announces a pop quiz as punishment. He hands out answer sheets and pencils, much to everyone’s annoyance.
Question one: How far can a bear run into the woods?
Elizabeth ponders this frankly ludicrous question, and comes up with a perfectly ludicrous answer. [Dove: This question reminds me of Dame Slap from Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree books. In her school, the questions are always hopelessly vague: How many books are on a shelf? The children decide the answer is “none” because it might be a food shelf, etc.] [Wing: The bear question is a fairly standard basic riddle for kids.] But as she attempts to jot it down, it seems that her pencil is faulty. It glides over the page without leaving a mark!
The other students are having similar issues. Mr Davis has pranked them, in the book’s one non-twin-inspired joke that’s actually decent.
After everyone has stopped hyperventilating with mirth, Mr Davis turns to the important topic of the essay competition. Elizabeth crosses her fingers, hoping the essay on how to kill whales with a penknife and a go-to attitude would be on point. Sure enough, she is the winner!
Liz is pleased as punch, and makes to head to the front of the class to collect her prize. However, Mr Davis motions to Jessica instead! Elizabeth is outraged, and aims to set her teacher straight.
Mr Davis shook his head. “We all know about the famous April Fool’s twin switch that you two girls pull every year. You might be able to fool some people, but you can’t fool me.”
How the hell does Mr Davis know about this prank? He’s been teaching at Sweet Valley Middle School for all of three weeks! I mean, technically I suppose the other teachers could have warned him about possible pranks the students might pull, but I find it hard to believe such useful information would come from a group of adults so monumentally asinine that they’d have trouble wiping their own arses without supervision. They are so clueless, I’m guessing the only reason Mr Nydick isn’t in prison is that the children he thinks he’s molesting are actually teddy bears, or plants, or traffic cones.
Anyway, Jessica strides to the front of the class, as Elizabeth simmers in a coulis of impotent rage. Mr Davis asks Jessica for her choice of magazine subscription, and she plumps for… Teen Rock!
Elizabeth is not happy. However, her classmates laugh, and Liz realises that their April Fools’ Day joke is worth stringing along. Hopefully, once the prank has been revealed, she can clear it all up with Mr Davis the following day. But Mr Davis has other ideas… he’s mailing the subscription request that very day!
Liz is screwed. No subscription to Horse Cock Monthly for her.
You can see why she’s so upset.
After class, Pamela Jacobsen congratulates Elizabeth, thinking she’s Jessica, on a prank well played. Liz tries to set her straight, but Pam ain’t bitin’. Elizabeth is pleased, happy that their joke is going down so well. Everyone is completely confused by their non-switch. [Dove: And how does Pam know about this prank too? She joined SVMS about three seconds before Mr Davis.]
Mr Davis approaches as the classroom empties. He needs to speak to “Jessica”, so of course Elizabeth is taken to one side. As her apprehension builds, Mr Davis, a stern look on his face, unveils Exhibit A (not to be confused with Mr Nydick’s interpretation of “Exhibit A”, which is the length of a unicorn horn and pleasingly purple): a lilac note in Jessica’s handwriting that has obviously been passed around in class. No matter how much she protests her innocence, Mr Davis remains stoic and unconvinced. He reads aloud.
“Dear Lila, isn’t that green shirt Mr Davis is wearing simply awful? And can you believe that he’s wearing it with a purple tie? Yuck! That man has no taste!”
I’m pretty sure that the note is the most writing in class that Jessica has ever done. I mean, she could have entered it into the essay competition.
What’s wrong with the classics? “Davis is a bellend,” or the pure simplicity of “PISSFLAPS.” Or what about something like this?
And isn’t Mr Bowman the teacher with no dress sense? Mr Davis is from a military academy, I while can’t imagine he’d be at the forefront of fashion, I doubt he’d be running a combination so ostentatious.
Under the gimlet gaze of the Davinator, Elizabeth does the only sensible thing: she apologises for “her” indiscretion, and promises it won’t happen again.
