Sweet Valley Twins #42: Jessica’s Secret

Sweet Valley Twins 42: Jessica’s Secret by Jamie Suzanne (Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant)
Sweet Valley Twins 42: Jessica’s Secret by Jamie Suzanne (Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant)

Title: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret Jessica’s Secret

Tagline: Something has come between the twins!

Summary: Jessica Wakefield has always prided herself on being the more sophisticated twin, but suddenly it’s her sister, Elizabeth, who is blossoming. Overnight, something wonderful has happened to turn Elizabeth into a young woman. And now Jessica’s sure that if anyone—especially her sister—finds out that it hasn’t happened to her, she’ll die of humiliation.

Then the twins get permission to travel to San Diego by themselves to visit their cousin Robin. It’s the perfect opportunity for Jessica to prove just how grown-up she really is. But will acting older than her age get Jessica into more trouble than she can handle?

Initial Thoughts:

This, for me, is where the series kicks into gear. The fact that Team Grapplegate are at the helm and have probably just shrugged off the editors’ rulings? Not a coincidence. There are so many fun books coming our way, and I’m so glad we’re finally getting to that point.

And yes, I am aware that Wing is going to kick me so hard if she doesn’t enjoy this slew of books as much as I do. [Wing: You promised me Sweet Valley werewolf fic if I don’t like this book. I won’t kick you, I’ll hold you to that.]


Elizabeth bursts into Jessica’s room where Jessica is trying a new hairstyle. Elizabeth immediately bubbles that she can’t believe Jessica is thinking about her hair at a time like this. And I wonder if Elizabeth has ever met her sister, because the universe could be on fire, T-rexes could be eating their parents, and Steven could be birthing an alien from his right eye and Jessica would still be concerned about her appearance.

I’m skipping right past the identical-but-different paragraph, and going back to the story. Elizabeth insists that she looks more mature. Jessica isn’t sure, so Elizabeth says she feels older, ever since they got their period. In response, Jessica gapes at her and goes pale.

For the first time Elizabeth noticed that her twin looked a little pale. She realized it was possible Jessica wasn’t feeling as well as she was. After all, even though they were twins, they couldn’t expect their bodies to behave in precisely the same way!

So why do you assume that you both got your period then? Do you get nosebleeds at the same time? If you have a cold, do you only sneeze in unison? I know the answer is no, because of the whole Nora Mercandy debacle in book 3 when you got colds a day apart. But sure, have your period at the same exact moment, that makes sense.

[Wing: This was my first warning that I wasn’t going to love the book the way Dove does, because this? Is so fucking weird. Why would she just assume that? Did they lose the exact same teeth at the exact same time? Did they grow their teeth at the same pace? This assumption makes no sense, and I don’t find it believable for Elizabeth at all.] [Raven: Agreed. Elizabeth is an idiot here.]

Liz then says they must tell their mom right now because OMG SO EXCITE! So she drags Jessica downstairs to bother Alice with this. Alice is a fucking mind-reader in this book, because she says “hi girls” and Elizabeth says “We’re not exactly your girls anymore.” And from that, Alice understands immediately that we’re talking periods. She doesn’t wonder if her twin girls have realised that they’re not Elizabeth and Jessica but Emmet and Jasper, she doesn’t think that Elizabeth is just being pernickety and demanding the title of “young lady”, she doesn’t even just shrug and say, “Yeah, ok,” and then continue with what she’s saying. ALICE UNDERSTANDS YOUR MYSTERIOUS TALK. AND OMG PERIODS? TIME TO PAR-TAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

[Wing: This was the other warning sign. I do not understand the excitement over it. You might be able to get pregnant now, woo, let’s celebrate. You’ll bleed regularly for years, and possibly be in pain and grumpy and easily angered, etc. Blah. Do not understand the excitement.] [Raven: I was just surprised that Alice didn’t say “Really? On the same day? That’s weird!”] [Dove: Both excellent points.]

She immediately throws off her work and offers to fix them an extra special dinner to celebrate. I did not get an extra special dinner or a celebration. I got, “Oh. Right.” And continuity, Jessica asks for spaghetti and meatballs, which is her favourite. And this is the second book that she’s mentioned that, so actual continuity. Also, it’s my favourite meal too. Probably because of that time that Wing bought us gigantic meatballs the size of Jupiter.

[Wing: They were so good. We need more.] [Raven: They were so big, they had a side of garlic doughballs orbitting them like tiny moons.]

