Title: Jessica the Rock Star
Summary: An unforgettable performance…
After seeing singer Melody Power in concert, Jessica is more convinced than ever that she too can become a rock star. And when she finds out that four of the cutest boys at Sweet Valley Middle School are forming a band and need a girl singer, she grabs the opportunity to launch her new career.
When Jessica starts rehearsing with the band, Elizabeth Wakefield thinks the whole thing is a nightmare! The more Jessica tries to sing like Melody Power, the worse she sounds. What can Elizabeth do to save her sister from total embarrassment? Jessica’s singing debut is about to become a rock ‘n’ roll disaster!
[Wing: I have so many questions, starting with why the boys need a girl singer, why the band can’t be made up of girls, and why Jessica is trying to sing like someone else instead of her own amazing self. She sure was confident last time we saw her singing.]
Tagline: Can Elizabeth keep her twin from putting on a terrible performance? [Wing: … why would it be terrible? The twins can sing.] [Raven: Singing’s only half the story.]
On the one hand, I love when Jessica is on stage and performing. On the other hand, I loved it when it was acting and hated it when it was singing last time. This very well could be a mess.
[Wing: My schedule is really fucking thrown off right now. This will go up without Dove and Raven’s comments, because I didn’t realise I was up this week until late Sunday night. Check back later for their delightful snark.]
Jessica wakes Elizabeth up because she’s too excited to sleep, she’s still all worked up over the concert. Elizabeth had fun too, but she’s exhausted from the experience and wants her sister to get tired of reliving it.
Extrovert Jess, Introvert Liz?
Jessica is absolutely enthralled by Melody Power, and thinks that Melody looked straight out her when she walked into the spotlight. Is this going to be another Johnny Buck thing? And if it is, can it be that Jess has a crush on her, as well as admiring her singing? Because I could get behind a queer Wakefield. [Raven: Melody Power? … Really? That’s an acceptable name for a vocalist, is it? Next week, there’s a concert at Secca Lake by a singer called Voicey McVoiceface.]
INSERT THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT HERE
(I would write it myself, but I have no funny left in me. I trust you, readers, to bring the snark. In the comments, even, if you come up with something you particularly like. By this many books in, I’m sure we all know that Jess and Liz look exactly alike but are really very different.)
Jessica goes on to brag about how she won the front row seats by answering a radio quiz correctly, and wants more validation from her sister. Because, despite all her confidence, Jessica often wants to be validated. Not so confident deep inside?
The next morning, Elizabeth is still exhausted, but Jessica is full of energy. She comes down to breakfast wearing one of the more amazing outfits we’ve gotten from her:
Jessica entered the kitchen wearing her new Melody Power T-shirt, her shortest miniskirt, electric-pink tights, and pink high-top sneakers. In addition, it looked as if she had put on every scarf and necklace she owned. It was all too much to believe!
When Elizabeth looked closer, she recognized a few of her own possessions! “Where did you find all that stuff, Jess?” she asked. “That’s my coral necklace!”
“I knew you wouldn’t mind if I borrowed it, Lizzie. Anyway, is that all you can say about my new look?” Jessica asked, sounding hurt. “Don’t you think it’s great?”
Ridiculous outfit and she stole stuff from her sister. #bestjess
[Dove: One of the joys of these books are the descriptions of Jessica’s outfits. I padded many a wordcount in NaNo with a ridiculous outfit of hers. All inspired by this particular look.]
Alice makes her take off some of the make-up, and is actually pretty cool about it. She doesn’t yell at Jessica or make fun of her, just explains that performers need more make-up on stage and less in day to day life. Jessica is still grumpy, though.
Jessica freaks out when she hears that Elizabeth is going to write a story about the concert for the Sweet Valley Sixers (how did you ever think she wouldn’t?), because Jessica wants to be the one to tell everyone about it. (Also true to character.) She’s in luck, though; the next issue isn’t out until Friday, which gives her plenty of time to tell everyone.