But, as we know, Mr Davis is made from stern stuff. He is not one to let indiscretions go unpunished. If justice is to be meted out, he will dispense it with an iron fist. He is, in a very real sense, a prick. [Wing: For punishing the person he thinks is Jessica after she’s been caught passing nasty notes, at least one of them bullying a fellow student, more than once? Pretty sure he’s in the right here.]
Punishment comes. “Jessica” must write an essay on the importance of respecting people’s feelings. Adding insult to injury, she had to write the essay that very evening, in detention! Again, Elizabeth does her best to deflect the coming storm by claiming a need to decorate the school gym for the party, and again, she’s shot down because “Jessica” is not undertaking such a task.
And after the detention, she must also feed the gerbils. That’s gotta be the least fun ever, unless she’s feeding the gerbils to the kittens. [Dove: Is this a holdover from Boys Against Girls? Didn’t the girls pretend to be scared of small animals? And Davis is still handing that out as a punishment? Lila needs to get him fired.]
Elizabeth is now in a quandary. She was all set to help decorate the school gym for the party, but now she has to help Lila with the “special job” and attend a detention with Mr Davis. Like the little fucking trooper she is, Liz manages to see the funny side. The April Fools’ joke is working so well, she’s taking the blame for all manner of Jessica’s bad choices. Yeah, I’d like to see Elizabeth laugh it off when she gets sent down for the murders committed by her twin.
All this pointless laughing at the situation causes Liz to be late to her cooking class. In a panic, she dashes down the hall, and barrels into Mr Edwards, the vice principle.
At first, the VP is angry at Elizabeth. This is completely out of character… but then, of course, the non-switch hits in, and Mr Edwards smiles a knowing smile. Running in the corridor is definitely in Jessica’s wheelhouse. Despite her protestations, and because this was not Jessica’s first offence in the milieu of excess hallway speed, Elizabeth is tasked with another after-school activity: the vice principal’s excess filing.
It doesn’t surprise me at all that the staff in this school are behind on their admin. Although I guess I can give them a pass this time, as Mr Nydick must generate a shitstorm of paperwork all by himself.
Two detentions and a special job. As well as decorating the gym. Elizabeth is screwed.
At the cooking class, Elizabeth explains to Jessica about the two detentions and Lila’s special job. Jessica is astounded, but is ecstatic that the practical joke is going so well. I’m sure the fact that she’s dodging legitimate punishments is also helping. Way to shirk responsibility, Jess.
But wait! What’s this? Jess steps to the plate (cookery class, lol) and offers to take the detention with Mr Davis! But as usual, Elizabeth Wakefield enables her twin’s dark side by keeping the detention for herself. Gotta play the joke to the hilt, right? [Dove: Good god, that kid is trying for sainthood.]
The cooking class proceeds apace. The project? Soufflé. It’s ALWAYS bloody soufflé. It’s like the science-class-dissect-a-frog trope, or the science-fair-make-a-volcano cliché. I’ve been a postgraduate for 22 years, and my soufflé skills have never been called into action. [Dove: I did home ec every single year at school, even took it as a GCSE option. I have never made a soufflé. But, possibly we should be judging my school hard on this. During my GCSE years, we made cheese on toast, three things from packets, and one rice dish that was “superb for entertaining”. I think the course guideline was, “I’ll teach you how to not starve when the help has a day off.”] [Wing: I never took home ec besides a very short class required in, I think, seventh grade, when I sewed a lopsided apron and made a teddy bear. I also never got to dissect anything; my advanced bio class did not dissect the year I took it, and though the high school classes did, I think, I was on to chemistry at that point. Ostrich dissected a fetal pig, among other things, out in Hawaii. I hate him a little. I want to dissect something!]
Jessica, as Jessica, makes a very Jessica attempt at a soufflé. She throws the ingredients together while discussing fashion with Nora Mercandy (Team Peripheral Character!), and is completely half-arsed about the whole thing. Her soufflé is a leaden brick with a leathery crust. Elizabeth, as Elizabeth, is the perfect culinary goliath, mixing and folding to a tee to make a soufflé fit for a king.
