Sweet Valley Twins #53: The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley

Sweet Valley Twins #53: The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #53: The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #053 The Slime that Ate Sweet Valley – Cover from Liz

Title: The Slime that Ate Sweet Valley

Tagline: Will Jessica get slimed?

Summary: Best actress Jessica Wakefield?

It’s green. It’s gooey. It gobbles up humans. It’s The Slime that Ate Sweet Valley coming soon to a cinema near you and starring Jessica Wakefield!

At first, Jessica is thrilled to win the leading role in the Sweet Valley Middle School’s sixth-grade movie. But soon she learns that being an actress is hard work. When she discovers that she’ll actually have to kiss Winston Egbert and Randy Mason on camera, she begs her twin sister, Elizabeth, to rewrite the script. But it’s too late. The show must go on.

To Jessica, the only thing worse than getting gobbled up by The Slime is having to kiss two boys in front of all her friends!

Initial Thoughts:

I like this book. I actually wish the movie was a Sweet Valley book. It sounds like a NaNo project – a schlocky b-movie about an ooze that covers an adorably perfect town.

I have suggested that Raven write the script for the movie, complete with director’s/writer’s notes in the margin, for NaNo this year. He wasn’t completely opposed to it. So if I mention it here, hopefully Rosey and Jessica T will bully him into it. [Raven: No pressure… *eyeroll*]

Note: If I refer to the Slime as the Smooze, I’m not even sorry. NOTHING CAN STOP THE SMOOZE.

[Wing: I’m already fond of this book because it sounds like a Goosebumps story.]


We start with Jessica moaning that she’s bored, and she can’t wait for something exciting to happen. Elizabeth points out it’s Monday, so she’s literally just had a weekend, cool your boots, bro, etc.

Jessica says it’s not the same. And to be honest, I’m with her. Around this time in the year, I always get a bit of cabin fever and want to do something to break the monotony. Also, they’ve been in sixth grade for multiple years now, so you can’t really fault Jessica for being bored.

When the twins get to English class, Mr Bowman wants to know who put a rubber snake on his chair. He says he’s been working them too hard and their brains have turned to mush. The class laughs, but Mr Bowman continues, saying their essays were awful.

Jessica takes the moment to suggest that their brains are mush because they’re bored, and they might come back to life if they do something fun, rather than endless reading and writing.

Mr Bowman is agreeable and asks for suggestions on what they could do instead. [Raven: No lesson plan? Figures.]

Winston suggests oral interviews, but nobody is up for interviewing their grandparents again. Jessica suggests biographies on their favourite stars, but Jerry McAllister says no more writing.

Leslie Forsythe suggests they make a movie.

Everyone likes that. [Raven: They didn’t like it when Mr Nydick suggested it.]

(Also, Leslie Forsythe exists. I didn’t just make her up for the Hunger Games, which is what Wing assumed.) [Raven: The Hunger Games… in Sweet Valley?! What on earth is that, Dove? *conspiratorial wink*] [Wing: I assumed you made up everyone who was interesting, really.]

Everyone springs into action, thinking about all the jobs making a movie would generate: writers, camera crew, prop managers, etc., and Mr Bowman is delighted with their sudden non-mushy brains. He tells them to calm down, how are they going to afford this. Elizabeth says that they can record it on videotape, which isn’t that expensive. Pete Stone (TOO MANY PETERS) says they can use the library camcorder.

Mr Bowman says fine, they’ll make a movie, but for now, back to English class and tomorrow they can work on it.

As class rolls on and Elizabeth gives a report on Mark Twain, Jessica starts imagining herself as the lead role in the movie. She’s the one with the most experience – except for Maria Slater, but hopefully she’ll be too busy with Drama Club.

After class, she tells Ellen and Lila she’s sure she’ll get the lead. Lila is incredulous, why would Jessica get the lead? Ellen says because “she’s finally gotten rid of those dorky glasses!” Well, there was a plot point that came and went quickly. Jessica reminds them of the time she shared the stage with Delores Dufay, Lila says that Delores is a bit out of date, and that she’s made of star material too. Then she stomps off with Ellen in tow.

Over with Leslie, she’s finding that she’s suddenly popular (see, Sandra Ferris? It’s wasn’t your looks, it was how dull and self-obsessed you were. That’s why everyone hated you, you whiny waste of space).

Elizabeth, Amy and Brooke want to discuss what kind of movie to make with her. Elizabeth suggests they adapt an Amanda Howard mystery. Leslie tentatively offers that they try something a little less complicated for their first movie. Brooke says they could do a documentary on a band and ask her father to find a band for them. Leslie says maybe the school should be the stars. They all agree on this.