At school, Jessica rushes off to tell the Unicorns all about the concert, but before she can start, Lila immediately asks if she’s dressed for a costume party. LILA. #foreverfave
She’s also grumpy because not even her father could get her tickets to the concert; it sold out about two minutes after tickets went on sale. God, I’ve been there. That’s such a frustrating thing. I am shocked that Mr Fowler didn’t mange to get her backstage or something, what with all his connections. [Dove: Seriously, did Daddy Fowler lose his job or something, because I’ve seen Lila hand out advance copies of Johnny Buck singles for free.] [Raven: Daddy Fowler has been too busy prepping for The Hunger Games.]
Lila is getting annoyed by how many times Jessica keeps repeating herself when they’re joined by Ellen Riteman and Mary Wallace. Aww, Mary, I always forget you’re a Unicorn (much like the ghost writers do). You’re my #faveunicorn even if Lila is my #foreverfave. Anyway, Mary was at the concert too, because her stepdad is an even bigger fan of Melody Power than she is. [Raven: Always good to be the middle-aged man at the Taylor Swift concert, right?] They were pretty far back, but still managed to get tickets when Lila couldn’t. That’s impressive.
(Also, awww, look how far Mary and her stepdad have come. I love them.)
Lila keeps trying to turn the talk to the important Unicorn meeting at lunch, when she wants to talk about their next party (because god forbid the Unicorns go more than 48 hours without a party), but everyone else just wants to talk about the concert and Jessica’s new style.
Everyone but Lila is excited about Jessica’s new plan to become a rock star; Lila flat out says she can’t do it. Damn, Lila, I thought you two were supposed to be best friends. You need to keep it real, but also supportive.
At dinner that night (we don’t get to see that oh-so-important Unicorn meeting), Steven teases Jessica about not being able to sing, but she lists a long line of successful singing moments: lead in the fifth-grade musical, role in Carnival, and she’s in the choir. What, no reference to the time she tied with Sherrie for first place soprano during the choir competition back in Holiday Mischief? Weak, Jamie Suzanne. Very weak. Especially considering she wasn’t even a part of the choir until that trip.
Oh, damn, in the middle of this fight (which Ned tells them both to cut it out, which is awesome), Steven throws out the point that just a few weeks ago, she wanted to be a great actor. Well damn, ghost writer, how come you can make that reference, BUT NOT THE SINGING COMPETITION ONE ACTUALLY APPLICABLE TO THIS BOOK? [Dove: Actual answer: I have this odd feeling that the main series isn’t allowed to reference the Super/Special/Whatever editions, because they are never mentioned. Why? Don’t know. Maybe they got different release dates in different countries? I’ll see if I can dig any real information out on that.]
By Friday, even the Unicorns are getting tired of Jessica talking about the concert and her new plans. I’m still amazed that all the grades apparently eat together at Sweet Valley Middle School. I’m pretty sure we’ve talked about this before, but it’s weird to me.
ANYWAY, Mary brings over the new edition of the sixth grade newspaper (… why does Mary, who is in seventh grade, care about the sixth grade newspaper? How has it become the paper everyone in school reads? Why don’t they have just one paper for the middle school? SO MANY QUESTIONS. SO FEW ANSWERS), and Elizabeth has put the article about the concert on page two. On the first page is an article about how one of the students is leading a food drive for the homeless. Damn, a Sweet Valley student giving back to the community? UNHEARD OF.
(That student is Randy Mason, and the sixth grade collected three whole entire boxes. Now, something is better than nothing, but that is a really sad showing.)
This article is also the first in a new series that Elizabeth is writing, called Star Students. It’s about students with outstanding accomplishments and will run on the front page. I did something like that at my high school paper, though my focus was simply on highlighting a student, huge accomplishments or not. [Raven: “Spotlight on YOU, average stranger, for no reason! Tell us all about your average life!” … Isn’t that just text-based stalking?]
Right after this conversation, Jessica finds a flyer pinned to the bulletin board, and it’s finally the plot of the book: auditions for that girl singer position are on Saturday. How convenient that Jessica found it right in time.
She spends so long reading the flyer that Mr Nydick has to come collect her. Or maybe I should say “collect” her. Wait, did Mr Nydick post that flyer? No wonder it so specifically wants a girl singer.
