Title: Jessica’s New Look
Tagline: Jessica’s got a new secret – will the whole school find out?
Summary: It’s the most exciting day of Jessica’s life—Aaron Dallas has asked her out! Nothing could ruin Jessica’s wonderful mood—except the fact that she has to start wearing glasses. Jessica is convinced that the Unicorns will drop her the second they see her. And Aaron is sure to change his mind about their date.
For Jessica there is just one solution—she’ll never leave her room again! How can Elizabeth help her sister realize that wearing glasses is definitely not a tragedy?
I’m going to be 100% honest here. I can’t get behind Jessica’s thinking at all. I actually misread the final line on an eye test deliberately when I was 11 because I was so desperate to wear glasses. I think they’re cool. So I just want to hoof Jess in the face because this is a major comedown from the #BestJess who ruined a billion outfits to save a baby seal.
The story opens with Jessica cutting in the lunch line to get cake. Elizabeth chastises her and tells her she really should go to the back. Jessica, in response, asks what the hell Elizabeth is eating. “Brussels sprouts,” says Saint Elizabeth in a very prissy tone. “They’re good for you.”
I really do think that Team Grapplegate are mocking Elizabeth with this line. I’m pretty sure no twelve year old has ever deliberately chosen brussel sprouts – especially cooked up by the school cafeteria. [Raven: What in the blue fuck is a school cafeteria serving Brussels Sprouts for? Like, sprouts are a very specific vegetable that pairs with roast meats. It’s a Christmas staple, and largely ignored for the rest of the year. It’s a vegetable that’s probably the fourth- or fifth-string veggie accompaniment. It’s almost exotic, it’s not a bloody pea or carrot. It’s definitely not a staple of school meal food, surely?] [Wing: I have literally never heard of them as a Christmas staple and now I am a little terrified of Christmas meals over there.]
Jessica manages to talk Elizabeth into eating chocolate cake, so at least she’s faintly human. Elizabeth says she can’t walk home tonight because she’s seeing Mr Bowman after school. Jessica says she can’t either, because there’s a Boosters emergency practice – they’ve been dropping batons. Jessica dropped hers and it hit Coach Cassels (I guess his broken leg is just fine by now?) because Aaron smiled at her. Well, he is the cutest boy in the sixth grade, after all. [Wing: Dropped hers or threw it into Coach Cassels’ face?]
Jessica then notices that there are boys at the Unicorner: Bruce Patman (urgh); Rick Hunter (it’ll be another 24 books before he gets a personality); and… some dude that Jessica can’t see very well. Elizabeth points out that the third guy is the cutest guy in sixth grade himself, Aaron Dallas. [Wing: You’d think this right here would be enough to convince her to go with the glasses. Can’t see Aaron Dallas? The world is ending.]
Jessica leaves her cake with Elizabeth (Elizabeth paid for both, by the way), and heads back to the table. When asked about the cake by Lila, Jessica shrugs it off, “Cake makes you fat,” she says. Not you, Jessica, you can eat whatever you like. Cake only makes people like Lois Waller and Robin Wilson fat. [Raven: Robin who?]
It becomes quickly apparent that having boys at the table kills all conversation – the boys are only there because there was nowhere else to sit. The silence is killing the table, and Jessica searches for something to talk about, and quickly runs through Steven’s interests (food, Jessica, sportsball…) and realises that basketball is a boy topic. She proposes the topic, and it goes down well. Lila gets a bit jealous that the boys are talking to Jessica like a person, so tries to talk about the weepy TV movie that was on last night. Zero fucks are given, as basketball dominates the conversation. They talk about the game that was on last night, and Bruce is incredulous that a mere girl understands the rules of basketball, but Jessica defends the point she was making, and Aaron is suitably weak-kneed over the Jessica’s knowledge. As the boys leave, Aaron asks Jessica to go with him (and his parents) to the Lakers game a week from Sunday. She sits silent for a moment, because she thinks he’s inviting either Bruce or Rick, but when he prompts her, she accepts. It’s kind of sweet, honestly. [Wing: And good continuity! Jessica is supposed to be an amazing basketball player.]