Mrs Gerhart, the cooking teacher, complements Elizabeth on her wonderful dish… but of course, she awards the A to Jessica! As for Jessica’s lumpen turd, it earns Elizabeth a mundane C grade.
At the end of class, Jessica darts away. Elizabeth gathers her books, now convinced that the whole April Fools debacle has gone a step too far..
Detentions? Pfff, no bother. Developing reputation as a troublemaker? Whatevs. But receiving low grades? Mamma don’t take that shit, y0.
At lunch, the crappy jokes keep coming. Squirty cameras, bugs in ice cubes, fake spiders. What are these idiots, twelve or something?
As they ate hotdogs, Amy reminds “Jessica” that Elizabeth is invited for swimming at the Amy Abode later that day. Elizabeth, as Jessica, accepts the invitation, but Amy, believing that she is talking to Jessica, uncomfortably turns her down.
Is anyone else having a little meltdown here? I trust you all did your homework, this shit makes so much more sense if you’re reading along at home.
Elizabeth gives up. She’d clear everything up later, when the truth was out, and then go along to Amy’s guilt-free.
Ken Matthews then pulls his own prank. Distracting the table by claiming prissy Caroline Pearce has arrived resplendent in the latest Johnny Buck t-shirt, he swaps Amy’s hot dog with… his penis!
Actually, he swaps it out with a rubber hot dog. No cock shenanigans here. [Dove: Caroline being “prissy” is a brand new trait created specifically for this utterly feeble paragraph of japery. It has never been mentioned before or will again after.]
Amy bit into the fake dog. It was fake! Everyone laughed. Haha, fake. I died a little inside.
As the “gales of laughter” die down, the public address system lurches into life. Mr Clark, the principal, makes his play for joke of the year.
He has japery, and it is threefold.
Japery number one: the bus drivers are on strike. The kids need to walk home after school. Cue a Lois Waller fat joke, and a deep sigh from the reader.
Japery number two: the sixth-grade fair, scheduled for the following week, is cancelled. Big fucking deal.
Japery number three, by far the most upsetting: the canteen’s freezer has failed, and there is to be no ice cream for a week!
The student body go FUCKING APESHIT.
Eventually, Mr Clark lets them in on the secret, and everyone laughs and laughs and laughs. Lois Waller is overjoyed that she doesn’t have to waddle home, and helps herself to another bucket of ice cream. Get fucked, Jamie Suzanne. [Dove: We need to ask the #BestJamieSuzanne if there was a demand that Lois gets fat-shamed each book.]
Everyone is loving the April Fools fuckwittery, and Elizabeth is back to thinking all is fair in the quest for the perfect joke. This book is getting a touch repetitive. I swear I enjoyed it more than this recap is suggesting.
We cut to the end of the school day. Elizabeth assumes that Jess has hooked up with Lila for their “special job”, and heads over to Mr Davis for her first detention.
I’m old, so forgive the stupid questions, but how do detentions work? Like, can a teacher just say “fuck you, you’re staying for an hour after school to polish the brash moustache?”
What if the child has plans? Or the parents have plans?
Doesn’t the whole thing have to be a little more structured?
[Dove: In England, around the same era, lunch detentions were fine, but evening detentions had to be planned at least two days in advance with a signed permission slip from the parent – but that was because at my school, everyone got a coach to school, so leaving late would mean missing it and the parent having to pick them up, which wasn’t necessarily possible because public transport doesn’t exist in my home town.]
[Wing: I’m the wrong person to answer this question, because I never got detention. Ostrich had plenty of in-school suspensions the year we spent in school together (ISS = spending the day in one small classroom while a teacher made sure you were doing your schoolwork [except that the teacher at our junior high did not follow through on that] and not seeing your friends/going to your actual classes/etc.) I do not know if he ever had detention. I will ask.
Ostrich did indeed get detention sometimes, usually for being late in the morning. He would not have same-day detention, but his parent would be informed that day and he would serve it after school the next day. The school district where he works now has lunch detentions and out-of-school suspensions.]