Not only that, but Mr Nydick gives her detention after school because she’s so distracted in class. Allegedly, all she has to do is read her history assignment for one hour. Read it out loud? Is that your thing, Mr Nydick? [Raven: “Jessica, open your textbook at page 124 and start reading aloud.” … “Mr Nydick, this ‘textbook’ appears to be Fifty Shades of Grey.” … “Page 124, Jessica.” *zzziiippp*]
Once she gets home, Jessica prepares for her audition by singing along with Melody’s album. Elizabeth says that she’s making a terrible racket and turns down the music so they can talk. She wants to discuss Jessica getting in trouble at school (“Mr Nydick wasn’t really angry,” Jessica says), but before she can say what else, Jessica tells her about the band auditions. And one of the guys turns out to be Bruce Patman, because of fucking course. I hate him so much already. I hate him.
Elizabeth reminds Jessica that she hasn’t liked him since he made fun of her at his last party, but Jessica waves this off as him just making a mistake, as people do, even her. Heh.
The other guys are Aaron Dallas, Peter Jeffries, and Scott Joslin. Elizabeth is impressed by this because Scott’s pretty good (at what? Guitar? Drums? Singing? Throw us a damn bone, ghost writer) and Aaron’s been taking piano lessons for years. SO. UMM. Is there a keyboard in this rock band? [Dove: Maybe a rockin’ keytar like Jeffster below?]
Ah, finally we get to the meat of why Jessica’s singing is so terrible in this book. She’s not really singing, she’s growling her way through the words, so she can sound more like Melody Power, who has a low, gravelly voice. (No lie, that sounds kind of hot, but sing like yourself, Jessica! You’ll do better.)
Oh, god, Elizabeth gives her that same advice. What have I become?
The band is called NRG. Like ENERGY GET IT. Pardon me, I need to go bang my head against a wall for awhile. [Dove: I like the fact they explain it several times. Because it’s so hard to get.] [Raven: Scott, Peter, Aaron and Bruce. They should call their band ‘SPAB’.]
OH DAMN, DANA LARSON IS AUDITIONING. We know how that went back in Center of Attention. And Sandra Ferris has been taking private voice lessons. I … actually don’t remember if we’ve ever heard about Sandra singing. [Dove: Sandra Ferris can do anything she wants. And if she can’t, she’ll cry, and you’ll feel bad about it, and she’ll get her way… I have issues.]
Jessica isn’t worried, though, because it takes more than a good voice to be a rock star, it also takes charisma. And while she’s not wrong, I am both delighted and eye-rolling over her confidence about this.
By the time the auditions come along, Jessica’s throat hurts from trying to imitate Melody Power’s voice. She’s still confident, though, and thinks a husky voice will just make things go even better.
The auditions are at Bruce’s house, and he’s a bassist, apparently. Gross. You don’t deserve that bass guitar, dude. To round out the band: Aaron has an electric keyboard (and he’s a “muscular” sixth grader, because that’s a thing), Peter has a guitar, and Scott, a seventh grader, has a drumset and large amplifiers. Delightful. [Raven: Why has the drummer got the amps? Is he expecting to play Secca Lake and need a boost to his kit?]
Bruce gets in trouble with his mom for having the auditions be so loud, though, because she’s heading the Charity Ball Committee and wants to impress the board, who are meeting at their house.
Jessica saves the day and offers up her basement for auditions, as well as promising that if she were a member of the band, they could practice at her house every day if they wanted. Oh lord, here we go.
Shortly later, Elizabeth’s reading is interrupted by a large book that shakes the house [Dove: I think Wing means “boom”, but fuck me that’s a great image. And apt.] [Raven: #WingMeansBoom.]. This is going to be GREAT. She thinks it’s an earthquake and then an explosion. SO GREAT.
Elizabeth sticks around to watch the auditions. Dana goes first, and is great. The other two aren’t as good. And then Jessica goes. Just like she’s been practicing, her nice, sweet voice (Jessica? Sweet? LIES!), she has a hoarse, artificial voice that doesn’t sound like Melody either, just awful.