Elizabeth suggests they go rent a load of movies they like and see what they have in common. Leslie says she has a friend who works at the movie rental store – does anyone want to guess what it’s called? Sweet Valley Video – did anyone not guess that correctly? – who they could talk to. She’s called Deirdre and she studied acting at UCLA. Sometimes Leslie goes to the video store, they watch a movie together and then discuss it. That sounded like heaven to young Dove, who had to watch movies alone, and was called “stupid” for doing so. I tried to befriend the people who worked at Blockbuster, but they either didn’t like movies all that much, or they didn’t want to talk to me about it.

Leslie suggests they go see Deidre after school and talk to her about movies. Everyone agrees, and Leslie feels happy that she’s made friends.

Oh, honey. Surely you’ve heard the rumours of Elizabeth’s promiscuity when it comes to her BFFs? No matter how special she makes you feel, she will go back to Amy the moment she’s made you fall in love with her.

Team Elizabeth (plus Sophia now) are a bit late meeting Leslie because they bump into Maria. They assume she’ll take the lead role in the movie, but she says that she’s too tied up with drama club, but she would like to be involved in the writing.

By the time they get to Leslie, she’s starting to panic about whether they’re going to stand her up. When they do show up and mention Maria, she immediately blurts out that she watched one of her films recently and does a minor six degrees of Kevin Bacon Maria Slater.

Leslie is probably the nearest I get to seeing myself in this perfect world. She’s short, nerdy, wears glasses, loves movies, doesn’t have a whole lot of friends, and tends to blurt movie facts. Add to that she was early to meet her friends, and started worrying about all the what-if scenarios before they arrived and she’s a thinner, able-bodied version of me.

They head down to Sweet Valley Video and Leslie gets a burst of joy, just like always. Sometimes she can spend several hours selecting just the right movie. This was me to the hilt. I actually used to go in video rental stores that I wasn’t a member of when I was shopping several towns over, just to see what movies they had. This is where Leslie and I differ, she secretly wants to be an actress. Me? Not at all. I loathe acting. I have to have my lines fed to me. [Raven: But you do it so well. *mwa*]

Deirdre suggests they look around, find some movies, and then they can discuss what they do and don’t like about them. While everyone else runs off, Leslie stays behind. Deirdre asks if Leslie is going to audition for the movie. Leslie says that she didn’t come up with the idea so she could star in it and besides, there’s Maria Slater and Jessica Wakefield who both have acting experience, but Deirdre says it would be perfect for a first role. Leslie doesn’t promise to audition, because the truth is that she gets stage fright.

“Listen to these ideas,” Elizabeth said about an hour later, when the girls had regrouped. She looked at the notes she had taken. “We could make a sad movie about a boy who finds a lost dog, or an inspiring movie about a girl who wins a skating competition.”

“Or a historical movie,” Amy added. “One that takes place during the California Gold Rush.”

“Or a spoof,” Brooke said. “Anyway, a comedy would be more fun to make than a serious movie.”

“Remember that what sort of movie you make will depend on a lot of practical things,” Deirdre said. “Like how much money you have for props and costumes, and how much time you have, and how much effort you want to put into sets and special effects and background music.” She glanced at Leslie. “It also depends on how much creative talent you have in the class—actors, scriptwriters and directors.”

“Wow,” Sophia said, “I didn’t know it was so complicated.”

Wow, a sick burn from Sophia. Amy wins a prize for the most boring suggestion, Elizabeth for the biggest clichés and Brooke for suggesting a genre that sucks big hairy balls 99% of the time. Name a spoof that’s actually funny that isn’t Shaun of the Dead. [Raven: Erm… Airplane? Hot Fuzz? Naked Gun? Austin Powers? Blazing Saddles? Spaceballs? Scream? This is Spinal Tap? Galaxy Quest? Don’t blame the genre for the awfulness of Scary Movie.] [Dove: Sorry, my brain wouldn’t get out of the horror genre to think of spoofs.] (Fun fact: out of all of the zombie movies made, Shaun of the Dead is the closest to George A Romero’s vision – that zombies mirror humanity. A spoof is the only one that got it right – minor plug for a fellow Yorkshire dude)

As the kids leave, Amy says Mr Bowman will be really impressed with all of their ideas – you had four. Four. And they all blew. Brooke points out maybe he will, but nobody else will, because the Unicorns want a love story and the boys want a horror film. (Way to blow gender expectations way open there.) [Raven: At the very least, Billie Layton should have suggested some sort of plucky underdog sports movie.]

Elizabeth suggests they compromise with a “comic spoof of a horror-story plot with a love-story ending!

So. Shaun of the Dead? [Wing: So what you’re telling me is that Shaun of the Dead took its inspiration from Sweet Valley Twins? Oh lord.]

The next day, Jessica is hopeful that they will announce parts for the movie during English class. Jessica is a fucking moron, given that they don’t have a script. Mr Bowman says as much, but says that auditions will be on Thursday. I’m pretty sure today’s Tuesday, so Mr Bowman’s a moron too.

Charlie Cashman states that everyone with a penis wants to make a horror movie.