Happily for Elizabeth, Mr Davis has dashed to the dentist with a surprise bout of toothache. And we can all sleep soundly in our beds as he remembered to feed the gerbils.
Like a good girl, Liz pops to her second detention, with Mr Edwards. As luck would have it, he’s been detained in a meeting, so needs to reschedule too!
Best buy a lottery ticket, you jammy dodger. They say it comes in threes.
With a spring in her step, Elizabeth canters to the gym, ready to help decorate the room for that evening’s party. But as she arrived, Pamela Jacobsen blocked her way.
“Hi Jessica,” Pamela greeted her. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to decorate,” Elizabeth said.
“But that’s Elizabeth’s job,” Pamela objected. “You’re not even on the committee, Jessica.”
And so it continues.
Elizabeth tries as hard as she can to gain entry to the Decoration Party, but Pamela won’t believe that’s she’s not Jessica. In fact, she’s royally pissed off that Elizabeth has let them all down by no-showing the gathering entirely. When Liz tells her she’s was only late because of the two detentions, Pamela takes it a proof that it’s Jessica and not Elizabeth stood before her, as Elizabeth would never get into such trouble.
Pamela finishes the scene with aplomb.
“Listen, Jessica, everyone knows that you and Elizabeth have a super joke going, but don’t you think you’re overdoing it a little?” She guided Elizabeth gently toward the door. “We know that you’re really Jessica, so we can’t let you help. If you see Liz, tell her we’re really upset that she didn’t show up.” With those words, she led Elizabeth out into the hall and closed the gym doors firmly.
That’s the way, Pam. Don’t give those bitches an inch.
Liz stands agape, goggling at the scene… when in strides Lila, flanked by Unigibbons, and they all look furious!
Elizabeth is now officially two-two. Both detentions are cancelled, but the decoration committee have blown her off, and now Lila demands tribute in the guise of a “special job.” Liz capitulates quickly, as she’s an old hat at this now and knows there’s no point trying to talk her way out of it.
Leading her by the arm, Ellen Riteman tells Liz of the task – she’s to take part in a Unicorn-run car wash. Elizabeth is immediately suspicious. Why the hell are the Unicorns running a car wash? Their explanation – to raise money for their next party – seems stilted at best. [Wing: Well, they are always going on about needing money for their parties. Not that Elizabeth would know that unless Jessica told her.] Nevertheless, she goes along with it, and is tasked with hosing and polishing a grey Mercedes.
First, the Unicorns would NEVER lower themselves to washing cars unless it was compulsory.
Second, despite their claims that “everyone has already washed a car” when Jessica arrives, no-one is dressed for the messy occasion.
And third, which is by far the most compelling: Jessica would always, always, ALWAYS scheme up a way to get out of this kind of crap without breaking a sweat.
Elizabeth, both fiercely loyal to Jessica and colossally fucking stupid, waxes on and waxes off as the Unigibbons waffle on about Yasser Arafat and the Middle Eastern Peace Process. At the end of it, Elizabeth has a clean car and a passable knowledge of karate.
After the Unicorns inspect the car, the predictable denouement arrives. It’s an April Fools prank on Jessica!
Actually, this prank is pretty good, even if Elizabeth should’ve seen right through it pretty quickly.
As “Jess” has been such a sport, the Unicorns offer her an ice cream visit to Casey’s Place. Elizabeth declines politely, as she has to get home and change for the party.
She wends a weary way home, and reminisces on her unusual day. She’d copped for two detentions, a C for cookery, and a tiring prank meant for Jessica. She’d also missed out on twelve issues of prime equine dick-pics. Finally, her serene demeanour (serenour!) begins to unravel… she vows that next year, the twins would need a different April Fools’ Day prank, and that’s that.
Arriving home at four-thirty, after once again laughing off the trials of the day (seriously, Liz, you’ve got a mind like a fucking Etch-a-Sketch), she’s time to grab a cookie before readying herself for Amy’s swimming date.