Elizabeth tries to figure out how she’ll make Jessica feel better, but the band chooses her. GEE, I WONDER IF THEY JUST WANT A PLACE TO REHEARSE. Elizabeth has the same thought (oh god what is wrong with me), but when she tries to talk about it with Jessica, Jessica waves it off. She’s also not going to practice her singing anymore, though Elizabeth has hope (why? She’d just sing the same terrible way as always); instead, she has to decide what to wear to rehearsal the next day. Of course she does. #fashionforever [Raven: #FashionUnlessIt’sTooHard.]
The next day, when Elizabeth goes to check on them (because the music is too loud for her to watch tv with Ned and Alice any longer), she finds the boys practicing but Jessica painting the band name on the guitar cases. GEE, BRUCE PATMAN IS INVOLVED WITH SOMETHING SEXIST I AM SHOCKED. She says that the boys needed to work on their chords. When she’s done with the painting, though, Bruce sends her to his house to get his extra pick, which he forgot at home.
Elizabeth, too, is disturbed by the boys sending her to run errands. Goddamn, I am not enjoying this time on Elizabeth’s wavelength, but she’s right. I can’t help it that she’s finally right. [Dove: If it makes you feel any better, I sort of side with you. Liz is obviously right, but she’s also not obnoxious about it. She’s not prying anyone’s business. Her house is shaking with noise, her sister is an errand girl, she can’t help but notice it. And if she wants to meddle, this is one of the few times she can without being pushy.] [Raven: There’s a grand tradition of hiring drummers for one particular reason…]
Monday’s rehearsal sees her running to buy a string for Bruce when he breaks one. She also brings them cookies, and Bruce makes fun of her, though she doesn’t seem to be aware of it.
Tuesday, Amy and Elizabeth hang out and talk about Elizabeth’s latest interview, which was with Peter DeHaven who created a pen pal club. Amy’s now invited to join the club, even though she’s already been writing to her pen pal for a few months. Wait, so what is the point of this club if they find their own pen pals?
(Amy hasn’t heard from her pen pal, Samantha, in awhile. I assume the story will come back to this soon.)
Elizabeth tells Amy about her worries for Jessica, and they go down to watch Jessica actually rehearse with the band. It goes about as badly as expected. Even the band is freaked out by her singing, though Bruce tells her she sounds just like a real pro. The other guys don’t act like they’re okay with these lies, but nor do they do anything to stop it.
Jessica’s next task is to make posters to advertise the band. Advertise for what? Are they trying to get a gig? Do they have a gig? What exactly is happening? (We later learn they’re trying to get a gig, and that Jessica does a great job on the posters.)
Elizabeth asks Amy for advice about whether she should tell Jessica about how horrible she sounds. Haven’t you been doing that, only for her to ignore you? Amy points this out, too, and I am wondering more and more if I should be concerned about how much I’m agreeing with Elizabeth and her team this book.
(We also learn at one point that, thanks to the pen pal club, Elizabeth is considering finding a pen pal who lives in Alaska. CLASS TRIP TO ALASKA PLEASE AND THANK YOU. Random Wing Fact: It’s the last state I need to visit to have all 50 states.) [Raven: “Where was your mother born?” … “Alaska.” … “Don’t bother, I’ll ask her myself.” … BOOM. CLASSIC JOKE.]
Jessica passes out flyers to all the local stores; she has no trouble with this because she shops all the time and the people all know her and want to support her and a local band. Which I actually think is pretty great for them.
By Friday, NRG has their first gig, and it is paid: they’ll be playing at a birthday party. Bruce is shocked and excited to tell the other guys, but weird about their next rehearsal. Seriously, Jessica, you make an amazing manager. You might be a good singer if you went with your singing voice, but I think your skills are more fit to management, which shocks the hell out of me considering some earlier stories. [Dove: … did you read ahead to The Sweet Life?] Though she was supposed to have learned from them, so maybe she’s putting that knowledge into practice.
At rehearsal on Saturday, the boys are pretty much ignoring Jessica’s contributions, and she’s finally starting to notice it. Leave it to Jessica to finally pay attention when she’s not getting the attention and validation she craves. I love her.
