Title: Jessica and the Money Mix-Up by Francine Pascal
Summary: A matter of trust…
When Jessica Wakefield’s father asks her to run an errand for him, she jumps at the chance. It’s the perfect opportunity to prove to her dad that she can be trusted. All she has to do is deliver an envelope of money for a charity to Mr. Hopper, who lives three blocks away.
What could possibly go wrong? Jessica doesn’t know that she’s about to be sidetracked by Sweet Valley Middle School’s biggest gossip. Or that, when she hides the money to deliver it later, her hiding place will disappear! Jessica’s only hope is to find the money—fast. With Elizabeth’s help, she’ll search all over Sweet Valley. But will the twins find it before their father discovers the money is gone?
Tagline: Jessica is in the biggest trouble of her life!
I … am not looking forward to this book. It might have been a bad idea to start recapping the Baby-Sitters Club books, which I love so much, while recapping Sweet Valley. Similar character age, similar target audience, and yet, I love the hell out of those books and spend a great deal of time hating these.
On the other hand, this is the fourth SVT book I’ve read this week (the last week of December, as I write this), so maybe I’ve just overwhelmed my ability to deal.
[Dove: No, you’re not wrong. I know this is the first Michael Grant/Katherine Applegate book, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. As you can see from our Q&A session with him, he wasn’t delighted by this outline. But I promise it does get better.]
We open on Jessica whining that she doesn’t have anything to wear roller skating. [Raven: I’m pretty sure she’s got a great-looking sweater knocking about somewhere…] Elizabeth laughs at her and wants to know where her pink blouse is, because Jessica borrowed it a couple days ago and Elizabeth hasn’t seen it since. Jessica brushes her off and suggests she wear Jessica’s red t-shirt to school instead.
As we saw at the end of the last book, Alice has left town for her business trip to San Francisco, and the kids are supposed to be helping around the house. Jessica is already failing at this because the bathroom she shares with Elizabeth is totally trashed, and she hasn’t been helping with any of the other housework, either.
The same but different, Elizabeth is organized and loves to read and wants to be a professional journalist, Jessica loves gossip and clothes and snobbery; Jessica always has grand schemes that get her into trouble, and Elizabeth always saves the day; two houses, both alike in dignity and different in everything else, you know the drill.
Jessica hopes that Elizabeth will be in a forgiving mood, because she spilled chocolate sauce all over Elizabeth’s shirt and did not even try to wipe it off. Jessica says she was waiting for Alice to get home to take care of it, and offers to set the table and clear the dishes for one night to make it up to her, and then two nights; Elizabeth holds out for three nights and Jessica cleaning the bathroom before Alice gets home. I’d say she’s a good negotiator here, except everyone fucking knows Jessica won’t handle her own shit. [Raven: My family went on holiday without me when I was fifteen (my choice to stay). When they got back, the living room stank of vinegar because I’d spilled a bottle and not cleaned it up, and there was so many unwashed dishes that I was eating cheese off a magazine with a spatula. #truestory]
Elizabeth heads to Amy’s, but not before she reminds Jessica that Ned is working in his study; he’s in the middle of a big case and with the extra pressure of Alice being out of town so he’s in charge of the house, too, he’s been super grumpy. Good times, good times, what kind of case has he jumped to working on now, ghost writer? Torts? Patent law? International financing? [Dove: wrong! He’s doing generic lawyering. You know, that discipline that loads of parents in books do. Heavy workload, no specifics of the job, and grumpy tempers.]
Jessica finally calls Lila for help deciding what to wear, because there’s no one in Sweet Valley who has a bigger or more current wardrobe than Lila. That doesn’t mean she’s fashionable herself, though, it just means she has a tonne of money and can follow trends.
Lila suggests she wear something padded in case she falls down, and I did laugh at this. Oh, Lila, you scamp. (Really, though, their friendship continues to be great most of the time.)
Jessica outfit: stone-washed jeans and a yellow t-shirt. OH. MY. GOD. Stone-washed jeans. That’s amazing.
Almost as soon as Jessica hangs up, another call comes in. She assumes it is Lila, and so answers the phone saying hello to her, but it’s really Mr Leeds for her dad. After he finishes the call, Ned complains that Mr Leeds had been trying to reach him with important information for nearly an hour. Now, I get that this is frustrating, Ned, but you have options here. You could have separate lines, that was available, and you probably should if you work from home so often. Barring that, you could have call waiting, so at least it would interrupt Jessica when she’s on the phone too much. [Dove: Apparently Ned forgot they have a second line, which was outright stated in Taking Charge, where the Wakefields used two lines to call around for the missing Patrick Morris. Also, Alice frequently works from home, because she’s ~tired~, and uses the line.]