As she’s in the kitchen, Steven enters to kneel in supplication before the Great White God that Dispenses Sandwiches and Other Chilled Comestibles. He spots “Jessica,” and warns her of the apparent anger of the Sainted Alice… all of which was directed at the real Jessica herself!
Jessica had messed up, it seemed. Steven explains: Apparently, Jess had forgot to mail some of her mother’s important work documents to a client, who was now on the warpath and looking for metaphorical blood.
The Sainted Alice breezes in, sporting a scowl and a powersuit. She demands that “Jessica” tell her what has happened to the Oberman Plans. Liz has never even heard of the Oberman Plans, and tries to convince her mother that no, she’s not Jessica, she’s Elizabeth.
Once again, no one buys the truth. Mother is cross, which adds a little to the repetitive scene we’ve seen four or five times before.
As punishment for “her” carelessness, Elizabeth is marched to her room to do homework, and to search for the missing plans. If they are not found before the deadline of 7pm, Elizabeth would be forced to skip the party and attend a town council meeting with her parents.
Elizabeth’s day is going from bad to worse. She spends the next hour completing her homework assignments, albeit surrounded by her sister’s ming. She cast the Oberman Plans from her mind, hoping that Jess could lay her hands on them relatively easily once she’d returned from school herself.
Predictably, when Jessica flounces in and gushes about their great prank, she’s in no mood to listen to her sister’s incessant mewling. After YET MORE Airing of Grievances, Elizabeth questions her twin on the whereabouts of the Oberman Plans. Jessica claims she mailed them out the previous day, and Elizabeth believes her. However, this belief is not enough to save Liz’s party plans, so she moots the idea that enough is enough, and they should come clean about the April Fools’ prank.
Jessica is having none of it.
“Not on your life,” she said emphatically. … “A bargain’s a bargain, Elizabeth. We agreed to do this non-switch until the party tonight. As far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Good work, Jess. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing spectacularly. Never apologise, never explain.
Elizabeth is indignant. She feels it’s time for the truth. But our wonderful psychopath Jessica is at her cajoling best, and she suggests her sister needs to cool her beans and ride it out. This serves only to piss Elizabeth off even more, as she feels Jess is using her to avoid taking responsibility. And as the scene progresses, Jessica’s flippant attitude does bear this out. In fact, it feels as though Jessica is still in “full-on Jessica” mode, overacting for her friends. She even has the gall to suggest Elizabeth might learn a thing or two with her new subscription to Teen Cock … sorry, I mean Teen Rock.
Eventually, Jessica breezes away with a flick of her hair, leaving Liz to complete her homework through a blurry haze of tears. How could Jessica be so insensitive?
In a addled rage of self-pity, Elizabeth decides that enough is enough. It’s time to come clean about the prank. But before she can act on her newfound resolve (way to grow a spine, you fucking sponge), the doorbell rings. It’s Amy, here to collect Elizabeth for dinner and a swim.
Elizabeth listens from upstairs as her fucking best friend makes plans to go swimming with her fucking twin sister. She also peeks through a crack in Jessica’s bedroom door to see Jess sporting Elizabeth’s brand new bathing suit!
Elizabeth, stop being such a FUCKING TERRAPIN.
March downstairs and tell your sister to GET UNANIMOUSLY FUCKED.
Stride up to Amy and give her a dry slap to the face. You’re right. She SHOULD know the difference between you and your twin.
And while you’re at it, go kick Steven squarely in the bollocks. Just for fun.
Seriously, why the hell is Liz being so bloody passive here? “Oh, Amy has arrived, I’d best skulk upstairs while my life passes me by and my twin sister forms a strong lesbian bond with my best friend.”
Fuck that noise. Boots on, girl. Stomp throats.
Thoroughly dejected, Elizabeth slumps in defeat. The phone rings, and Ned answers, shovelling a fresh pile of shit directly into her eyes. Thunder, the horse at Carson Stable that she so adores (and future star of the Readers’ Mounts section in next month’s edition of Horse Cock Monthly), is free for a ride that evening. Is Elizabeth free to come?
Of course not. Elizabeth is swimming with her best friend, Amy.