The minute the boys walk away, the Unicorns start gushing about how exciting it is that Jessica is going on a real date. Lila grouses that Jessica is not the first person ever to get a date. Jessica counters that she’s probably the first sixth grader to get one though, and the others quickly agree that the bowling alley doesn’t count. [Raven: Jessica definitely went on dates with Josh Angler in The Older Boy.]
Jessica heads off to get a piece of chocolate cake to celebrate.
Over with Team Elizabeth, Mr Bowman has exciting news. He’s been asked to nominate a Junior Journalist, who will write an article for the Sweet Valley Tribune (I guess Sweet Valley News has either rebranded, gone under, or got competition?), and they will be paid $50 for these works of genius. Naturally, Elizabeth is the only candidate, because fuck all those others who work on the paper. Her given topic is “Students Who Make a Difference”. Elizabeth thinks this is easy, because pretty much everyone is doing something for the Greater Good at Sweet Valley Middle. [Wing: There are publications today that don’t pay $50 an article. They’re really underpaying, of course, but still.]
Elizabeth runs down to the gym to tell Jessica. The twins swap their epic news, and Amy looks a bit put out that she wasn’t asked to be a Junior Journalist. Well, that’s because you’re not a Wakefield, Amy. Live with it.
The Unicorns suggest that she write about them, because they’re so pretty and popular. Jessica suggests Elizabeth covers her date with Aaron. Elizabeth politely says no, good deeds, not good hair. Amy asks when the Unicorns have ever done anything helpful, and all they can come up with is the time Janet left her mascara by the sink in the girls’ loos, instead of throwing it away, just in case someone else wanted to use it. Because Sweet Valley, home of the wealthy, is probably overrun with people too poor to afford mascara and willing to gamble an eye infection, that it will get use. *nods*
Over dinner, Jessica shares the news that she’s been asked on her first date. And Alice and Ned piss all over her chips by acting like parents, instead of the gin-soaked absentee idiots they usually are. They want to know who she’s going with and whether parents will be there to chaperone. Steven grouses that Aaron should have taken someone who would really enjoy the game. Uh-huh. Yeah, it’s not because he’s bitter that someone other than Steven is dating Jess. Or something.
After dinner, Elizabeth reads another Junior Journalist’s entry, and is interrupted by Jessica, who says she’s got a headache from reading the story for Mr Bowman’s class, so how does it end. Elizabeth gives her a mild lecture, then tells her it’s a happy ending. Then Jessica excuses herself to plan her outfits for evermore, because she is the talk of the town, as the first sixth grader with a date.
The next day Jessica spends hours getting ready and basically bathes herself in her mom’s perfume, which everyone makes a comment on. During maths class, she gets called on for an answer, and despite the fact she was daydreaming about becoming Mrs Aaron Dallas, she gives what she thinks is the right answer. Except it’s not, she added the numbers instead of subtracting them because she misread the board. I have no idea why at twelve years old these kids are still doing additions and subtractions on the board… but then again, I doubt Sweet Valley has the rather Kent-specific Kent Mathematics Project to work through, so maybe that’s normal. [Raven: Pretty sure we were onto more advanced stuff by age twelve.] [Wing: I was on algebra at 14, so probably some sort of pre-algebra at 12/13. Definitely beyond addition and subtraction.]
After class, she tries to talk about Aaron again, but Lila and Ellen are officially Done With Talking About It. Thankfully, new girl (another one), Mandy Miller is around, and she has a heck of a crush on Jessica, so will listen to Jessica blather about Aaron for hours. Which Grapplegate had the good grace to put off screen. I love you guys. I’m with Lila and Ellen on Jessica’s obsession. It’s even more powerful than Elizabeth and periods.
Over lunch, the Unicorns decide that they’re going to be the focus of Elizabeth’s Junior Journalist article. Jess points out that they need to do good deeds, like when she helped clean up the beach (WHISKERS!). This stumps them a little. Kindness doesn’t really come naturally to them.