That aside, though, Ned points out that Jessica’s had a bad few weeks of not behaving responsibly; she got a D on a history test (because she spent the entire evening listening to the new Johnny Buck album, Pass the Buck, rather than studying); she’s having too many long phone calls. [Raven: Mr Nydick, giving all the girls the D.]
And … that’s it? Nothing about how she’s not doing any housework? Nothing about how her room is trashed? Nothing about how the bathroom is trashed?
Jessica tries to make it up to him and promises that she’ll get good grades and keep her phone calls under one minute (riiiiiiiiight) and even offers to help him work, but he has to get back to work and doesn’t need any help.
Except about thirty seconds later, he asks for a favor and says it is a chance for her to prove she can be responsible. NED. THIS IS NOT GOING TO END WELL, WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU DO THIS?
He sends an envelope filled with $500 that he needs taken to Mr Hopper; it’s money Ned collected at work for a charity fund and Mr Hopper, the group’s treasurer, needs it before he leaves town.
(Didn’t Ned refuse to let Jessica ask for sponsors at his work in the last book, which was also raising money for a good cause? He didn’t want anyone at work to feel pressured. Which is a good thing, and yet here, a short time later, he’s been collecting money? What happened to not wanting people to feel pressured, Ned?)
It’s only three blocks to Mr Hopper’s house, and Jessica is certain nothing can go wrong in that short amount of space. Yes. Sure. That’s exactly what will happen, nothing will ever go wrong. *head desk*
Pretty much immediately, she runs into Caroline, who wants to tell her some gossip (because that’s the entirety of Caroline’s personality: she gossips). She asks Jessica what’s in the envelope, but Jessica keeps that secret; however, Caroline distracts her by saying that she has news about a certain seventh grader whose initials are B.P.
Oh good lord, Caroline, just come right out and say you’re talking about Bruce Patman.
Anyway, the gossip is that Bruce is taking a date skating that night. Jessica freaks out that he’s taking a girl, and Caroline snarks that no, he’s taking a guy. Of course she means a girl!
Oh, Sweet Valley, so fucking heteronormative.
Jessica, of course, wants to know who it is, but Caroline says it’s a long story. She’s happy to explain, it will just take awhile. It always takes awhile, Jessica thinks, and it’s always hard to know how much to believe. AND YET YOU ALL KEEP BELIEVING HER NO MATTER WHAT.
They spend the next half an hour gossiping about whom he might bring skating, but Caroline has no idea. So … why are you gossiping?
Jessica is, of course, running late to give the money to Mr Hopper, but Mr Roberts, who says he’s Mr Hopper’s next door neighbor, says that Mr Hopper waited as long as he could before he had to leave for dinner. Jessica thinks she’s sunk, but then asks what time he’ll be leaving in the morning; he normally leaves around 6 a.m., and she’s certain she can get up in time to give him the money before then. That seems unlikely, Wakefield, but sure. [Dove: Hi, Jess. Have you met you? You hate getting up early.]
Back at home, she hides the money inside the utility closet, where they store the vacuum cleaner, baseball equipment, and other junk. UMM. None of that sounds like junk so far, and also, she claims no one uses that room, except that vacuum and baseball equipment come up a lot. (Not as much as basketball, to be honest, but still.)
Jessica hides the money inside a tennis racket cover; she doesn’t even think it’s Steven’s racket, but that it belongs to one of his friends. It doesn’t matter, though, no one will ever touch it.
…Why not just hide it in your room? It’s not like anyone goes digging through your stuff on a regular basis the way you do Elizabeth’s room. Why are you making things extra hard on yourself? Why? [Dove: This baffled me too. For most tween girls, I’d say the knicker drawer, inside a box of sanitary pads, but since Steven is clearly infatuated with her, I guess a more boring drawer, with her pens and pencils or whatever in?] [Raven: Yup. Ludicrous.]
Ned’s making a roast and puts the kids to work cleaning while they wait for it to finish. He sets Jessica to vacuuming the upstairs hallway and tells her to fold the towels in the dryer and put them into the bathrooms.
Instead of getting to work, she sits around to gossip with Elizabeth, telling her about Caroline’s gossip and doodling little hearts around Jessica + ? on a piece of notebook paper. She’s being picked up to go skating right after dinner, but Elizabeth points out that Jessica agreed to do her work for the next three nights to make up for ruining her shirt. Good fucking luck with that, Elizabeth.