The boys argue over who needs to do what work and still won’t let Jessica rehearse with them, but when she suggests she run to a Unicorn meeting while they do their other work, Bruce won’t let her leave, either, because what if he breaks a string or something.
Jessica fucking Wakefield, why are you putting up with this treatment? You are better than this. You know you are better than this. COME ON.
She doesn’t stand up to them (yet, I hope), but does grumble about them upstairs, because Bruce actually calls the Unicorn Club dumb. Oh damn, Bruce, watch your back. (I could only be so lucky for him to end up buried in Nora’s backyard.) [Dove: Next NaNo idea: Jess kills a lot of people. Suddenly the Mercandy backyard is a hive of zombie activity.]
A few days later, Bruce records them so they can listen to it and make notes on what’s wrong. Jessica is amazed by how obvious the mistakes sound on the tape, and is glad she’s not playing an instrument, because singing is different. Oh no it’s not, darling.
They don’t make it through Jessica’s songs on the tape during rehearsal, but Jessica takes it upstairs so she can practice dancing to her singing. Because of course that’s why she listens to it.
She’s SHOCKED by how terrible she sounds, and embarrassed, and worried that she will never live it down. She knows the boys are too worried about their own rehearsing to let her do the work she needs to do, so she’s going to practice on her own, with the tape. She starts singing softly, and it sounds good, more like the old Jessica, but too quiet. Then she puts together some of the lessons she learned in choir and tries to project her voice, but then her voice wobbles. Singing is hard, she realises. Very hard.
Lila gives her shit about missing so many Unicorn meetings. Why hasn’t she been kicked out? This isn’t the first time she’s missed a bunch of meetings, and Janet always threatens people with kicking them out if they don’t show up. Oh, right, she’s Jessica fucking Wakefield. [Raven: I’ll give Jess the benefit of the doubt: she’s Lila’s best friend. Lila wouldn’t kick her out, she’s all bluff and bluster on that score.]
We finally learn that the birthday party is for Simon Holliday, a kid turning eleven who goes to a private school. Wait. Wait a fucking minute. Sweet Valley has a private school [Dove: Is it called Sweet Valley Private School?], and yet Lila and Bruce (and, hell, the Wakefields themselves) are in public school? I call bullshit on that one.
SURE ENOUGH, Lila does know him because his family goes to the same country club as she and her dad do. SO WHY THE FUCK ISN’T SHE IN THE SAME PRIVATE SCHOOL? That is a very un-Mr Fowler thing to do.
Jessica is practicing so hard that she even turns down a trip to the mall with Elizabeth and Alice. Elizabeth worries about her because of it, which makes sense. While she’s wandering and worrying, she overhears the boys looking at clothes for Saturday. They keep arguing over what they are going to wear. Then they argue over who came up with the idea first. And then they slam Jessica’s singing, and talk about how they need a plan to keep Jessica from singing. Bruce has one already; he’s going to tell her to come at 3:30, and she’s never on time anyway, but they have to be there at 2, so by the time she shows up, they’ll be done or nearly done. [Raven: Why on earth do the boys think this is an acceptable solution? Are they planning to be singer-free for their first gig? What will they do, a freeform Jazz Odyssey? “If I told them once, I told them a hundred times: Put NRG first, and Puppet Show last.”
Elizabeth plans to tell Jessica as soon as she gets home, but immediately starts to second guess it. If Jessica is late, she’ll be upset, but if she knows the truth, she’ll be devastated, and if she sings in front of the crowd, they’ll boo her or make fun of her and she’ll feel even worse.
Elizabeth decides not to say a word to Jessica about it. Some fucking sister and best friend you are, damn it. There’s the Elizabeth I know and hate. [Dove: But weirdly, she also buys a top that will go with what the boys were buying for the gig. *frowns* I guess… points for hedging your bets?]
By Friday, Elizabeth is second guessing this decision, too, and overhears Jessica practicing. She sounds like her old self, but even better than before, and Elizabeth is amazed. This makes Elizabeth’s decision even harder, she thinks, because it’s really unfair to keep Jessica from singing now that she can sing, but if she knows the truth, she may be too upset to sing.