“Yeah,” Jerry said. “With vampires and blood, and skeletons in the corners, and little weird green things crawling around, and lots of spooky spiders and bats hanging from the ceiling.”

I think Charlie and Jerry are getting horror movies confused with amusement park/carnival haunted houses. And I also think the latter should probably trigger the twins (and maybe Amy and Patrick too) right out of the project.

The Unicorns then pipe up that the girls want to make a love story. (Not really sure they can speak for all the girls in class, let along the entire gender, since Brooke, Amy, Elizabeth and Leslie weren’t in agreement with this.) Ellen quickly tries to pitch some godawful Lifetime movie about a girl who is dying, and her devoted boyfriend swears he’ll never leave – and that’s as far as she gets before Charlie pretends to throw up.

Now, I think the movie pitch is fucking dire. I hate dying girl movies. Or even dying boy movies. But since the boys were allowed to finish their idiotic sentence, Ellen should too.

Elizabeth pipes up with “How about a movie about a boy and a dog?

Fuck. Off. Elizabeth. That is nearly as fucking dull as cancer movies. Also, as Jessica points out, there’s no role for a girl, so thanks Elizabeth, for helping others to stay way below the glass ceiling. [Raven: Nothing wrong with movies about A Boy And His Dog.] Amy suggests Elizabeth’s second idea, about the skating completion, and Sophia suggests Amy’s Gold Rush idea.

Jessica realises that she’s a good skater and says why don’t they work the skating story in with the love story. Lila, who can’t skate as well as Jessica, shuts that down fast.

The boys resolutely hold out for a horror movie.

Elizabeth then suggests the horror/love/spoof as if that’s a brand new idea. And I know this is Grapplegate – well, I think it is, Michael Grant wasn’t exact – but this is badly written. We’ve had the same scene twice in a row.

There’s also a subplot which I’m not going to really go into except for there are pranks happening through Mr Bowman’s class, and Jessica notices it’s Pete Stone. No idea which Peter he is, because there are too many fucking peters in this series. [Wing: Not according to Nydick.]

Over dinner, they discuss the movie. Steven gives Jessica shit when she announces she’s going to be the lead. Ned and Alice ask what Elizabeth is doing on the movie, and she says she plans to write it. The movie should be finished in about two weeks.

Hon, I wrote The Hunger Games in 19 days. I think your two-week deadline to write, cast, rehearse and shoot a movie is a little optimistic. I guess #SweetValleyTime, which would be really handy around NaNo. I bet Elizabeth can win NaNo in 30 minutes, not days. [Raven: No, I reckon this is doable. It’s gonna be what, max 20 mins long, and they’re throwing many students and much lesson time at it? Pretty sure it’s not Ben Hur, two weeks sounds plausible for me. And also, if they have two weeks to do it, they’re gonna work it so it can be done in two weeks, I’m sure.]

The parents say they’re pretty sure they’ll still be around in two weeks’ time. Ned and Alice are going to Mexico, without the kids. My first thought is: oh, that’s what it looks like when your parent warns you they’re going to leave you. Soothing.

Elizabeth asks who’s going to take care of them. Jessica and Steven both rally saying they don’t need a babysitter. Uh, yes, kids. You do. Left to their own devices, Jessica will probably trade the house for a great-looking sweater; Steven will eat his way through the fridge and start on his sisters (take that however you want); and Elizabeth will probably… *shrugs* catch up on her homework and clean the bathroom.

After dinner, Elizabeth consoles Jessica that she’s a good comic actress, as evidenced by the vaudeville skits she did with Mandy, so don’t feel too bad it’s not a romance. Jessica was just fine until she mentioned it, but now she wishes Aaron would audition for the lead so he could smother her in kisses. He won’t, he’d rather work on the music.

The phone rings, and Jessica runs to it, hoping it’s Aaron. It’s not, it’s Todd. I’m sure if Aaron doesn’t pick up his game, he’ll be buried in the Mercandy backyard soon.

On Wednesday, Mr Bowman asks them to list three jobs they want to do in the movie. Jessica writes down actress but can’t think what else she’d do as a backup. She sees Lila has written it three times, and decides to do the same. [Raven: Lila’s list: 1) Lead Actress… 2) Or I will… 3) Have you killed.]

After class, Elizabeth asks Leslie what jobs she chose. Leslie chose (in this order): actress, scriptwriter, and costume designer. She lists actress last when she tells Elizabeth. Elizabeth says she hopes they’ll work together on the script.

Elizabeth thinks the scriptwriting is the most important thing in a movie. Leslie nods but thinks that acting is actually more important. I think both have their merits, but honestly Leslie, look at any disaster movie (Poseidon (remake), 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, etc.). They’re littered with big talents and the scripts are painful. Acting alone can’t save that. Richard Dreyfuss freely admits he did Poseidon for the cash.

Basically, Leslie, neither can save the other if it’s lacking.