Plus, Jessica now pushes the other work off onto Elizabeth, trying to get her to both vacuum and fold towels, because she needs to get ready. Good lord, Jessica, will you do nothing? Clear not. Lazy fucking kid.
Elizabeth, for once, sort of holds firm. She’s not holding Jessica to her deal RE the shirt, but she does refuse to do both the vacuuming and the towels.
They talk briefly about Mrs Arnette’s new assignment, which will start on Monday in social studies and be different and challenging. Well that sounds interesting. Then Jessica teases Elizabeth about reading for fun even when she doesn’t have to read for school, and Elizabeth daydreams about writing her own mystery book sometime in the future. I can only wish to read that one.
A contest comes on the radio: to enter, they have to send their name and the name of their favourite rock star to the station and then tune in between 4 and 9 p.m. each day. If one of the DJs call their name, they have to call in within 5 minutes, name all 5 songs the DJ plays by the favourite rock star, and if they get all 5 songs right, they win $1000.
First of all, that isn’t a complicated contest, but by god, was it complicated to explain. WHY? Second, I can’t imagine anyone will desperately need to win $1000 any time soon or anything.
(The DJ will only play a few seconds of each song, which means I will never win. I am shit at name that tune.)
Jessica’s feeling pretty good because they’ve both had good luck with radio contests: Jessica won them front-row tickets to the Melody Power concert and Elizabeth won a big party at Club Jupiter for naming a new radio show. CONTINUITY WHAT?! [Dove: Hi thar, Team Grapplegate.]
Jessica goes off into paroxysms of pleasure thinking about what she will buy when she wins (every outfit she ever wanted from Kendell’s, her own TV, her own telephone), while Elizabeth suggests she save it for a trip or college. Look, Liz, $1000 is a lot of money, and college was somewhat cheaper back then, but (a) that’s not enough money to pay for any bit part of college even when you two would be going, (b) I’m not sure I believe Jessica will go to college anyway, and (c) it’s not like any of you will be hurting for money when it comes to college. [Raven: Also, FUCK OFF ELIZABETH. It’s fantasy money. Jess should mentally spend it on whatever she likes. Saving for college with it is like fantasising about spending a lottery win on a pencil case.]
Jessica brushes off the chores so she can send in her entry, and we skip straight to the next morning. Obviously she did nothing of those chores. She’s grumpy enough to be waking up at 5:15 a.m., and while she brought this on herself, that is a nasty time to be getting up.
While she gets dressed, she thinks about the skating party the night before (she only fell twice); Bruce Patman did show up, but he came with two boys, not any girl. Jessica thinks this obviously means Caroline was wrong and he didn’t bring a date. Now, I hate Bruce Patman, but damn, Sweet Valley, why so heteronormative?
(Look, yes, I know, it is still rare to see queer characters in YA, and it was even more rare when this was published, but queer people existed. We were queer kids and reading books and looking for queer representation, and it sucks that the assumption is always straight straight straight.) [Dove: On the other side of that: Anyone but you, Patman. We don’t want you in our club. (Wing’s point is valid and I’m only being flippant.)] [Raven: Also, Bruce is rich. He’s less closeted, more walk-in-wardrobed.]
Anyway, Jessica manages to convince herself that it’s really Caroline’s fault that she has to get up so early, because if only she hadn’t stopped to talk to Caroline, she wouldn’t have missed him in the first place. Oh, there’s the Jess we all know.
It doesn’t matter that she got up on time: the racket with the money is gone.
She tells herself to calmly search the entire house, but her searching doesn’t seem very calm at all, and ends up being fruitless. When she finally gives up, she wakes Steven (and tries not to wake the rest of the house — I’m shocked she doesn’t just walk into his room and start looking).
Jessica does eventually let herself into his room and gets him to wake up long enough to look up at her and ask if he’s dreaming. Don’t really want to hear about that dream, big boy. #alwayswiththeincest
Apparently, while Ned was on his cleaning kick (you know, the one we didn’t get to see the fallout from because Jessica just fucked off to a radio contest), the racket fell on his head, and Steven took the racket back over to Peter Moore’s house, because Steven borrowed it from him a long time ago.
Frantic, Jessica wakes Elizabeth because she needs help. She spills out the entire story so quickly that Elizabeth can’t keep up (and who can blame her?), but Elizabeth does get the gist of it, that Jessica has lost $500. Awesome. [Dove: Honestly, I’m shocked Liz doesn’t have $500 in savings that Jess can borrow, she’s always saving her money for something and we have never seen her spend any money ever.] [Raven: Isn’t $500 a house deposit back in the Eighties?]