They decide they need to raise money, and it needs to be for something everyone can use, not just the Unicorns – no, Lila, new Booster uniforms do not benefit anyone but the Boosters (but write it down, because we got nothing) [Raven: New Booster uniforms benefit Mr Nydick.] – until Ellen suggests a TV for the lunchroom, but that gets vetoed, as the principal probably wouldn’t agree. Next up is curling irons for the girls’ locker room, which gets nixed because it only benefits the girls, and still not Elizabeth, so it wouldn’t get on her radar. Jessica eventually suggests a new set of encyclopaedias for the library (fair play, she does know her sister’s weaknesses). With that sorted, they put off deciding how to raise the money until a meeting on Saturday. [Wing: How underfunded is this school in a rich, white town? Because they seem to always be raising money for supplies.]
After Mr Bowman’s class, he asks Jessica to stay behind. She assumes it’s because she did badly on a pop quiz, but actually it’s because he’s seen her squinting at the board a lot recently, and thinks she needs her eyes examined to see if she needs glasses. He then puts Jessica off for life by saying, “Some of the most fashionable people I know wear glasses!” (Mr Bowman wears glasses.)
“Glasses are for nerds like Randy Mason and Lois Waller!” she declared emphatically. “Unicorns don’t wear glasses!”
Jessica could tell from Mr. Bowman’s frown that he disapproved of what she had said. But it was true. She was just not the kind of person who wore glasses. She was popular. She was pretty. She had a date with Aaron Dallas.
Fuck off, Jessica.
He gives her a note to give to her parents, which she tries to hide the minute she gets home. She doesn’t throw it away in case someone finds it. Which makes me worry that someone – Steven? – is going through her trash every day. She hides the note under her mattress.
And Elizabeth catches her and forces the truth out of her about what she just hid. Elizabeth is delighted it’s not another body part, and that they won’t have to be taking a midnight digging trip to the Mercandy backyard, but encourages Jessica to talk to their parents. Jessica hits back that if she does need glasses, so does Elizabeth, because they’re identical (are we forgetting the period thing? I think we are), and Elizabeth is unflustered, saying she’s seen some really cute frames.
Elizabeth agrees to keep it quiet for now, and then they head out for a bike ride. Jessica suggests they ride down Aaron’s street, and while they ride, Elizabeth talks about her Junior Journalist project. She’s narrowed it down to three groups: the glee club (no) because they organise sing-a-longs at the old folks home (where Lois’ mom works?); the chess club, who are playing chess by mail with people in foreign countries (presumably, any country that isn’t America is rubbish, and they are doing Good Things just by interacting with non-Americans); and a couple of kids who are studying for the National Spelling Bee.
Jessica says not to count out the Unicorns just yet.
“The Unicorns?” Elizabeth laughed. “The most meaningful thing you’ve ever done was vote for your favorite soap opera star.”
Jessica wrinkled her forehead. “Who won, anyway? I can’t remember.”
(Jake Sommers won. Kent Kellerman was robbed.)
As they’re riding along the road, Jessica keeps an eye out for Aaron’s house, and doesn’t notice until the last minute that a piece of paper is blowing into the street. Actually, it’s not paper. It’s a cat. And it also causes her to fall off her bike.
She crash-lands right in Aaron’s yard, and the cutest boy himself comes out to see if she’s ok. Her pride is dented, but she’s fine. Aaron touches her shoulder, and Jessica blisses out. Elizabeth picks her up and they set off home, while Jessica blithers about Aaron. Elizabeth asks if Jessica even saw the cat, and Jessica confides that she thought it was a piece of paper.
The next day, we have more Aaron/Jess blither and some sniping from Lila about it. After class, Mr Bowman asks if Jessica spoke to her parents about her eyesight, and she says that it was too late to book an appointment yesterday. Then she reassures herself that she didn’t lie. OMG, Jess, never change.