Elizabeth speaks to Amy over the phone and they discuss ideas for the movie. Elizabeth’s first suggestion is:

“Maybe the story could involve a vampire who falls in love with a human girl,” Elizabeth suggested.

Yep. Elizabeth pitched Twilight. [Wing: My god, Sweet Valley Twins inspired all sorts of pop culture going forward. Including both Buffys, because this predates even the movie. I am entertained.]

Amy says that’s pretty good, but quickly says how about a boy buys a robot toy which turns out to be an alien. Amy really doesn’t want any girl to get the lead. Maybe she’s decided all girls are evil after her vicious breakup with Ellen? Just cry it out and let it go, Amy. You’ll feel better. Not all girls will break your heart like Ellen. But I think Elizabeth will. She’s too BFF promiscuous.

Elizabeth says there needs to be a love story, or the Unicorns will kill everyone and bury them in the Mercandy backyard. They eventually workshop the idea that a kid will grow something that turns into The Slime that Ate Sweet Valley, which will have a love triangle, boy, girl and slime. Amy, the imaginationless wonder, actually came up with that title. I’m amazed. At some point the writers just throw away any sense of reality and let the Wakefields have all the best thoughts and the biggest wins.

Also, this is what I think of when I think of that title.

If you hate the old animation, here’s the song over the Smooze episode from Friendship is Magic.

And finally, if you think any of that Smoozing looked awesome, I suggest you run over to NostalgicBookshelf.com and read my recap of the My Little Pony: The Movie (1986), along with mine and bat’s recaps of the entire series.  (If the first link doesn’t work, wait a day. It goes up a day after this recap.)

Also, while searching for those links, I’m wearing my “Nothing can stop the Smooze” t-shirt, so I think my fandom settings are set to UBERFAN.

Jessica runs up to get Elizabeth off the phone. Elizabeth tells Jessica the suggested title. Steven arrives just in time to hear it. He thinks it sounds cool. Jessica is NOT. AMUSED.

Elizabeth says goodbye to Amy, then Jessica says the reason she wanted Elizabeth off the phone was because she heard Alice and Ned talking about their trip to Mexico and they said the kids were really mature, so Jessica assumes this means they’re considering leaving them sans babysitter.

I would assume that there would be laws all over the place about how old a child had to be before being left home alone for X hours, overnight, more than one night, etc. But apparently nothing. The USA doesn’t seem to have any fixed overall rules. Suggestions, but not laws. And mostly on parent groups/forums, rather than somewhere official. [Wing: This is because there’s no federal law, so states can do what they want. Some states have restrictions, some don’t, and you’d have to check individual state statutes to find them, really.]

Alice and Ned can fuck off without any legal repercussions. Provided that the kids don’t burn the house down. And they’re friends with Amy Sutton, so maybe they will.

England has very firm suggestions on the government website saying kids under 16 should not be left alone overnight. *waves hand* Fourteen. Left alone for a week. Multiple times.

(Yeah, the next book was very confusing for me.)

On Thursday – wait, this is the day of auditions, and they’ve still not assigned writers, so how are they going to audition, when they haven’t got writers, so they don’t know what the script is, and won’t know what parts to give? Or are we now at the point where we all know Elizabeth is going to do her writer thing, and everyone can fuck the fuck off if they stand in her way?

Anyway, Mr Bowman shows them the school camcorder, which is pretty old and crap – and cry me a river, the school has a camcorder in the 80s? That’s a wealthy school. Panic not, the Wakefields have a camcorder that’s a couple of years old (fuck off, Wakefields), and then Lila pipes up her dad is buying a brand new camera that will be absolutely perfect and have night vision.

Never change, Lila. [Raven: Surely they could borrow some of Mr Nydick’s camera equipment? There’s a camera in each toilet stall.]

Mr Bowman says he’d like to borrow both cameras. Then they watch Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for camera technique. When they’re done watching the movie – how long is this class? – Mr Bowman asks if they have any suggestions for the title of the movie, because that’s a good place to start.

*blinks* Yeah, because that’s the best way to write. To come up with a title and then shape the idea around it, rather than having an idea and finding a title. I think the ghosties are a bit Stockholmed by this process after nearly two years. Or they really want to highlight that Mr Bowman is a terrible English teacher. [Wing: Or they’re really doubling down on the Goosebumps feel of this book, because Stine often writes to a title. Except, holy shit, this predates the first Goosebumps book, so I’m going to believe that Sweet Valley Twins also inspired Goosebumps. Amazeballs.]

After a few “joke” suggestions, which are so lame I’m not going to repeat them, Elizabeth says Amy came up with a great title. Naturally the boys love it and the Unicorns hate it. The basic premise is that a boy is growing cucumbers in his basement under grow lights, and somehow it becomes the Slime, a green bubbly ooze that eats everything in its path. Unfortunately, it falls for the boy’s girlfriend, and… no resolve is given at this point. [Wing: In California, he’s growing something in his basement under grow lights.]