Elizabeth calms her down because probably, Peter hasn’t even looked in the ball pocket yet (…god, sports are dirty), and even if he has (so dirty), he won’t be able to keep the money, so they can wait until a decent hour to go to his house. I’m sure that’s exactly what will happen.
Elizabeth wants to go back to sleep, but Jessica drags her down for breakfast because she’s wide awake and wants company. Ned finds them awake early and tells Jessica that she still needs to finish folding the towels, because only the hall was vacuumed. I assume because of Elizabeth, but who knows.
At Peter’s house, he makes a joke about seeing double, ha ha ha, and Jessica tries to borrow the tennis racket instead of just telling him she left something in the case accidentally. You don’t have to say it’s money, Wakefield!
But NOPE, the racket is really Mr Moore’s, and he’s taken it to an important business client meeting. (He usually lets them win. I am rolling my eyes.) (Now I’m wondering why Peter didn’t need to get that racket back much sooner.) Peter brings out his mother’s racket instead, because he’s trying to be nice, but of course that doesn’t really help at all. [Dove: Two things: 1) Peter is quite sweet here – given that he’s Steven’s friends, I’m amazed he wasn’t a complete wazzock; 2) WHY ARE SO MANY CHARACTERS CALLED PETER IN SWEET FUCKING VALLEY?]
Elizabeth thinks they should just tell Ned what happened, but Jessica is determined to track down that racket and get the money. Next step is to go from tennis court to tennis court looking for Mr Moore and then very politely ask if he’s seen $500 lying around.
I’m sure there are only a handful of tennis courts in a place like Sweet Valley.
Immediately, Elizabeth shakes her head and asks how many tennis courts Jessica thinks exist. Damn it, Elizabeth, stop it. I don’t like it when we agree.
Jessica thinks 10.
Elizabeth says there’s more like 100.
This is going well.
They don’t get far before Caroline waves them over to give them gossip about Lila getting knocked out when she skated into a wall the night before. Jessica says that’s not what happened. Caroline defends the rumor she heard, but Jessica explains that Lila fell down a lot but never ran into a wall. Buuuuurn.
Elizabeth is ignoring them both to closely examine Mrs Moore’s tennis racket.
Jessica goes on to tell Caroline about Bruce not bringing a girl (Caroline didn’t say a girl, she said a date, COME ON. And no, I’m never letting this go, even though it would be terrible representation for someone as shitty as Bruce to be our only queer rep), but Elizabeth interrupts her before she can get too far into it and says they have to get to their tennis game at the Sweet Valley Country Club.
Elizabeth gets a little smug and excited because she figured out that in life, like in mysteries, you should look for clues because little things can lead you in the right direction. Little things like the SVCC stamped on the bottom of Mrs Moore’s racket. Yeah, that’s certainly a little thing. [Raven: I’m surprised there are club-specific rackets. Unless this is a weird monogramming thing. Pfft, rich people.]
They find the man Jessica thinks is Mr Moore, but instead of trying to talk to him, she’s going to crawl through bushes next to the fence to get to the racket cover. Yes, smart. Much, much smarter than actually fucking talking to anyone.
Sure enough, she fails at reaching it (and only manages to get scratched up by the bushes), and the men take the racket cover into the locker room. Steven dreams of escorting Jessica into the locker room.
AND THEN THIS: “Quick!” Jessica said. “Let’s follow them!”
Dear god, Jessica, Steven needs no encouragement.
They hang around waiting for awhile, but then realise there is a second door and Mr Moore could be gone. Jessica’s sure this means that he knew she was in the bushes the whole time and now he’s trying to escape so he can keep the money himself.
Yes. That is clearly what is happening.
Jessica drags Elizabeth into the fancy club restaurant, because it’s something she’s seen Lila do all the time with her father; she’s very chill about it, but Elizabeth freaks out. Elizabeth finds Mr Moore and Jessica frantically tries to figure out a plan. She doesn’t want to tell him the truth because it would be embarrassing (oh, and he’d probably tell Ned), but can’t think of anything else, until she sees a teen girl bring them water and go back into the kitchen. None of the adults even pay attention to her. This gives Jessica a plan. [Dove: Fuck those lowly working serfs!]
Jessica pretends to work there, manages to spill water on a man’s newspaper, intentionally knocks a fork to the floor so she can get to the racket cover, and not only is there nothing in the pocket, but she gets busted by Mr Moore.