ELIZABETH. FUCKING TELL HER. LET HER MAKE HER OWN CHOICES.
That night, she soothes Jessica’s nerves but doesn’t tell her the truth. WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, WAKEFIELD.
The next morning, she finally comes up with a way to tell her without hurting her. She says Bruce called and left a message that she needed to come at 2 instead of 3:30 and that the band is wearing blue shirts with red trim. Good thing you are such an eavesdropper, Elizabeth.
Also conveniently, Elizabeth has a new red and blue sweater that is perfect for Jessica. Here’s Jessica’s gig outfit:
She had on the red sweater with the blue design, her blue denim miniskirt, blue suede shoes, a silver and coral belt, and a silver necklace with matching bracelets borrowed from Elizabeth. “I do look good, don’t I?” she said.
Jessica talks Elizabeth into going as part of the band, her personal assistant, and Elizabeth is dying to see how things go, so she comes along.
The band is at the party already, and the kids are making fun of them, but Jessica says they’re just warming up. The boys are shocked to see her, of course, but she cooly walks through the crowd and gets her mic ready. I love you, Jessica.
Also, Bruce has noticed that the crowd isn’t liking the band, and his confidence has faded. Fucking serves you right, ass. Jessica’s singing turns out great, of course, and the crowd adores her. Jessica’s by far the most prepared, too, and her confidence and talent carry the band through the rest of the gig. I love it.
I also love Bruce’s discomfort. So does Elizabeth, because we’re back to this again.
At lunch on Monday, Elizabeth flat out tells Amy and Mary (why the fuck is Mary hanging out with them now? Does the ghost writer not understand how the Unicorns work?) that Jessica saved the day for the band. Bruce hasn’t learned anything, though, and is already boasting about the band’s great future.
At the next rehearsal, though, things have changed. The boys want Jessica’s advice on everything, and Bruce has been relegated to fetching refreshments while Jessica sits like a queen in her throne.
BUT THEN SHE QUITS THE BAND. It’s too much work, and she’s missed Unicorn meetings and two parties #becauseunicorns. She also kicks them out of the basement, because the next party is going to be at the Wakefield house, and they need the space.
(Jessica will never learn to ask for permission before she volunteers her house for events, will she?)
The Unicorns arrive, the boys grumble and leave, and Amy says she still hasn’t heard from her pen pal, and she’s sent three different letters. Next book, we find out why. That was actually decent foreshadowing throughout this book for that one.
Well damn, this ended up being pretty wonderful. I’m super entertained that Jessica, again, finds things she loves to be too much work and so quits them without finishing them. (Though, at least she does finish the project she’s started; the gig here, the acting class before, the clothing sales booth, etc. A lot of people just leave things abandoned when they get bored or when they’re too much work.) I’m still weirded out by how many times Elizabeth agreed with me, but I guess she can’t always be wrong. And when she was wrong, she was super fucking wrong.
I’m really looking forward to the next book, too. What is even happening right now?
[Dove: I like this book. I love seeing Jess get one over on Bruce, because he’s an asshat. Also, I told you these books get better – I’d say we’re around the point where things start to improve. Not quite at #BestJamieSuzanne yet, but getting there. I too love that Jessica drops things that she wants to be good at. It’s almost (if you squint really hard and try not to look directly at the book) a subversion of the Mary Sue, who is effortlessly good at everything. Jess could be, but she flakes out when she gets bored.]
[Raven: Yeah, this was okay. I had the same issue with this as I did with Jessica On Stage. I hate it when Jessica drops her Hobby of the Week, because although I guess it’s in character, it’s also such a transparent narrative device to reset the page for the following book. I just wish she’d stick to something for a coupe of books. Still, her dawning realisation that her Melody Power impression sucked so much donkey balls was good fun. And overall, I do prefer the smaller stories (such as “Jessica sings at a birthday party”) over the larger and more ludicrous ones (such as “Jessica foils an international spy ring”).]