The kids are then shocked the lesson is over – guys, you watched a movie during the lesson. I’m amazed you had time for that, let alone the discussion afterwards as well.

Mr Bowman says he’ll prepare an audition script – right, so he was waiting for a pitch, so he can do a script so they can audition all the parts they’ll need, but the auditions are today, so nobody can practice in advance? What if the class hadn’t agreed with the proposed – incredibly vague – plot?

Mr Bowman, have you been at Alice Wakefield’s gin? [Raven: THAT’S why he wears bright and mismatched clothes. To detract from the smell of booze on his breath.] [Dove: *sigh* No, Raven. He wears clothes like that because he’s a Time Lord. His presence might explain the way a year has multiple Christmases, etc.]

After class, Jessica and Lila badmouth the proposed plot, and then try to convince each other to drop out of such a ridiculous movie.

Amy and Elizabeth talk to Leslie and ask if she’ll audition. She says she’s too scared to, they push – quite lightly, but not particularly sensitively – and she runs off, assuming they think she’s the asshole.

The auditions take place in the auditorium because so many people have decided to try out. Lila and Jessica sit together and discuss who would make the perfect leading man: Tom McKay and Ken Matthews are both approved (I thought they hated Ken back during basketball tryouts because he was short?) but Winston or Randy would be the end of the world. [Wing: Well, Winston saving the day at the cheerleading championship didn’t last long at all.]

Mr Bowman rocks up and informs them that the scene is just a simple back-and-forth between a boy and a girl. And this is the audition script for everything. Because when you’re looking for slime, or a grandma, or a teacher, what you want to test for is how well they have a teen-style argument with their on-screen significant other.

Also, the slime can be a boy or a girl.

Lila and Winston go first. Lila starts off aggressive, accidentally reading Winston’s lines, and gets very snappy when he politely points it out. Then she loses her place. Then she’s bland. When she’s asked to argue, she yells, but blandly.

Jessica feels relieved, amused and a bit sorry for Lila. But with her friend out of the way, the lead is surely hers.

Brooke and Tom go next, and are quite good.

Jessica is paired with Randy Mason, and he’s good. He’s very good. Jessica finds herself emotionally reacting to Randy’s acting and they knock it out of the park.

Brooke compliments Jessica and says who knew Randy would be so good? Jessica arrogantly assumes she carried him through the performance.

Next come Caroline and Ken, who aren’t terrible but aren’t that great either.

Finally Leslie’s name gets called. Since there’s no more boys, he asks Randy to read once more. (The auditions were moved to the auditorium because of the unexpectedly large turnout of nine people?) Lila scoffs at the mention of Leslie’s name. “What a joke! What makes her think she’s an actress?

Leslie’s in the back of the auditorium, and is trying to convince herself to get up and audition, but she worries she’ll be as bad as Lila, she’s intimidated by Randy and Jessica – she was absolutely blown away by Randy’s talent. She hears Lila’s bitchy remark, and maybe she could get past that, but to be paired with Randy, who she has a major crush on, is just too much. So she bails.

Jessica is in such a good mood that she helps with dinner and sets the table. She gloats to her family that she’s pretty sure that she’s going to get the female lead. Steven teases her that she’s going to play the slime. Elizabeth agrees that the slime could be a girl. Jessica says Lila would make a good slime. Elizabeth says that Randy was amazing today, but Jessica says she carried him through the performance with all of her talent and experience. Randy nearly tripped over when he walked off stage, so clearly he has no acting talent. Um, wanna walk us through that logic, Jess?

The next morning, Mr Bowman announces the roles, which are pretty obvious except one. Randy and Jessica got the boy and girl leads, Lila is offered the role of the Slime. And this is here literally to make fun of Lila, because the Slime is the third best part, it actually requires acting. Also, I know I could read it as the slime would fall for the boy instead of the girl, but I’m reading it as: LILA AND JESSICA HAVE TO KISS! [Raven: I’m sure Steven has seen a few of that kind of movie…] [Wing: I ship their love-hate relationship.]

Lila is offended on a number of levels here, and Mr Bowman says it’s a great part, full of meaty character – and Lila was the worst audition of all, so again, we’re just making fun of her.

Lila says no, so it’s offered to their “second choice”, Winston Egbert. He is delighted with this. Especially when he finds out he gets to eat Mr Clark, the principal. [Wing: Nydick is heartbroken.]

Elizabeth took out a piece of paper and started copying what Mr. Bowman wrote on the blackboard. At the top of the list he put his own name as director. Colin Harmon was the director’s assistant. Under scriptwriter he wrote Elizabeth’s name as well as Amy’s, Leslie’s, and Maria’s. Peter DeHaven was chief camera person, and Jerry was a camera operator. Charlie and Todd were set designers and Mandy was a set carpenter. Aaron was responsible for music. Pete was in charge of special effects and film editing. Lois Waller was costume manager and seamstress. Tom was locations manager, and Ellen was his helper. Lila was in charge of the clean-up crew, and several other students were on the crew itself.