He recognises her as Jessica Wakefield, too, which surprises me a little, because aren’t adults supposed to have such a hard time telling them apart. [Raven: I reckon it’s just a 50/50 blind stab. Either that, or he weighed up the situation and made the only educated guess.] Anyway, Elizabeth rocks up shortly after, we learn the client is Mr Brooks, and the girls tell them the entire story. Mr Brooks tries to cheer them up, and Mr Moore promises to search the entire house when he gets home.
Before they leave, Jessica borrows the 95 cents Elizabeth has, because she wants to leave a tip even though they didn’t eat anything. She’s realised how hard it is to work in a restaurant, and my brain just melted in shock. That’s an incredible, important thing to learn, especially in rich, sheltered Sweet Valley. On the down side, I have zero belief that Jessica will keep this lesson longer than the time it takes her to get outside the country club. [Dove: Agreed. I was so shocked I had to tweet about it. Bless her for this brief second of humanity.] [Raven: And it’s still Elizabeth’s money.]
On the bike ride home, Jessica wails that she’s going to run away to the circus, and when she demands that Elizabeth take her seriously, Liz suggests that she try out as a clown, first, and makes her promise to send postcards from all the cities where the circus stops.
Once they get home, Elizabeth is determined to solve the Mystery of the Missing Money. It’s like the Bobbsey Twins up in here.
They start with Steven, even though Jessica really doesn’t want to tell him because she’s afraid he’ll never let her live it down, but Elizabeth doesn’t think they can hide it from him. He takes it better than expected and offers to help, which actually makes Jessica feel worse.
Elizabeth has him retrace his steps, and he says he was cleaning the den when Ned told him to return the racket and clean the rest of his junk out of the closet. Steven never saw an envelope in the closet at all.
Next step is to search the house. Elizabeth starts with the closet and has Jessica search through her room, because it’s so messy she could hide an elephant in there without noticing. While she’s searching, Jessica listens to the radio and is reminded that she might be able to win $1000.
She and Elizabeth brainstorm on their old thinking seat in the old pine tree. (That is definitely not what I’ve been picturing it as this whole time.) Elizabeth doesn’t believe that her plan to win will work, but suggests she can earn the money somehow. $500 in a week is a lot of money.
Though Jessica hates working, she thinks anything is better than telling Ned the truth, and she’s certain that they can earn it in time. When Elizabeth asks what she means by that, Jessica points out that if Elizabeth had been home, Ned would have asked her to take the money instead, so none of it would have happened.
Elizabeth calls her on that pathetic excuse (and it is, on multiple levels; it’s a ridiculous excuse that means nothing, and it is nowhere near Jessica’s best work), but agrees to help her anyway, because she’s a pushover.
First thing they do is make flyers to hand out around the neighbourhood, because that worked so well for them and their dog-walking business. Jessica has already wasted hours on the design, which, while fabulous (rainbow, stars along the edges, gold glitter), are going to take forever, especially since she wants to make 50.
They work together to come up with Helping Hands as the name for the odd jobs business, and Jessica thinks they should stay in business even after they earn $500; when Elizabeth questions this, because everyone knows Jessica doesn’t like to do her own work, she says they can run the business and hire someone else to do the actual work.
So, she’s going to fit well in big business.
Elizabeth writes a poem to put on the flyer, because poetry is 100% how to do this:
There’s no odd job
too big or small.
We’ll do it fast —
and we’ll do it all!
[Raven: I’m sure Steven could find Jessica a job involving her hands.]
While they’re working on it, Ned comes in to say that dinner will be late because he forgot to turn on the oven. Both girls laugh over this, and Jessica tells the story of the time she forgot to do that in cooking class, so that her brownies looked like mud pies and she couldn’t figure out why.
He likes the flyers and the idea of their odd jobs service, but does say they need to clean their bathroom before they start going to help others. Jessica promises that it will be clean before Alice gets home.
She feels guilty about what he would think if he knew the real reason they’re going into business.
On Monday, Jessica can’t focus at school, gets half the questions wrong on a pop quiz in math, and is even more distracted in social studies. She entertains herself by making a list of ways to spend her $1000 radio contest prize. But I thought she was focused on the missing money, not the money she thinks she’ll win. Good lord.
(First thing on the list: her own telephone. Second thing: tv set for her room. So basically the same damn things she said earlier and this is just a waste of space.)
Mrs Arnette assigns a “time utilization study” which requires them to use a journal to keep track of how they spend their time each day. This is a very different social studies class than the one I had in sixth grade.
Mrs Arnette thinks they will be surprised by how they actually spend their time and how much of it they waste, which is probably true, but I don’t necessarily see how this is going to do much for their education. (Raven will say I expect too much of Sweet Valley teachers, which is clearly true.)