And, because that’s how the Wakefield house rolls, Elizabeth immediately volunteers to help, and… because we’re in an alternate universe, Jessica offers too. Although she only offers so she can ask, when Elizabeth is out of earshot, how old Alice was when she started her period. Alice says around Jessica’s age, maybe a little older. Over in Making Out, in book 3, Nina says she got her period around the age of eleven too. And if I’d have realised this at a young age, I would have felt like a late bloomer, but now I’m like, “Bwhahahaha, you got three extra years of this mess before I did! Lol!”

While they’re making dinner, Steven comes home carrying a basketball, which he drops and sticks his hand in the mixing bowl for the cream puffs. Gross. I really hate Steven and it’s because he’s foul. He’s constantly stuffing himself, and constantly sticking his hands in food that other people are preparing, and there’s never any mention of him washing his hands. And the fact he was carrying a basketball before he stuck his hand in the food? Double gross. That thing bounces on the ground, people sit on them, and loads of unwashed hands touch it. Yeah, I’ve got a germ thing, but still, Steven is horrible. [Wing: I should not have read this recap right before dinner. Blech.]

That night, Jessica comes up with a scheme – because what is Jessica without schemes? – because they’re now officially grown up, they should be allowed to visit their cousin Robin in San Diego.

The next day on the way home from school, Elizabeth asks if Jessica’s told anyone she got her period. Elizabeth has a one track mind for this book, no matter what they’re talking about, she’ll bring up her period. Elizabeth is… alarming. Jessica changes the subject, saying they should cook their parents’ favourite meal and plan their strategy, make it sound like seeing Robin will be educational because she’s spent a year in France. Jessica also says she wants to go to Valley Pharmacy (literally every shop is called Valley $descriptor) for the latest copy of Image magazine. Elizabeth says good plan, they need “uh, supplies.

So… you guys have been menstruating for over a day and it’s only now occurring to you to get something to mop it up? A world of no, that’s not how it works. I feel like this book contributed to the boy who said (paraphrased) “I don’t want my girlfriend to use a tampon and lose her virginity, I mean, if I can hold my pee in, why can’t she?” I know these books aren’t allowed to be graphic, but the vagueness is just giving off weird vibes.

So the twins hit Valley Pharmacy, and Jessica’s perusal of the makeup and magazine section is cut short by Elizabeth’s determination to get in and out of the store before anyone sees them. They check the store is free from anyone they know, and quickly make their choice. They get in the register with the longest queue because a woman is serving, and at this point Bruce Patman and Todd Wilkins walk in, but thankfully don’t spot them. When they get to the front of the queue, the cashier needs to price check the sanitary pads, and is happy that she saved them $0.40 by checking. The twins don’t check, but Jessica is certain that Bruce and Todd were laughing at them the whole time.

[Wing: This scene was where the book started to redeem itself to me, because that embarrassment seems so realistic for them, and there is some great tension here. As long as I handwave the fact that Alice didn’t immediately give them supplies yesterday, which is exactly what she would have done, what with celebrating it and all.] [Raven: Alice did immediately give them supplies, surely? It explains the waiting for a day before their own shopping trip. And Elizabeth’s immediate need to shop for supplies just springs from her desire to have everything planned.]

Over dinner, Jessica starts her attack on the parents, saying that she’s been thinking of Robin a lot recently. Then she kicks Elizabeth, who weakly offers she’d like to see her too. Jessica starts to lay it on really thick, saying that seeing Robin would be cultural and educational because of her year in France. She kicks Elizabeth again, and Ned jumps in to say yes, before Jessica even asks. He and Alice are happy to let the twins travel to San Diego by themselves to visit Robin. They haven’t even discussed it. I guess they were doing that marriage psychic thing, that doesn’t exist. Raven and I have been together for 14 years (to the day, as I write this), and we can’t agree on something that big without discussing it, but whatevs, the twins bleed, so suddenly all concerns about their safety are null and void, because menstruation = maturity. Also, last time this topic came up (admittedly, it was Great Aunt Helen, not cousin Robin, but still), the parents pointed out that the tickets would cost $80, and the twins took money for granted. I guess menstruation = fiscal responsibly?

Steven is aghast at how quickly this decision has come about – and probably rightly so, given that last week the twins weren’t allowed to go to The Hangout because their older brother got punched there. If only their period had shown up a week earlier, that would have solved everything. Steven is placated when they tell him he gets to be an only child for a long weekend while the twins go visit.

The twins head upstairs to decide what to pack. Elizabeth is going to take a copy of The Sweet Valley Sixers, because what tween girl doesn’t want to read about student council elections for a school she doesn’t even go to? Jessica expresses this almost verbatim, and adds that Robin’s been in France for a year, so she’s probably too sophisticated for it. She’d probably rather hear about more exciting things, like the Unicorns. Elizabeth thinks that the Unicorns are silly and is sure Robin would rather be bored silly by the Sixers. I’m kinda thinking you guys could just get together and have a conversation, rather than planning and vetoing topics in advance?