Lila objects to this and insists on being the one to run her father’s camcorder. Mr Bowman agrees because literally everyone fears Lila.

After class, Leslie fights the tears – she deeply regrets not auditioning. Amy and Elizabeth catch up with her and say they’re glad she’ll be writing with them. They also ask why she didn’t audition. Leslie says she only put down actress because she couldn’t think of anything else to write – she’s too embarrassed to bring up her stage fright, Lila’s biting comment, and, most of all, her big old crush on Randy. She makes an excuse and leaves.

Obviously Team Boring notice that Something. Is. Up. They vow to get the bottom of it by way of a quick no-strings book-long friendship.

At lunch, Janet tells Jessica that she’s proud of her for getting the lead, but can she get the title changed as it reflects badly on the Unicorns? Jessica, for once, does not promise the impossible and scheme her way through it. Instead, she simply tells it like it is: everyone else likes it, including the teachers. Lila butts in to say that she’s now a camera person, and without great camera work, a movie will flop. No, Lila. Watch any of Kevin Smith’s early movies – Chasing Amy is the most eye-poking one I can remember. Boring flat shots, no interesting camera work at all. Literally none. It is the blandest camera work possible. If it was a colour, it would be beige. And yet his movies back then had cult followings.

Lila adds she’s throwing a party this afternoon, a few Unicorns, a few boys – including Aaron, a new music video, and she’d invite Jessica, but unfortunately she’s got a dentist appointment. She also hopes Jessica doesn’t need braces, she might have pulled off glasses, but braces would be the end.

On Saturday, Lila irritates all of her friends by filming them all the time for “practice”. And not when they’re doing normal stuff, but when they’re trying on clothes and their hair gets caught, or when they spill drinks down their shirts, etc. Mandy and Jessica have a quiet discussion amongst themselves where they decide that Lila’s doing it deliberately. Shocka.

They see Aaron, Charlie and Jerry doing tricks on their skateboards. Aaron wipes out and Jessica runs over to check he’s ok. He’s mortified both by the fall and when Lila suggests that Jessica give him a big old kiss to make him feel better.

As the boys storm off, Lila can’t figure out why he was so embarrassed. Jessica tells her she has the sensitivity of a flea. And the ever-fab Mandy concurs.

Over at Leslie’s house, Amy, Elizabeth and Maria are visiting for a scriptwriting session. I guess Brooke and Sophia didn’t make the cut. Sorry girls, but Elizabeth has no need for you any longer. Leslie’s room is a shrine to cinema, with pictures, posters, signed props and clothing. She even has a shot of Maria in the Softee Toilet Paper commercial. Which is cute for the scene, but rather creepy, given that Maria hasn’t done that many movies. Leslie gushes about the movies, and Amy comments that it’s like she’s in love. Leslie says that she is, with the whole industry. When asked why she didn’t audition, she changes the subject. And I know she wants to act, but you can have a deep love for movies without wanting to be involved with the process.

They get down to work. First of all, Leslie offers them her basement to shoot in as it’s unfinished and a bit scary – plus her mom always wants her to invite more people over, so be careful what you wish for, Mrs Forsythe! Next up the story goes thusly: Brian grows cucumbers that turn into the Slime; he has a girlfriend called Sherri; both Brian and the Slime love Sherri; there is a kiss scene with each (go Sherri for being equal opportunity in your dating); the Slime dies for love. The end.

Weaksauce. I really hope Raven writes this script. [Raven: Leave it with me…]

As Amy and Elizabeth walk home, they note that they still haven’t gotten to the bottom of the Leslie situation. I want a story where Elizabeth is determined that a fellow student has a problem and terrorises the new girl (it’s always a new girl), gaslighting her into thinking she’s got an issue, just so Elizabeth can ride in on her white horse and save her. And if you want to take that plot-bunny, all I ask is a heads up on Twitter, so I can read it. (A dedication wouldn’t hurt either. I do like being pandered to.)

The next day, Jessica is caught in yet more embarrassing situations by Lila’s camera, and wishes the tables would turn.

At home, she finds Elizabeth being smug that she’s just finished the script (single-handedly or team effort? Unknown). Elizabeth says it’s really funny. Elizabeth, it’s incredibly gauche to gush over your own writing. Unless you’re me, then it’s ok.

Reluctantly she hands it over to Jessica, and says rehearsals start tomorrow until Friday, so she may as well start learning her lines. Jessica reads, and likes until… THE KISS WITH THE SLIME. She runs downstairs and demands Elizabeth take it out, but she says that it’s Mr Bowman’s favourite scene. I guess he and Nydick have bonded? Jessica is even less impressed when she finds out she’s got to kiss Randy as Brian as well. She decides Elizabeth is trying to humiliate her.