(Jessica is already to number 17 by this point, which is the silver earrings she saw at Valley Fashions the week before.) [Dove: Spoilers: in the next book the B-plot is whether or not she’s allowed to get her ears pierced. Just throwing that out there. I know they might be clip-ons, but I’ve never known anyone daydream over buying clip-ons.]
Mrs Arnette busts her making her list, and though Jessica tries to get away with it, Mrs Arnette reads the list and tells her to spend more time studying and less at the mall, which is also true.
In gym, Ms Langberg says they are going to learn the “art of running.” I want to know why we’re wasting so much of this book in classes when it’s supposed to be about a mystery. Gotta pad that word count, I guess.
Oh, look, it’s Belinda, who, despite giving up her name and turning into a Unicorn, does continue to be a very good athlete, so thank god for that, at least. Jessica comes in a distant second. WHAT? A WAKEFIELD DIDN’T WIN? THE HELL YOU SAY.
Elizabeth, though, focuses on all the tips Ms Langberg gave them and manages to win her race. SHOCKING. I’m shocked. She does lose to Belinda in the second race, though for the first half she seems like she might win.
(The boy’s gym class is running, too, and one boy races ahead of all the others; Danny Jackson, and when Elizabeth teases Belinda about whether he’s fast enough to beat her, she says he definitely is and is all sparkling.)
After gym, Jessica realises they’re supposed to write down things like how long they spend showering, too, and begs Elizabeth not to tell Steven if it turns out she really does spend three hours in the shower. Jessica, pretty sure Steven knows exactly how long you spend in the shower, based on how much attention he pays to everything you do. [Dove: Even in the 80s, Steven had a camera set up in there.]
After school, Elizabeth looks for Jessica so they can put up flyers, but apparently Jessica forgot to mention there was a track meet and the Boosters are cheering at it. They talk about how the track meets are super exciting and the Boosters decided to support all the school teams with equal spirit, so now they’re cheering at big track events. That’s actually a really fucking decent decision to make. How did that happen? [Dove: They’ve realised people look at them when they make noise. So they decided to make noise more often.]
Jessica is trying to listen to the radio while she’s cheering because she’s still waiting for that prize to happen, but everyone tells her she can’t cheer while listening to it, which is fucking true, Wakefield, oh my god.
Elizabeth watches that Danny Jackson guy run and tries to remember all the things that Ms Langberg told them about posture, breath control, arm movements, etc. I’m not sure why we’re spending all this time on it. It had better pay off, ghost writer. [Dove: The next book is all about Danny.]
We do get to see a little of the Boosters, which is fun. Amy and Ellen do a complicated baton routine and the rest of the Boosters do a pyramid with Jessica on top. Wait a fucking minute here, Lila is letting someone stand on her?! I don’t believe that at all. [Raven: I’m sure Lila is imagining herself as the Eygyptian Princess being entombed in the Booster Pyramid.]
Everything goes well until Jessica’s hand catches in her radio earphones and she lurches forward to catch the falling baton. The entire pyramid comes down on top of her; no one is hurt, at least until Jessica tells Lila that she weighs a ton, which means Lila will be killing her any moment now.
Skip to after school Tuesday, when they finally distribute the flyers. I thought you were worried about earning the money fast enough, Jessica. This isn’t going to get you there, and I’m fucking bored.
Skip ahead again (not me, the book does this! It is skippy and still boring), and they are about to get to work but Jessica has a Unicorn meeting. Elizabeth blows up at her, as she should!
Jessica did her very best to look disappointed. “You’ll never believe this, Lizzie,” she said as sadly as she could. “I was so excited about getting to work this afternoon, but now it turns out I have a Unicorn meeting right after school. Can you believe it? I’m so mad! But of course I have to go.” She watched her sister carefully to see how she was reacting. Jessica had the uneasy feeling that Elizabeth wasn’t falling for it.
“You’re going to a Unicorn meeting? Do you think that you’re going to eat cookies and watch soap operas while I do your work?” Elizabeth fumed. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “I didn’t lose that five hundred dollars, Jessica Wakefield, you did.”
“I know that,” Jessica said defensively, staring down at the floor. “But you don’t want me to be kicked out of the Unicorns, do you, Lizzie?”
“I don’t think it would be the end of the world,” Elizabeth said flatly. “Besides, they’re not going to kick you out for missing one meeting.”
“The Unicorns have very strict rules,” Jessica reminded her twin.