However, Mr Bowman is wiser than he looks, because when she gets home Alice knows everything, because Mr Bowman called [Raven: Sweet Valley Middle School Teacher In Actual Teaching Shock! Here’s Tom with the weather.]. Alice is stern but a bit sympathetic, saying eyesight is nothing to fob off, but she gets that Jessica is worried that only ugly people wear glasses. I do think it’s a bit weird that Alice is so sympathetic about how shallow her daughter is. Anyway, an appointment is booked for Monday afternoon – it is Friday afternoon now.
Elizabeth finds Jessica sobbing her heart out in her room, and says that her life is over. She’ll be the biggest nerd on the planet, etc. Elizabeth says that she’s overreacting a bit, and it’s not the end of the world, and if Aaron doesn’t like her if she gets glasses, then he wasn’t worth her time in the first place. Elizabeth is shocked to find out that Jessica actually really likes Aaron himself, and not just the idea of dating him. She then says there’s no guarantee that Jess will have to have glasses, but Jessica says her eyes have been bothering her a lot recently. Elizabeth jokes that she should eat some carrots, but Jessica takes it seriously, and remembers that there was a TV movie that showed a boy who exercised his eyes (watched a pencil moving back and forth) and improved his vision. Jess Has a Plan!
On Saturday afternoon the Unicorns have a brainstorming session – during which Jessica troughs carrot sticks and won’t share them. They suggest a walk-a-thon, which Ellen needs explaining to her, despite the fact there was a bike-a-thon very recently. Then again, it’s Ellen. She’s not bright. Jessica suggests a skate-a-thon would be more fun. Belinda’s dad knows the owner of Skateland (what, not Sweet Valley Skating Rink?) so maybe he can get them to donate a few hours for this worthy cause. It’s closed for remodelling at the moment, but Belinda says maybe she can swing that too – it would only need to open a day early to work for them.
Elizabeth and Amy turn up and the Unicorns excitedly explain their plan, which causes Team Boring to laugh in their faces. #StayClassy
Janet vows she will teach Elizabeth a lesson. MERCANDY BACKYARD!
Monday rolls around and Jessica wonders if she can cheat on her eye test. When she goes in for her appointment with Dr Cruz, she tries to talk her way out of it, and he gives her no quarter at all. Her mother is always worrying about silly things (YOUR HEALTH IS NOT SILLY, YOUNG LADY), she can see that picture of a dog (THAT’S MY GRANDSON). After several tests, he reports that her eyes are just fine separately, but they do not focus well together. And Jessica will have to wear glasses for a few months.
I don’t think I’ve ever known of anyone who wore glasses for a short period of time. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, it’s just I know two types of glasses/contact lens wearers: 1) nope, I’ll say I wear them, and mostly avoid eye tests until I need laser eye surgery; and 2) OH THANK GOD, I CAN FUCKING SEE, THIS IS AMAZING, I WILL WEAR THESE MAGICAL BASTARDS EVERYWHERE I GO. [Raven: The Magical Bastards is a great name for a band.] [Wing: Ostrich is the former, I am the latter. Also, we discuss this during the podcast and Raven did some research that made us believe this is a bag of bullshit and not medically sound at all.]
I’m of the latter category. Also, you know how I said I faked the last line on my eye test. Well, funny story, my optician became my best friend in the year or two before I moved in with Raven. I told him that story, and he laughed and said I would’ve needed them anyway. So I didn’t actually need to fake the eye test after all.
Of course Elizabeth doesn’t need glasses, which infuriates Jessica. But as we saw with their periods, their bodies are slightly different. Jessica only needs her glasses for a little while, otherwise it will get worse and she’ll need them all the time. And this is the fact that really annoys me. If you hate glasses so much, Jessica, why are you going to avoid wearing them, which will damage your eyes so that you need them FOREVER?
They then head over to get Jessica’s glasses. She tries on almost every single pair in the shop, determined to find a pair that don’t look like glasses – this reminds me of Sheila in Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great wanting to swim underwater without getting her face wet. Eventually she settles on a violet pair, and isn’t particularly impressed when Elizabeth says that can be her one purple thing to wear every day. [Wing: Why are they pink on the cover?!]