Elizabeth buried her head in her hands. If only we hadn’t started this ridiculous prank, she thought. Fuck my life.
Her eyes darted to the truck at the foot of her bed. The truck in which she’d been stockpiling guns, ready for her Grand Plan. No, she thought, smiling grimly. Fuck THEIR lives.
An hour before the party, Alice rocks up and demands the Oberman Plans. Naturally, just as Alice is empty-headed, Elizabeth is empty-handed. Despite her many protestations, Alice follows through on the proscribed punishment: Elizabeth must accompany the Elder Wakefields to that evening’s Council Meeting instead of the school party. Alice, to her credit, is sympathetic to Liz’s plight. She suggests that “Jessica” change for the meeting, motioning towards Jessica’s pink and white dress hanging in her closet. Elizabeth isn’t happy, and her mother consoles her, before dropping the bombshell: the Council Meeting is in the Sweet Valley Middle School library.
Not only was she missing the party, but she’d have to rock past the festivities to get to the meeting. How completely shit!
After an uneventful journey to the school grounds, a subdued Elizabeth runs into Julie Porter, one of her minions on the Sweet Valley Sixers. Julie is beside herself with worry, as the school paper is in trouble. She asks “Jessica” where she can find Elizabeth. Elizabeth, of course, cannot convince Julie that she is the twin she’s looking for. When Liz offers to help, Julie laughs in her face and runs off.
Poor Liz. She’s having an awful time.
[Dove: Yeah, but if she wasn’t such a passive dishrag, she’d be having fun. Like Jessica. Jessica might be dangerous and terrifying, but she’s having the time of her life pretending to be the good twin.]
Ned and Alice steer the despondent blonde toward the meeting. But before they get to the library, they head towards the gym. Elizabeth is confused, until Alice explains.
Mrs Wakefield held up a small paper bag. “We have an errand,” she said. “Elizabeth phoned just before we left the house. She spilled punch on her shirt at Amys’ house, so she asked us to bring her another one to change into. We’ll just swing by the gym before we go to the meeting. Will you find your sister and give her this fresh shirt?”
Man, how insensitive can you get?!
Elizabeth begs to be spared this humiliation, but her parents are adamant. How would it look, they theorised, if a pair of old fogeys rocked up to the school dance? No, it had to be Elizabeth who delivered the shirt.
With a heavy heart, Elizabeth does as she is told.
The gym looks wonderful. The students are dressed to impress, and everyone is having an amazing time. And she’s missing out on everything, all because of the stupid April Fools Day prank. She wishes she’d never agreed to such a ridiculous scheme.
Eventually, Elizabeth spots Jessica talking with Mr Davis and the rest of her homeroom. She plods across, shirt in hand. As she does so, the crowd widens, until Elizabeth finds herself face to face with Jessica, surrounded by giggling classmates.
With meek acquiescence, Elizabeth hands over the shirt. Jessica laughs. The classmates laugh. Even the Elder Wakefields, who have followed their daughter into the gym, laugh.
Why do they laugh?
“April Fool, Elizabeth!” Jessica shouted happily.
“April Fool, Elizabeth!” her mother and father shouted.
“April Fool, Elizabeth!” the whole class shouted.
That’s right, folks. The whole day was an elaborate April Fools’ Day prank, cooked up in the fizzing brainpan of the glorious Jessica Wakefield.
Ah, NOW I remember why I liked this book so much. Because although I worked out the twist about half way through, it was still really satisfying.
The rest of the book may be formulaic tosh, full of idiotic jokes and unfunny pranks. It doesn’t matter. Jessica was scheming all along, and that makes up for EVERYTHING.
As the book caroms towards its inevitable conclusion, Elizabeth is still unsure of what’s happening. Jessica presents her with a bouquet of flowers and the Good Sport of the Year Award, and everyone applauds. The entire Wakefield clan, it seems, was in on the whole thing, which goes a long way to explain why Elizabeth’s parents suddenly couldn’t tell their daughters apart, even though the series has constantly told us they were two of the few humans who could.