They get to speak to Robin for a few minutes, the most of which Jessica uses up, and she reports afterwards that Robin sounds different, and she has a new group of friends. Elizabeth worries that she may have changed a lot and things won’t be the same, but Jessica points out that they have changed too, they’re dressing differently and have new interests.

Elizabeth suddenly brightens and asks if Jessica thinks Robin has started her period yet. Elizabeth is just weird about this, she just loves to talk about periods. I can just imagine this conversation:

Amy: I have a pet hedgehog.

Elizabeth: Has it started its period yet?

Amy: … No? It’s a boy.

Elizabeth: I wonder if my period has started its period yet?

Jessica asks if she’s going to talk about it with Robin, because if she hasn’t started she’ll feel bad (“Why?” asks Elizabeth – ffs, pay attention, you mook! Amy has already said she feels a bit left behind. This conversation was all about periods, surely you should’ve listened?), and if she has then she’s got better things to talk about. Elizabeth sighs and says fine, because there’s no point arguing with Jessica when her mind is made up. Good lord, Elizabeth, go read Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and give everyone else a rest from your obsession. [Raven: Yup. Elizabeth is so bloody-minded in this book. … … *puts on shades* YEEEEEAAAAAH!]

The next day at school, Jessica gets to gloat to the Unicorns that she’s going to San Diego sans parents. They are suitably impressed. Elizabeth breaks up the chat by asking to speak to Jessica alone. She’s run out of “supplies”. You’d think with Elizabeth’s adoration for periods, she’d have come up with a more exciting name for sanitary pads. Like “The Awesome Pads” or “Sweet Valley Pads” … I’m sorry, when you spend a year in this fandom, you start to think like a Jamie Suzanne. Jessica doesn’t have any – and then corrects herself, she doesn’t have enough for both of them, so get fucked you periody bell end. Then she storms off and cries in the loos, because she’s feeling the stress of pretending to have a period. [Wing: HOW IS ELIZABETH THIS UNPREPARED? She’s like the fucking period queen so far, and she’s super into organising things. She should have enough supplies for a week on her at all times.] [Raven: Maybe she’s been pouring blue liquid on them and giggling.]

After school, Jessica is all sweetness and light, and suggests they go shopping for new outfits to wear to Robin’s. Then realises she has no money. Elizabeth offers to lend her some, and Jessica promises to pay her back. Elizabeth has no recollection of the past twelve years, because she says she knows Jessica will pay her back. Really? Doesn’t Jessica always owe you money?

So they go shopping, and Jessica wants a purple outfit and Elizabeth wants a matronly blouse, it will wipe out all of her savings, but Jessica guilts her into buying it by saying, “Oh, buy what you need, I’ll just look hideous, as always…” and Elizabeth’s spine crumbles like a biscuit under a steamroller.

On Monday, they wear their new clothes to school. The Unicorns adore Jessica’s new look and gush about it over lunch. Janet pushes away her potato chips because they make her break out in zits right before her period. She offers them to Jessica, who takes offense at this, thinking that Janet is jabbing at her for not starting yet. [Wing: So fucking realistic, Jess thinking that everything is about her and her big secret. When this book is on, it’s great.] When talk turns to Elizabeth’s new blouse, Jessica notices that it looked fine at the mall, but against her friends’ clothes it looks downright babyish. When Elizabeth comes over to say they need to shop for a gift for Stacey, Robin’s sister, who will be turning eight while they’re visiting, Jessica – still smarting from her earlier misunderstanding with Janet – lashes out, saying since Elizabeth dresses like an eight year old, shopping for one should be a piece of cake. Elizabeth bursts into tears and runs off.

Later, she double checks with Amy that Team Boring thinks she looks pretty in her blouse. For a moment she considers apologising to Jessica – for fuck’s sake, Elizabeth, she was mean to you, it’s down to Jessica to make amends – but she can’t quite do it.

Two days later, Elizabeth is on her thinking seat – the tree in the back yard – upset that Jessica hasn’t made amends yet. Alice comes out and Elizabeth spills her woes, like Jessica making fun of her new blouse. Alice says she’s sure Jessica didn’t mean to hurt her feelings. Have either of you met Jess? Also, if this happened to me, I’d feel really used – that Jessica forced me to buy a blouse that looks daft, just so I’d feel obligated to buy her an outfit that cost more. Alice uselessly shoulder-pats and blames hormones. [Wing: I’m not even sure the blouse does look daft, to be honest. I think the Unicorns don’t like it, and Jessica turned on her sister in a heart beat, because god forbid she disagree with the Unicorns.] [Dove: I wasn’t clear. I meant I would feel it looked stupid given the events. “Yeah, sure buy that top and MY EXPENSIVE OUTFIT!” … *ten seconds after payment* “YOU LOOK LIKE A LOSER!” kinda reads as if Jess just agreed to Liz buying literally anything regardless of whether it looked good, as long as she got her purple outfit.]