Alice then treats the twins to an outfit each to cheer them up… is Elizabeth that upset that she doesn’t get to wear glasses? (I hate having anything in common with her.) Elizabeth finds a purple outfit for Jessica, which she likes but her glasses ruin the effect. Then she realises she doesn’t have to wear them. See my above rant about this.
Steven is gobsmacked by how hot Jessica looks in glasses. He’s going to be spanking it to an overworked lawyer/naughty secretary fantasy tonight.
The twins walk to school the next day, and Elizabeth is shocked when Jessica removes her glasses, but Jessica says it’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes, she’s got to do it in stages. (I deliberately buy shoes that require no breaking.)
Elizabeth tries to lecture Jessica, but Jessica says “Say, isn’t that Mandy Miller up ahead?”, and calls out to her. [Wing: And how did you manage to see her, Jessica?] Mandy is shocked that Jessica called her, and says that she usually ignores her. At this point, Jessica spots Lila and immediately forgets about Mandy. And Mandy lampshades it right to Jessica’s face.
Hold on to your underpants, people. Mandy motherfucking Miller is almost here. And I love her. [Raven: I am also #TeamMandy.] [Wing: She’s my new favourite side character after the next book, right there with Brooke and Nora — holy shit, that makes me want a preteen girl sleuth story where they stop crime and solver mysteries together.]
Also, they need posters hanging for the skate-a-thon, and Jessica’s going to get Mandy to do it.
Elizabeth and Amy later see her hanging the Unicorns’ posters, and Elizabeth feels bad that Jessica is taking advantage of Mandy. And then she and Amy say that they’ll believe the Unicorns can pull this off when they see it.
Two day later, and Jessica is still not wearing her glasses, and I really couldn’t care less. Alice takes them to the movies after dinner to watch Tales of Love II, which sounds pretty fucking dire. Jessica is mortified that she’ll have to go out in public wearing her glasses.
She manages to get into the movie theatre without being seen, but then horror of horrors, Lila spots her. They make their way out to the lobby to discuss things. Jessica tries to say the glasses are her mum’s, but Lila doesn’t believe her. Jessica offers Lila the new purple outfit in exchange for Lila’s silence. Then throws in some earrings to sweeten the deal.
At school, Jessica hands over her brand new outfit, and Lila quickly realise that she now owns Jessica, and demands that Jessica carry her books. And her lunch tray. And hand over her chocolate cake. Jessica is Lila’s bitch. [Raven: As much as I hate Jessica in this book – glasses are cool, people! – I also hate Lila too. She buys into Jessica’s “glasses-are-for-nerds-and embarrassing” bullshit narrative, and treats her so-called BFF like dirt. Bad form, Lila. Bad form.]
Next up we have Jessica and Elizabeth getting ready for the skate-a-thon. Jessica is chivvying her sister along, and Elizabeth says that the skate-a-thon will be a disaster. Jessica shakes this off, saying she’s sure the Unicorns have got all of those last-minute issues under control by now. Amy and Elizabeth laugh at this, knowing the Unicorns have fucked up.
Just before they leave, Jessica excuses herself to call Janet to let her know that Elizabeth is on the way.
So, they get to the skating rink, and the Unicorns are outside looking disappointed and dejected. Amy and Elizabeth can barely contain their glee as they ask what’s wrong. As it turns out, the owner of Skateland thought everyone would be bringing their own skates, as the rink’s skates were still being cleaned up and fixed. The Unicorns have decided it’s not that bad, they can just pretend to skate. Ellen even does a demonstration by gliding across the parking lot.
Team Boring nearly cry with laughter, delighted that something has gone so wrong.
(Also, at this point I’m wondering is this roller skating or ice skating? It’s never made clear.) [Raven: I picture blades over wheels.] [Wing: I’m 95% sure it’s roller skating, considering where they are and how big roller skating was at the time.]
Elizabeth and Amy walk into the rink, ready to laugh some more, and they see that actually the skates are right there, ready to be used.
HAVE THAT, YOU SMUG ASSHATS. A+ to the Unicorns for this one.
Team Boring admit they were wrong and the Unicorns got them good, and actually, this would be a perfect topic for the Junior Journalist article. [Wing: The Unicorns are pretty damn amazing in this B plot.]