“Well, so do I,” Elizabeth answered firmly. “And if you’re not going to help me, then there’ll be only two Helping Hands instead of four! Your hands, Jessica!”
Look at you go, Elizabeth! You grew a spine for once!
“OK,” Jessica gave in. “I’m sorry. You go ahead to Mrs. Etheridge’s house, and I’ll be there as quickly as I can. I just have to stop by the meeting to explain why I can’t stay.”
SO MUCH FOR THAT.
Sure enough, Jessica doesn’t show up for half an hour, just in time for Elizabeth to be finishing with cleaning the upholstery inside Mrs Etheridge’s blue Dodge. [Raven: Did Mrs Etheridge shoot Marvin in the face?!] There was apparently a huge fight because Ellen wants to change the official color from purple to red. YES, THAT’S TRULY SERIOUS BUSINESS.
Elizabeth leaves Jessica to finish washing the outside of the car while she rushes over to mow Mr Caldwell’s lawn before it starts raining. He has an old push mower and his lawn is on a hill, so even though it’s small, it’s going to take a lot energy. Sure enough, she doesn’t finish the lawn before it starts raining, but she promises to come back the next day. He pays her for half, $5, which seems low but also, she didn’t finish! Why pay?
Back at Mrs Etheridge’s house, the rain is rinsing the car for Jessica and all is well — until Mrs Etheridge notices that the windows are down and the inside of the car is soaked. Mrs Etheridge says it’s an old car and it will be fine, and she pays Jessica $5. For the entire car wash? I’m so confused by the money in these books.
Steven’s the one who greets a soaked Jessica when she gets home, which is probably his wet dream. Yeah, I went for the easy one this time. (That’s what she said.) Elizabeth then tells her they have three more odd jobs, and Ned tells her to mop up the puddles she left on the floor; Jessica thinks she needs a helping hand.
Oh my god, this book is taking forever and nothing is happened. We’ve seen this plot before! Missing money! Jessica trying to get out of work! Elizabeth backing down! The twins frantically trying to earn money for something!
Elizabeth has to finish Mr Caldwell’s lawn, Jessica is packing boxes for a moving family — WAIT A FUCKING MINUTE HERE. WAIT. A. FUCKING. MINUTE. You’re moving. You need to pack. You have an entire life of things. AND YOU ARE GOING TO LET SOME RANDOM TWELVE YEAR OLD PACK THEM FOR YOU WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK.
While there are fewer chances for an animal to die in this situation, otherwise, it is about as irresponsible as that whole pet walking/pet sitting gig.
Thank god, Mrs Leach starts her on packing clothes, which she can’t break. (She also says that Jessica can take any clothes she finds that she wants to keep. What the fuck? WHAT THE FUCK? You’re just giving away your daughter’s clothes?)
An hour later, she has sorted all the clothes into what she wants and doesn’t want and folded exactly one fucking shirt. Elizabeth leaves her to it after not yelling at her nearly enough. Jessica drags her way through the clothes, listens to the radio, someone else’s name is called, they can’t name one of the songs, god I am so bored.
That night, even Elizabeth admits that their social studies homework assignment is more work than she expected. She has been tracking time, though, while Jessica is going to rely on her incredible memory. Ned comes through carrying notepads and a fat law book and they tell him about project. And — and —
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME IS NED ABOUT TO EXPLAIN BILLABLE HOURS DOVE YOU FUCKING DID THIS ON PURPOSE DIDN’T YOU WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK
[Raven: Yay! Wing Went Boom!]
Damn it, we’ve just launched a whole, entire new project. I guess I can’t quit.
Ned gives a lesson on how tracking the hours a lawyer spends on a project is an important part of the job and they have to keep accurate records so they can bill their clients fairly and also billable hours are the second worst part of being a lawyer. That’s my addition, not his. (The worst part is networking. Or hanging out with other lawyers, because so many of them are terrible. No, definitely networking. I know a handful of amazing people who are also lawyers. I also know some shitty lawyers. Oh my god, why am I talking about lawyers so much? I HATE YOU DOVE.) [Dove: You knew about this. You exploded when I tweeted a screen cap of it.]
But really, I’m done, time to go to bullet points. I cannot handle any more of this boring as hell book that just keeps doing the same thing over and over and over and over.
- Elizabeth helps Jessica practice for the radio contest in case her name is called by playing a bit of a song for her to guess. Jessica does really well, too.
- They paint four chairs for $15 and both whine about how much work it is to have this business oh my god poor little rich girls. Jessica checks out the guy working next door and learns that he’s an eighth grader named Stu and his family just moved there from Virginia. Jessica, of course, forgets all about the chairs as she swoons over Stu. STU. She also manages to sit on a wet chair. Goddamn, Wakefield.