Later, Jessica is back to being in a good mood and laughs and jokes with Elizabeth about how much clothing she’s taking to Robin’s.

On the bus the next day, Elizabeth enthuses about all the things they used to do when they were kids, while Jessica says she wants to do something else, because she’s grown up now. Also, Elizabeth is still smarting over the comment about her new blouse. She still hasn’t received an apology, but since Jessica is acting like everything’s fine, she’ll just forgive and forget.

Real life advice: DO NOT DO THIS. It does not work. This is classic emotional abuse. Jess, the abuser, has rewritten her narrative so if asked about it, she won’t even recall that she said something mean, or she will make an excuse or bring up an example of when Elizabeth did something wrong, but she will never admit that she was in the wrong or did something hurtful. And every time Elizabeth just shrugs, sighs, and sucks it up, it allows Jess to continue believing her fictional narrative of what happened. And one day, Elizabeth will reach a point where she cannot forgive and forget any longer, and do you know what happens next? Elizabeth spends the rest of her life haunted by the fact that she “let” all this happen. Although it’s not like fighting back helps. *sigh* I have issues.

When they arrive, they spot Robin, who is dressed all in black with lots of silver jewellery and black sunglasses. Jessica naturally thinks Robin looks awesome, but Elizabeth thinks she looks “sort of… depressing”. I have never understood this whole thing of black being depressing or that a child has to be a certain amount of years old to be allowed to wear black – though I heard lots of parents weighing in on my mother’s choice to let me wear black leggings at such a young age (I said “Those ones please,” when faced with multiple colours, and my mother bought them, because I needed leggings, it was that simple). Honestly, what was all the fuss about? [Wing: I did not know that was a thing! What a shitty, shitty thing. How about we don’t police what people wear? (I struggle with this sometimes myself; e.g., “leggings aren’t pants,” which I believe is a true statement, but damn, I have no right to say what anyone else can wear, so. Shut your mouth, Wing, and shut your mouths, people complaining that kids wear black.)]

So, what does everyone look like? Robin looks like the twins. Aunt Nancy looks just like Alice, Uncle Kirk is a ginger with a muzzie, and Stacey is ginger like her dad. But their surname is Wakefield, so that means either Nancy is Alice’s sister and her husband took her surname, or Kirk married a woman who looks just like his sister… wait, no, now I’ve typed it, that seems plausible in the Wakefield clan. As you were. [Raven: If Nancy was Alice’s sister, her surname wouldn’t be Wakefield, surely? Unless NED took Alice’s surname when they married too? Kirk must be Ned’s brother.] [Dove: We discuss this at length in the podcast. But yeah, I misunderstood the whole surname thing, much to the amusement of my evil triplets.]

(Kirk is tall and played college basketball. Must be a Wakefield.)

On the ride home, everything is just like old times, as they reminisce over the fun pranks they played on Steven, such as putting hot sauce on his burger or letting the air out of his tyres, but by the time they get to Robin’s room, Things Are Different.

Robin is kind of over Johnny Buck. Surely not? And so Jessica immediately claims she’s over him too.

Elizabeth says they should call home, and Robin and Jessica are like, “Nah, she’ll figure out you made it here safe.” Elizabeth reluctantly offers to call so Rossica can catch up. She calls home and also gets an offer from Stacey to sleep in her room if Robin’s snoring gets too loud.

When she goes back to Robin’s room, she finds Rossica swooning over a yearbook photo of John W. Anderson, aka Johnny, aka Robin’s boyfriend. He’s sixteen, and Robin is a few months younger than the twins. Now would be a great time for Jessica to bring up Josh Angler and explain how that went, but Jessica has apparently forgotten about the time she dated a sixteen year old. Johnny would love to meet them, but he’s away visiting his grandparents in Philadelphia. Uh-huh.

Also, Robin has been invited to join the most exclusive club in school, the Jaguars. [Raven: Pronounced “Jag-Wahs.”] She’s not a full member yet, she has to go through her initiation. She points out members of the Jaguars in the yearbook. Jessica exclaims over the similarities of also being asked to join the Sweet Valley Charter of the Junior KKK, their hatred of otherness, and how important it is to be perfect.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, sulks in the corner and wonders why they can’t talk about more interesting things. This continues all afternoon, as Robin and Jess talk about boys, clothes and their friends. Somehow this is far more vapid than talking about Elizabeth’s friends and her newspaper.