Later Lila forces Jessica to fetch her drinks and snacks, and Elizabeth notices. She figures out what Lila is up to, and says that Jessica needs to woman up. All this panic over silly vanity. Again, I hate siding with Elizabeth, but YES, THIS.
Aaron comes over and asks Jessica to skate with him, so she does for about half an hour before noticing her parents. She knows she’ll get busted for not wearing her glasses, so she knocks Lois Waller over, steals her glasses and… yeah, that doesn’t work at all. I’m not a liar by nature, nor do I avoid wearing my specs, but I would have gone with, “I was worried about falling over and them getting smashed.” It’s bullshit (especially because I’ve never lost my glasses when I’ve fallen over/off horses/whatever), but it’s a lot more feasible than stealing another person’s glasses. Then her parents would go, “Oh, Jessica, put your fucking glasses on and stop looking for excuses,” and that would be that.
Instead, they’re not impressed.
The next day, Jessica decides she’s never leaving her bedroom ever again. I literally don’t care. Grow the fuck up. Or don’t wear your glasses, fuck up your eyes forever, be too vain to wear glasses, even though it’s damaging your eyes. I don’t care. You’re fucking stupid, your reasoning is stupid, Elizabeth’s enabling of your bullshit is stupid, JUST EVERYTHING IN THIS BOOK CAN FUCKING DIE.
[Wing: I did not expect this level of rage from Dove when it comes to this book.]
The entire family stands outside her bedroom door and call nice things through the door. Jessica says she’s not going out with Aaron tomorrow, because she’s become a nerd.
Sweetie, you’re not smart enough to be a nerd. Get the fuck out of our territory, you’re not fucking welcome.
Next up, Elizabeth pretends that she’s got a crush on Aaron, and if Jessica’s not dating him, why can’t Elizabeth? Jessica says sure. Elizabeth then fakes a phone call to Amy, gushing about how cute Aaron is and how jealous of Jessica Elizabeth is. She thinks she’s a great actress, but Jessica doesn’t believe her for a second. [Raven: Good old reverse psychology. Always a massive let down.]
Jessica has a nap and dreams her glasses are the size of a house and they won’t come off and people are calling her geek. Don’t care.
Next up Elizabeth asks Alice for a ride to the mall to buy a new outfit for the “date”. Several hours later Elizabeth returns wearing a purple sweater (is it a great-looking sweater though?) and some glasses frames – with clear glass, not the prescription in, to prove how awesome Jessica will look. Jessica decides that glasses look great – on Elizabeth.
Finally, Elizabeth thinks maybe she really will go on a date with Aaron, that might snap Jessica out of it. That’s when the final plan works. Aaron rocks up as usual, Elizabeth meets him, dressed as Jessica but wearing her fake glasses, and when Jessica realises that Aaron doesn’t care that she’s branded unfuckable forever because of her glasses, she snaps the fuck out of it and has an awesome time.
And I really couldn’t care less.
Everything’s great. Jessica is not thrown out of the Unicorns for wearing glasses, the Unicorns get to be the topic of Elizabeth’s Junior Journalist article, and all is fucking well.
In other news, Mandy Miller still exists. And that’s foreshadowing.
Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate this book.
Fuck everything, except for the prank the Unicorns played on Team Boring. But even that couldn’t save this bullshit.
[Raven: Yeah, this book was pretty bad. A few cute set pieces bubble-wrapped in Jessica’s moaning. Suck it up, Buttercup. Go all Regina George and own those glasses. I’m totes astounded Jess didn’t proclaim that glasses were cool now, so mote it be. I’m sure, if she had, the whole student body would’ve rocked up to school the following day wearing spectacles of some description.]
[Wing: Still amazed by Dove’s rage over this book.]
I am Dove (she/her). I am: Team Jessica (Sweet Valley); Team Bad Guy (Point Horror); Team Geiger (Making Out); Team Nina/Lucas (Making Out); and I am the voice of a claymation cow named Daisy, and I was in an advert for Fairy Liquid in the 80s.