Elizabeth comes to a slow realization. The whole Oberman Plans thing? A joke. The ride with Thunder? Non-existant. The swimming trip with Amy? A smokescreen to cover more scheming, and an opportunity to ice a special cake.
Everyone likes a special cake.
Mrs Gerhart, it seems, was also in on the scheme. She compliments Elizabeth on her soufflé, and tells her she’s actually graded it as an A, just as it deserves.
The detentions from Mr Davis and Mr Edwards, however, were totally real. But Jessica had managed to convince the teachers to get in on the prank, and delayed the Davis detention until the following week, for Jessica to serve. And the running in hall? No punishment required, as Jessica had already helped to do the filing early.
So, in the main, the teachers knew jack shit about the epic prankery. Figures. Bunch of incoherent poo-crumpets.
Jessica tossed her head self-consciously. “I know you think that I’m kind of selfish sometimes, Lizzie. But I don’t always mean to be. Honest.” She grinned crookedly. “I just wanted this to be a really good April Fool’s joke.”
Enough to bring a tear to the eye. Nice job. [Wing: I love how the book puts the emphasis on “mean” when it clearly should be on “always”.]
The Unicorns chime in, presenting Elizabeth with – albeit temporarily – a purple scarf to make her an honorary Unicorn.
“I hearby declare,” Lila went on in a loud voice, “that Elizabeth Wakefield is an honorary Unicorn for one day every year – on April Fools’ Day!”
The whole car-washing joke was, again, dreamt up by Jessica. Our astounding little sociopath has been busy this week!
By now, Elizabeth has come to terms with what’s occurred that day. And naturally, she’s fine with it. But in a final dig, she spins her own yarn about Bruce Patman calling Jessica earlier that day, stating that she had pretended to be Jessica to blow him off in a spectacular fashion (oh, behave yourselves, you filthy people). Jessica is obviously distraught, until this is revealed to be an April Fools’ prank too!
Will this merriment ever stop?
We’re obviously wrapping up, so here’s a thing.
In the UK, April Fools’ Day pranks have a curfew of pre-midday. After midday, any pranksters are told, and I quote, “it’s after midday, so YOU’RE the fool.” Is this something that happens in the US? I’m guessing not, as it’s now 7pm and the prank party is still in full swing. [Wing: Literally never heard of that in my life.]
To be honest, I think the “haha, joke’s on you” defence is pretty weak. It smacks of humourless asshats who don’t want to look bad in front of their peers. Get over it, dickheads. Laugh it off.
In the final chapter of the book, there’s some guff about the upcoming school fair, but that’s for next week’s recap. Also, Jessica battles a giant squid.
Not really! April Fool!
[Wing: Would that it were true.]
I liked this book. I think.
The build to the big reveal is handled well, and the depth of the scheme is very rewarding. I don’t recall thinking one single negative thought about it on first read, aside from the contractually-obligated Lois Waller fat shaming
However, as I recapped this, I appear to have disliked more of the book than I originally thought. The pranks pulled by literally everyone other than Jessica were awful. The structure of the narrative was incredibly repetitive. The adults, as per usual, were twats.
So, the question is this: does the satisfactory twist and payoff excuse the terrible remainder? I’ve thought long about my answer to this, and on balance, I think it does.
April Fool? Approved!
(And finally, presented without comment…
THAT’S how it’s done.)
[Dove: I find it astounding that Elizabeth didn’t murder everyone while she had a perfect alibi, or just end it all. I think this was a hell of a gamble from Jessica, knowing that precious little Elizabeth probably wouldn’t manage to get through a day in Jessica’s shoes. She’s lucky that Liz, or a bunch of Unicorns, didn’t end up dead over this.]
[Wing: I agree with Dove, and was super bored throughout my frantic read of the book. I just wanted it to be over. I think Jessica’s scheming was fun, but it wasn’t enough fun to make the slog that was the rest of the book.]
Looking back at things I’ve enjoyed, and smashing them to pieces with the Snark-Hammer. Lover of games of every stripe and hue. NOT A REAL BIRD.