- They’ve made $45 over several days, which is clearly not going well. Jessica thinks it’s time to tell Ned the truth, but Elizabeth brings up the long shot radio contest again to make her feel better.
- Alice comes home early and brings them t-shirts in blue and purple. I think you can guess which twin gets which colour.
- OH WAIT THE BATHROOM. Jessica freaks out a moment later because the bathroom is still trashed and there’s now red paint everywhere, too. Steven calls it a horror movie while she frantically cleans (and he watches her scrub the bathtub).
- Elizabeth comes back to cheer her on just in time for Steven to come tell them he heard the radio announce Jessica’s name in the contest. She tries to call them back, but Ned is on the phone. OH THE DRAMA.
- Elizabeth lies to get him off the phone (sort of), Jessica calls in, and answers four questions easily. And then the final song is “A Dozen Bucks” and she’s thrilled because she’s going to “have a thousand bucks and all of her worries” will be over. UNTIL SHE ANSWERS “A THOUSAND BUCKS” INSTEAD. Oh my god, WAKEFIELD. This is amazing. [Raven: So glad the Wakefields didn’t win.]
- The next day is Saturday, but Ned is still going into the office for awhile. (Which happens more than it should at a firm, even a smaller one like his.) Jessica goes to tell him, but he’s leaving when she finds him and something falls out of his jacket. OH LOOK AT THAT, HE HAD THE MONEY ALL ALONG.
- Jessica rushes up to tell Elizabeth she solved the mystery, but that’s exactly how Elizabeth greets her, too. Apparently, when she finished her mystery novel the night before, she finally figured out who the villain was (the butler, so, you know, cliche as fuck). Oh, wait, intentionally. Kick ass there, ghost writer. Because Jessica also points out it’s a cliche, and Elizabeth says that’s why she discounted the butler at first, and then she applied that to their situation which was that they were trying so hard to come up with an explanation that they forgot to consider the obvious. Elizabeth has decided that Steven has it and doesn’t realise it; he accidentally moved it into his bedroom along with his other junk while he was cleaning.
- Jessica is as smug as I expect over this, which is awesome. They talk about how Ned probably found it when the racket fell on his head. As for why he didn’t tell her, they think either: (a) he forgot or (b) he decided to teach her a lesson. So, of course, Jessica decides it’s time to teach him a lesson in return. Oh lord.
- That night, he apologises for being such an ogre all week. UH. We didn’t really see any of that, but sure. His project is finally finished, and he’s just as relieved as they are.
- Jessica admits that she lost Mr Hopper’s money, and Ned is just as smug to her as she was to Elizabeth earlier, because of course. This family. He searches for the money, but he, too, has lost it, and Jessica tells him that she found it and wanted to prove a point. THIS FAMILY. He says he found it that first night and meant to talk to her about it but got busy, which definitely happens.
- For about the 500th time in less than 50 books, they learn the less that they should never hide their problems or mistakes and should bring them to Ned and Alice. Which, of course, they learn and then forget about 30 seconds later.
- Elizabeth tells Jessica that from her time tracking, she learned she spent 21% of her time helping Jessica. I would have guessed it was closer to 50%, personally, but whatever.
- Jessica offers to buy Elizabeth a new pink blouse to replace the one she ruined, and that leaves her with enough to buy those silver earrings she liked.
- At school, everyone is picking on her for missing the final song in the radio contest. While Lila is teasing her, Danny Jackson nearly runs Jessica over, and Lila gives her gossip that in English class, they got a pop quiz and instead of taking it, Danny made the paper into an airplane and tossed it out the window.
- He’s a troublemaker and it’s a shame because he’s the best runner in the school and oh, look, the next book is supposed to be about whether Danny gets thrown off the track team. Oh, good, I’m thrilled.
This book started so well. It was typical Jessica shenanigans and a fun mystery game as they tried to solve it and then everything went downhill into boring double-dipping plot. And then there was talk of billable hours. WHY DOES THIS BOOK EVEN EXIST?
I hate you, Dove. I’m sure, somehow, you did this on purpose.
[Dove: I really didn’t. I didn’t even swap to get out of this book. But yeah, I wasn’t thrilled about this storyline. It was very B-plot, and everything felt like filler.]
[Raven: Yep. Big bag of Meh. Jumbled beyond all salvation, although the continuity was great and there were some format-breaking moments. How DARE the Wakefields not win a contest!]