For me, this book makes me wonder if Elizabeth has something seriously wrong with her. The only things she wants to talk about are periods and things that are important to her… well, actually, scrap the first one because it comes under the heading of the second one. She’s gong a massive superiority complex about what she feels is interesting, and immediately writes off anything else as vapid and shallow. Presumably, Jessica has told Robin about the party at The Hangout. That’s social, it’s a party, so clothes and boys and the Unicorns would have come up. But Elizabeth went to the party and she enjoyed it, but somehow Jessica talking about it is vapid. If Elizabeth brought along a yearbook and pointed out Amy and Julie, would that be vapid? Or would it be deep and “thoughtful” because Elizabeth is doing it?

Basically, get fucked, your boring tit womble.

Over dinner, the parents suggest they watch some home movies they made in France. Stacey teases Robin about a boy who lived next door being her boyfriend, and the ‘rents immediately say Robin’s too young to date, so Elizabeth deduces that they don’t know about Johnny.

As they get ready for bed, Robin and Jess start talking makeup and Elizabeth again judges them. And sure, they’re not including her much, but the problem is that Elizabeth is so immediately turned off by anything that Jessica likes, it makes me think she’s not giving it a fair go at all.

Robin comments that she really wants a cigarette (in your face, Robin, I’m smoking as I type this! … Actually, in my face, I suppose. I really need to quit.) Jessica pretends that she would have cigs ordinarily, but she’s getting over a bad cough. Yeah, darlin’, if you’re addicted, the cough stays and you power through. That’s why it sucks so much. [Raven: Best time to quit, though, when you’re ill. You feel like shit anyway, mise add withdrawal to the mix.]

Elizabeth slaps them both down for their foolishness. And she’s morally right, but I hate her so much I’m licking my cig pack just to piss her off. [Wing: … so how did that go for you?] Robin and Jessica tell her she’s really immature. She cries in the bathroom.

The next day is Stacey’s birthday, and they’re going to the zoo. Robin and Jessica whine about how they don’t want to go, and Kirk gently tells them to be nice, it’s Stacey’s birthday. Elizabeth says she’s looking forward to it, which causes Rossica to roll their eyes. [Wing: Look, the San Diego Zoo is fucking amazing. Go enjoy yourselves, asses. (It is no St. Louis Zoo, which is not only giant and wonderful, but also free. San Diego’s is pretty great, though, if expensive.)] Their light bitchery is rewarded by the offer of a slumber party tomorrow, Robin can invite the Jaguars. And she must also invite Becky.

“No!” Robin cried. “Anything but that!” She turned to her mother. “Please, Mom,” she said in a pleading voice, “don’t make me invite her. Please.”

Becky used to be her BFF, but then she got back from France and was popular and now she’s planning on killing her and burying her in the San Diego branch of the Mercandy’s backyard. She explains as much to Jessica, who basically grabs a shovel and some duct tape, but Nancy and Kirk insist, Becky must be present.

Jessica suggests that if Becky is invited, she’d just be miserable because nobody will be nice to her.

I’ve never understood this whole, “I’m going to force my kid to invite the kid they don’t like, because I’m certain that the popular kids won’t spend the night bullying the loner,” mentality. Because if you have a group of people who like each other, and a single person that nobody likes, you’re basically building a torture arena for the loner. Sure, every so often it will work out, but for the most part, the loner gets to spend a really miserable unwanted night with a pack of harpies and no safe word to make it stop. Of course, Elizabeth jumps in with, “Gosh that sounds swell, I bet Becky and the Jaguars will be braiding each other’s hair by half-past seven!” Elizabeth is a fucking moron. Is Nora Mercandy a Unicorn? Ginny-Lu Culpepper? Cliques plus unwanted kid doesn’t equal happiness.

However, in this case, this isn’t just “invite the unpopular kid”, and Robin is being an absolute cow about it. Becky was her best friend a couple of weeks ago. Of course, Robin, like Jessica, likes to rewrite history to make herself look better.

“She’s a hopeless goody-goody,” Robin explained crossly. “A real nerd.” She looked to Jessica for understanding. “We used to be friends. Kind of. But now we have absolutely nothing in common. You understand why I can’t invite such a baby to my party,” she concluded.