The next morning, we get to the root of the problem. Jessica confesses to Mandy that she’s never been kissed before. While this flies in the face of actual cannon events, Jessica quickly rewrites history, saying kissing Josh didn’t count because he kissed her but she didn’t kiss him.

I did start a paragraph dissecting that statement, then I realised I was analysing a 16 year old kissing a 12 year old, and I decided to back away.

[Wing: Ignoring how this contradicts canon, I really like how Jessica doesn’t want her first kisses to be in front of people and on camera. That’s totally fair. I did expect her to just go plant one on Aaron to make sure it didn’t happen, though, so I feel she could have been far more proactive.]

Mandy tells Jessica that she’s never kissed anyone either, but Jessica points out that Mandy’s first kiss – her first two, actually – won’t be on camera for all to see. She considers faking an illness, but Mandy points out if she wants to go to hospital, she’ll have to be really sick (and Jessica remembers that Mandy recently beat cancer, amazingly quickly). Jessica adds people will catch on if she faints right before each of the two kisses.

When rehearsal rolls around, Jessica acts like a diva, requesting water, lower lighting, the thermostat being higher, etc. It works, they don’t manage to get through the whole script, but pretty much everyone in the room loathes her by the time she’s done making all the demands. [Raven: Like, I get it. But Jess is rubbish in this bit. Dolores Dufay wouldn’t be impressed, Jess!]

By Wednesday, Randy and Winston know their lines by heart, but Jessica does not. She constantly stops production to make irritating requests, and then she fakes a cold, so Mr Bowman says they can read through the script but skip the actual kissing. Uh, don’t most practices skip the kiss? I seem to remember a story of the first Buffy episode with Spike and Drusilla in, when they lean their foreheads together but look at the Annointed One, that came about because it was what they were doing to skip the kiss, but it looked so good, they ditched the kiss and kept that in instead.

Once they start rehearsals with the cameras, Lila starts being very friendly to Jessica, and even calls cut because she’s not getting the best angle on Jess. They talk afterwards and Lila makes a comment about why not fake a kiss, since movie punches are faked. She’ll teach Jess how. (TWEEN SLASH!) She’ll film it so that Jessica can see how it looks so she gets her technique down.

This culminates with Jessica fake-kissing a pillow, rather than actually kissing Lila, which is what I hoped when I first read this book. Once she’s practiced a bit, Lila makes an excuse about how her dad loaned the VCR to someone, so they can’t watch the tape. I refuse to believe Fowler Crest only has one VCR. I bet there’s one in every bedroom, including Mrs Pervis’ room. Jessica asks to take the tape home, and Lila says that’s fine, but what if Steven sees it. Jessica is suitably horrified. Raven can make a joke here, I can’t be bothered. Lila says the VCR will be back on Monday, so come over then and they’ll watch the tape. [Raven: I’m pretty sure Steven would pay serious money for a copy of that tape. Not really a joke, I know, Dove, but I can’t be bothered either.]

Over with the writers (Sophia and Brooke are still absent. Fuck those non-issue-having bitches), they decide to celebrate by renting a movie. This means they have to go to Sweet Valley Video. Leslie’s been avoiding it, because she doesn’t want to admit she was too scared to audition.

It’s the first thing Deirdre says to her. Leslie says that she decided not to audition, because she’s not sure she wants to be an actress. Deirdre then confides that she loves acting, it’s all she ever wanted to do, but on the day of an audition for a big Broadway play, she bottled it, assuming that everyone had much more experience and talent than her. She gave up and never tried again. And she’s been kicking herself ever since.

This doesn’t really help Leslie, since the moment has passed. So basically Deirdre’s inspirational speech actually just foretold the imminent crushing depression heading her way.

They go back to Elizabeth’s house and watch a movie, but in the last few minutes, just as the very important dialogue is being delivered, the sound goes out. Leslie steps in and recites each part to the shock and awe of her friends. They’re amazed at how talented she is.

Maria asks why she didn’t audition, because she could act circles around Jessica – no offense Elizabeth. This time Leslie actually replies, maybe it’s because the situation is better, or maybe Maria’s just more approachable than Amy gormlessly lumbering up and bellowing “WHY YOU NO ACTY?” which has been Team Boring’s approach thus far. [Raven: Maria also finds her voice as she knows we are approaching the End of the Book.]

Leslie tells them about her stage fright, the spiteful words, and because she has a crush on Randy. Maria quickly steps in with an anecdote about crushing on a co-star, to reassure her. Actually, Maria is much better at talking to Leslie than Team Boring, regardless of topic. Maria says it’s fine to have all your feelings, but you act through them. Amy says Jessica’s not doing that, she’s letter her personal feelings override the movie.