Robin grudgingly finds the glass half full, at least she’s getting a slumber party. Elizabeth is secretly elated, because Robin thinks Becky is boring and babyish, she and Elizabeth should get on like a house on fire. No, the text actually says this, it’s not me being flippant. And I can’t actually fault her logic on this point.

Robin calls Becky and adopts a really phony saccharine tone when she invites her. Rossica find this hysterical. I find myself siding with Elizabeth – awkward – when she says they’re a pair of harpies. Well, she calls them “snotty and mean”, but she meant harpy. [Raven: Robin’s a fucking cleft. I actually hate her.]

Elizabeth gives Stacey her birthday gift, which turns out to be Cluedo Clue Detective. Robin gives her a gold locket with her birthstone in the centre. So, Robin’s rich, because when I was her age, I could not afford a gold locket, and had to save for ages to get a silver one instead. Elizabeth later comments to Robin that the locket is beautiful, and Robin says she could have bought more cigarettes with the money (Well, let’s just assume the locket cost £50, and back then you could get 20 cigs for £2, she could have bought 25 packs, so yeah, a lot), but Robin does look pleased when Elizabeth reassures her that Stacey loved the gift.

The next day, Robin exhausts even Jessica in her quest for the perfect outfit to wear to the slumber party, to the point where Jessica even trots out a very Elizabeth-like observation: if the Jaguars are her friends, they’ll like her anyway.

Robin is very worried about the initiation, and says her father knew someone who had to swallow a live goldfish to join a frat at college. Ah, animal cruelty, lol. [Raven: Stevie Star made a career out of that…] I’m sure, given the exclusivity of the Jaguars, their initiations are much more along the lines of burning money in front of the homeless.

While Robin showers, Jessica and Elizabeth discuss how worked up she is about joining the Jaguars. Jessica says that she was nervous about joining the Unicorns, especially after she went to the trouble of killing Roberta Manning to get in, but not as nervous as Robin is now. Elizabeth says she’s worried that the Jaguars are different from the Unicorns, what with the initiations and the smoking. The Unicorns had initiations, Elizabeth, keep up. They were the plot points of Best Friends and The Bully. Jessica waves this off, saying they’re just more mature.

Robin’s still in the shower when the Jaguars arrive. One of them asks if the two identical blondes who answered the door are “the twins?” Hello San Diego’s answer to Ellen Riteman. The Jaguars are dressed in jeans, so when Robin arrives all in black with loads of jewellery, they ask why she’s so dressed up. Jessica covers for her, saying they’ve just been out to dinner at a really snazzy restaurant.

The Jaguars are introduced, but since they’re all listed as having slender figures or shiny hair, there’s no point in me throwing name soup at you. tl;dr: there’s a bunch of skinny white bitches in Robin’s family room, led by someone called Vicki.

Vicki explains that only “mega-dweebs” have slumber parties, and they only came at all because tonight is the night that Robin does her initiation. Good god, she makes Lila look like Miss Congeniality. Also, Lila is far more funny when she’s being bitchy.

The doorbell rings and Elizabeth gets it, and there’s Becky with her sleeping bag. She says she feels like she knows the twins already because Robin talked about them so much. Then her face falls as she realises the Jaguars are present. Vicki immediately goes into Queen Bee mode and demands to know who invited her. Uh… Vicki, Robin is the host and it’s not like the twins have even met Becky before now, so who do you think invited her? God, it’s a fleet of evil Ellen Ritemans.

The Jaguars ... per se
We are not literally Jaguars, per se. But we are, like, the embodiment of the spirit of eating other smaller animals and getting our claws out. Per se.

[Dove: Raven actually came up with the above – when he was reading it, he texted me the above picture.]

The Jaguars say that Becky may be here, but she’s not part of Robin’s initiation, so if she could kindly just fucking die, that would be amazing. Elizabeth is shocked Robin doesn’t stand up for Becky. I’m not. Robin is like Jessica, only worse.

The Jaguars say that Robin’s initiation task is to sneak into Johnny Anderson’s house at midnight and convince him to drive her to the park. Elizabeth heaves a sigh of relief, because that should be simple, since Robin’s dating him, right? But how’s she going to do this if Johnny’s visiting his grandparents? She looks over to ask Robin, but Robin glares and shakes her head.

I wouldn’t do this in England, much less America, a country that places their Second Amendment rights above the lives of children. You are just asking to get shot in the fucking face with an AK-47. Nope.

They head into the kitchen to get the food, and Elizabeth asks about Johnny. Robin says he got back this afternoon, didn’t she mention it? Jessica thinks the Jags are sooooo cooooooooool, but Elizabeth politely declines to give an opinion, then she can’t help but add that Vicki was rude to Becky. Robin tells her to strongly do one, she’s too stressed to give a shit about another human being’s feelings right now.