Leslie says she wishes she had auditioned, but she will next time. She also says friends are the most important thing you can have. Boy is she going to be depressed when this movie wraps and Elizabeth moves on to the next new girl with an issue.

On Friday night, Lila throws a small gathering of Unicorns and some boys, saying she’ll show some of the videos they’ve starred in. Jessica asks why the VCR is back early, but Lila lies her way through it.

People are shocked when Lila shows them a cut together movie of all the embarrassing things she’s caught on camera. The cherry on top is the final video: Jessica making faking out with a pillow. Everyone is humiliated, and sharing that humiliation by mocking each other. At the end of the party, Jessica corners Lila and says that wasn’t funny, it was mortifying. Lila hits back with, if that’s bad, you should probably worry about making out with two nerds on camera.

Jessica quits on Monday morning. Nobody is shocked or sad about this. Which makes Jessica a bit angry. Someone’s getting buried in the Mercandy backyard. Probably Mr Bowman.

This means that Leslie can try out, yay! Lila overhears Team Boring discussing it with her, and tries to be snide, but Leslie just snaps that if she wins the role, they’ll have three serious actors in the main roles.

Obviously, she knocks the audition out of the park, especially because she’s paired with Randy.

They start shooting. Jessica is relegated to seamstress – could be worse, there should be a vacancy on clean-up crew, since Lila refused to do it. Lila is still being a dick, and Jessica vows revenge. She spots one of the Peters, the one that’s been doing all the practical jokes that I haven’t bothered to recap because they’re too lame. She gets an idea.

Mandy holds a slumber party for the sixth-grade Unicorns to celebrate finishing The Slime that Ate Sweet Valley. They hold a “weird PJ contest”, which Lila wins with her knee-length purple t-shirt with a Unicorn on, that says “I’m the star!” I’m ignoring cannon and going with this instead though:

The prize is an oatmeal face mask and hair lotion. They get Lila to put on her face mask and do her hair in curlers, and trick her into doing an overblown production of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with a dust mop. Is that literally the only scene anyone in Sweet Valley knows? I loathe Shakespeare and even I’m aware of the St Crispin’s Day speech – and no, not from Buffy, but I’ll admit that’s a hard sell given that I used a Spike gif earlier. [Wing: It may be the only romantic speech any of them know well enough to reference. I would have gone with Macbeth, myself.]

They pretend to film Lila, who thinks there’s no tape in the camcorder, and congratulate her when she’s done.

On Monday everyone gathers in the auditorium to watch The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley, but there’s a promo before the main event. It’s Lila snogging the dust mop and accidentally chewing the scenery all through her scene.

Everyone laughs their asses off over it.

And the movie’s over in a single sentence, so I’ll just assume it was totes amazeballs. Because why wouldn’t it be? [Raven: Genuinely disappointed we didn’t see the fucking movie. Literally glossed over the whole thing in seconds. A few pages of dialogue or some choice cuts from key scenes too much for you, Ghost Writers?]

Jessica confesses to Team Boring that she got Pete to add in Lila’s scene before the movie, because he’s been the prankster all along (nobody cared about that plot even ein bisschen).

The final scene is another mention of Ned and Alice’s key swapping party in Mexico, and the kids are hopeful that they’ll be left to fend for themselves.

Dream on, kids. This is not a fucking Point Horror.

Final Thoughts:

Fun book, but the premise is better than the execution. There is so much faffing around with Jessica’s lack of first kiss – I don’t approve of the re-written history, and it would have made just as much sense that she didn’t want to kiss nerds before she’d kissed her sort-of boyfriend. It would have been more interesting if they’d shown a bit more. All we saw were scenes of people talking about just finishing doing something movie-related. It’s a bit like First Place in that sense. All the best bits happened off-screen and were recounted back to us.

I hadn’t even noticed that we didn’t see the actual movie until Raven pointed it out. I think I was more caught up on Jessica’s kiss status. As a kid, this was the most eye-poking bit of failed continuity I’d seen, because I didn’t always read them in order, and didn’t realise there were that many Christmases at the time I bought this book. (The Super Chillers I owned at the time happened on Christmas, New Year’s Day and some generic school holiday, so I didn’t realise we were on #SweetValleyTime at that point.)

[Raven: I liked this one, up until the weak-ass no-movie ending. It’s becoming a thing, this ‘tell a good story but toss off the ending’ trope. Disapponting. Ah well, I guess that means my movie script for The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley is going to be fucking INCREDIBLE.]

[Wing: It’s cute enough, I guess, and I really like Jessica’s worry over her “first kiss” being with two actors and not with someone she cares about and also not in private but in public, but if that older boy kiss didn’t mean anything because she didn’t kiss back in a meaningful way, then kissing during a play doesn’t mean anything, either. I’m disappointed we didn’t see more of either the movie or the pranks, both of which are more interesting than the recapping in the book. Not the recapping of the book, but the book itself recapping the events we don’t get to see.]