Gosh, isn’t she lovely? No wonder the twins want to visit her all the time.

Becky and Elizabeth spend the evening talking, while Rossica suck up to the Jaguars. Jessica thinks to herself that this just proves that Elizabeth is a complete baby, she wouldn’t be caught dead being nice to a loser. We know, Jessica, there are 40+ previous books that prove this.

When night falls, the Jags go to the park, Robin and Jessica pair up to do the dare, and Becky and Elizabeth stay put. Again, Jessica thinks Elizabeth is a baby.

Elizabeth and Becky bond over their dislike of the situation and their worry that Rossica are out in the middle of the night. Becky refers to the Jaguars as the Hags, and Elizabeth really should bring up that she calls the Unicorns the Snob Squad, but she’s never actually done that out loud. They don’t like her because she wouldn’t let Vicki cheat off her during a math test. Also, she thinks it’s funny they hate her. I really like Becky. Can we leave Elizabeth in San Diego and bring Becky back to Sweet Valley please? [Raven: Becky’s awesome. She’s not the obvious clichéd “why doesn’t Robin like me, boo hoo hoo” spineless nonentity. She’s sassy.] While Elizabeth is worrying about her twin and her cousin, Becky says that a girl stayed out of school for a week after failing her initiation. After that, they sit and worry together. [Wing: Considering the whole sneaking into a 16-year-old boy’s bedroom part of this initiation, I immediately went to a rape situation for that initiation. Fuck.]

As Rossica walk to Johnny’s house, Robin has to come clean. She’s not dating Johnny. In fact, she’s not even friends with him. Actually, he couldn’t pick her out of a line up. He couldn’t be any less familiar with her if they grew up in different continents.

They reach what Robin thinks is Johnny’s house. Jessica hopes the front door is locked, but it is not. They reluctantly open the door and a gigantic dog bounds out. They panic and run, and an adult male calls out to them. Jessica thinks fast and says the dog is chasing them. The male immediately apologises, saying he must not have shut the door properly. He gets his dog and heads away, Robin calls him Mr Anderson, but he says he’s not, the Andersons live two doors down.

Back home, Elizabeth and Becky play Detective while they wait. I hope Stacey got a game in today, because otherwise it’s really bad form to open someone’s new game and play it before them. [Raven: If they opened it and played it before Stacey, I bet they also wrote on the official score pads too. In PEN. The fucking monsters.] After a couple of games, Rossica are still not back, and they’re both nail-chewingly worried. They decide to have one more game and then tell the parents. When they finish that game – just a thought, Cluedo, as it’s known in England, is fucking dull with two people, so that would be a quick game – they hear a sound in the hallway, but it’s not Rossica, it’s Stacey. [Raven: Aside – if you’re looking for a fun Clue(do)-style modern game, I suggest Mysterium. One person plays the ghost of the murder victim, who has to provide clues to the murderer, weapon and location in the form of picture visions, without any verbal communication. It’s great fun.] [Dove: I commit to nothing, but I wouldn’t object to playing that.]

She wants to know where everyone is. Becky immediately deflects the question and tells her to ask Elizabeth. Actually, yeah, let’s definitely keep Becky instead of Elizabeth, it’d be nice to see someone dodge responsibility and throw it at Jess, rather than Elizabeth just handing over her spine. Elizabeth decides she can’t lie to Stacey because she’s too smart, and Elizabeth is a terrible liar, so she says that Robin will be home soon. When Stacey heads off to bed, Becky and Elizabeth discuss how much trouble they would get in if they were the ones running around a neighbourhood in the middle of the night.

And of course the parents are in the doorway because Stacey worried and immediately woke them up.

Behold the Wakefield clan, where the smartest one is eight years old.

The parents drive out to find the girls, and Stacey gets upset that everyone will be cross with her for telling, but she was really worried, but Elizabeth reassures her.

The parents return with Rossica in tow, Stacey is dispatched to bed, the parents announce they will talk about it in the morning. Now Rossica and Elizabeck have to share the family room. Elizabeth asks if they’re ok, and Jessica bites her head off, asking if she even cares. The initiation was going great, and then it got ruined by Elizabeck. Jessica states that she doesn’t need a baby-sitter, and she doesn’t need a twin either. Then she and Robin sleep in Robin’s room, leaving the other two in the family room.

The next morning, Becky bails out nice and early, saying she’ll give Robin time to cool down before speaking to her. She asks Elizabeth if she thinks Jess will ever forgive her. I’m going with no, Elizabeth might actually end up buried in the Mercandy backyard.

Jessica walks in after Becky leaves and starts calling Elizabeth a traitor. Stacey bursts out that she’s the traitor, she’s the one who told. Jessica doesn’t care, Elizabeth gave them details, she’s the traitor.

The parents walk in and ground Robin for a month, and say they’re calling everyone’s parents – including the Wakefields. And, yes, why is that emphasised? Of course Ned and Alice need to hear about this. Kirk and Nancy then give them a lecture about being safe and not caving to peer pressure, and if you think for a second anyone’s listening, they’re not. Jessica will definitely pull this shit again. And Robin will probably pull this shit tonight. Evidence? She tells her parents she’s going to bike over to Becky’s house to apologise as an attempt to get out of her grounding.

Nobody wants breakfast, so they head straight for the bus station.

Jessica lashes out at Elizabeth every time she opens her mouth once they’re on the bus, and finally finishes by saying she’s never speaking to Elizabeth ever again. Then she takes a nap, because she didn’t sleep well last night.

Elizabeth wakes her up later to say they have to change buses. Why did they get a direct bus there but have to change on the way back? No idea. Sunday service is my best guess. [Raven: THE PLOT DEMANDS IT!]

They get on to the next bus, and Jessica picks a seat away from Elizabeth. She has a stomach ache and there is no sign of the driver, so she decides to get something to drink from the bus station. Elizabeth calls out to her but Jessica ignores her. She gets herself a soda, and sees that there’s still no driver, so decides to go for a mosey around the station.

She sees her bus pulling away and bursts into tears, wondering how Elizabeth could just leave her stranded here.

Wouldn’t it be brilliant if she had?

But of course, she hasn’t. Saint Elizabeth got off the bus. Elizabeth tells Jessica to call their parents and explain why they’re stranded, after all, it’s not her fault they’re stuck there. Jessica asks her to do it instead and Elizabeth meekly hands over her spine again.

After a few snaps, Jessica finally admits that she’s glad Elizabeth was worried about her last night. After getting the wrong house, they headed to the park to tell the Jags, who gave her a different challenge – to cut off all of Becky’s hair while she slept. Robin told them all to get fucked, she didn’t want anything to do with a bunch of spiteful hags like them. Ok, Robin gets a few points for that, but she’s still in the minus numbers for being a vapid harpy before.

Jess then apologises for being such a cow to Elizabeth, and comes clean that she didn’t get her period at the same time. Elizabeth gives her a hug and says “Everybody’s different,” – something that never occurred to her when she just assumed they started at the same precise minute.

Elizabeth goes to call the parents, and Jess goes to the bathroom where she discovers – SHOCKA – that her period has arrived. [Raven: First, I’m sure that’s not the first thing at the bus station that didn’t arrive on time. Second, I’m sure this would be much more exciting if Jessica’s period arrived ten minutes into the bus journey.]

Then we have a few feeble paragraphs of lead-up to the next book, Jessica is “boy crazy”, when will Elizabeth like boys too? Well, the next book is called Elizabeth’s First Kiss, so I’m guessing soon. Unless that kiss is with a girl. [Wing: God, I can only wish.]

Final Thoughts:

I can’t really step away from how weird Elizabeth was in this book. She had a one track mind about periods. Every time a girl was mentioned, Elizabeth wanted to know if they started their period. I’m surprised she didn’t do a survey and publish the results in the Sixers.

Overall though, much more engaging than the last book, stuff actually happened, although it felt a lot of it was build up to stuff that was about to happen, if you know what I mean. Would have liked to see more of the Jaguars, just a bit more fleshed out than “skinny bitches” would’ve been nice.

[Wing: That Sixers survey is exactly what she would have done. New head canon for me. 

I did not enjoy this book the way Dove does, and I’m worried about this run of books because of it. There are parts that are really insightful and well done, and those parts are AMAZING, and then there’s Elizabeth’s ridiculousness and basically a Jessica + the Unicorns story but about characters I don’t care about at all. Those parts are not amazing.]

[Raven: I did enjoy this book, although I’m sure it wasn’t written for a middle-aged male audience.

The thing that I found awkward was that it wasn’t really a book about Jessica’s Secret (a.k.a. her period). It was a book about the twins visiting San Diego and their cousin being a bitch, with a buit about periods bookending the story. In one sense this is awful, but in another it is liberating: it makes me believe that Jamie Suzanne (Grapplegate) is starting to take the suggested plots of the publishers and brandishing the Creativity Machete in a much more liberal way. And yay for that.

I hated Robin and the Jaguars. I liked Stacey and Becky. Elizabeth was odd. Jessica was Jessica. Decent overall.]