Title: Big Brother’s in Love!
Tagline: Jessica and Elizabeth have made the perfect match! [Wing: Considering that girl looks even more like a Wakefield than Steven does and that they are wearing weird matching outfits, I’m pretty sure Jessica and Steven are dating now.] [Dove: I had never noticed how much she looks like the twins.] [Raven: It’s been established before that the cover artist can olny draw two faces.]
Summary: Playing Cupid.
Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield usually find their older brother, Steven, annoying, but now they feel sorry for him. He’s been wandering around the house in a daze because he’s in love with Jill Hale. His problem is that Jill likes Steven’s best friend, and it looks like Steven’s going to be lovesick forever! The twins decide to help Steven get over Jill. Maybe Cathy Connors is the solution…
The twins think Cathy and Steven make a perfect couple, but Steven only sees Cathy as his friend. Can the twins help turn a friendship into true love?
I don’t really like matchmaking stories, and I’m already annoyed by the mere premise of this book. This is going to be great.
[Dove: I hate Steven. But… I do actually like this book.]
Elizabeth and Amy are working on a photo essay about the gym renovation; it will be the first photo essay for the Sweet Valley Sixers, the sixth-grade newspaper Elizabeth runs, and if there is a god, they will never have one again after that, because it sounds boring as hell. It’s been fun enough for Elizabeth that she’s considering becoming a photojournalist instead of a writer.
She’s been using the camera that she bought partly with Aunt Helen’s money from that recent visit where she gave each of the Wakefield kids $100 and they acted like it was more money than they’d ever seen at one time, which, considering Wakefields and Sweet Valley, I find suspect.
The Unicorns are meeting at the Wakefield house that day, too, and Elizabeth promised to take a picture of them, which is kind of adorable even as she and Amy mock them. Amy doesn’t even go down with her, just sneaks out of the house while Elizabeth goes to take that picture.
The big gossip of the day is that Janet has two tickets to Staying Up with Bob, which is apparently everyone’s favourite television show. Ghostwriter acts like it has always been their favourite show, not like it’s new or something, but that’s got to be a load of crap. [Dove: It’s mentioned as a new show in The Wakefields Strike It Rich, so of course by now it’s been their favourite forever. Which in Sweet Valley is probably true. #SweetValleyTime and all.] [Raven: Getting Wet with Nydick wasn’t quite so popular.]
Anyway, Janet hasn’t made up her mind who she’s taking with her to watch the show being filmed. Staying Up with Bob sounds like a late night talk show, and why in the world would they want a bunch of kids in their audience then? No answer to that, because Lila starts whining about how of course Janet has to take her, they’re cousins, after all. It’s pretty clear that Janet is going to spend the next three weeks making the Unicorns fight each other to the death for that ticket. No, wait, that’s something Lila would do; really, Janet will just make them suck up to her until they prove themselves worthy or something.
Janet also wants the Sixers to cover her trip to watch the show being filmed, and even starts to say that she’ll write it, until she’s distracted by Steven, who is walking around “like a zombie.” Janet gets pretty nasty over it, because she knows that he’s upset because he likes Jill and Jill is dating Janet’s brother, Joe (dear god, get a name that doesn’t start with a “j”) [Dove: Well, there was that one book when Joe was called Sam.]; she also knows some of the details of that disastrous date Steven had in the last book, which doesn’t surprise me at all and is a fun bit of continuity used in an character-appropriate terrible way.
Elizabeth is just about to stand up for her brother when the smoke detector goes off. Steven has put something into the oven and forgotten about it four times that week; Jessica saves him this time, but the slice-and-bake cookies he was trying to bake are dead. [Dove: Steven bakes? I’m honestly shocked by this. I never saw him progressing past making sandwiches.] [Raven: Pretty sure Slice-and-Bake Cookies are the sweet equivalent of heating a frozen pizza.] [Wing: Pretty much. I’m more surprised he even tried to bake them. That dough is generally just as tasty raw.]
Janet continues to pick at and mock Steven, Elizabeth gets grumpy but doesn’t say anything, and Jessica talks about how it’s not just about Jill, but Steven is just a little wild about girls and fickle, etc. These are all lies, of course, and Elizabeth calls her on it when they’re alone, but really, it’s all Jessica taking far better care of her brother than Elizabeth is. Shocking, I know.
Of course, a huge part of it is that Jessica’s figured out how she might be able to win those tickets off Janet so Jessica and Elizabeth can be the ones who go. Jessica sets it up just right and offers to make a bet with Janet that Steven will be over Jill within the week. Janet’s cocky as hell and plays right into this. She flat out says that the twins “don’t understand men like I do. If they did, they wouldn’t make such a stupid bet.”
Janet, I hope Jessica peels the skin from your face before this bet is done.
(I will say, a self-serving bet like this actually does make me feel better about the whole matchmaker storyline, at least so far.)
OH SHIT, JESSICA OFFERS UP ELIZABETH’S BRAND-NEW CAMERA AS JANET’S PRIZE. HO. LY. FUCK.
That is prime Jessica and terrible and wonderful and I suddenly care about this book, even though I know that Elizabeth will never beat the shit out of Jessica like she deserves right now (and often). [Dove: Never. Change. Jessica.] [Raven: Yup. Skin in the game now.]
She does scream at her as soon as the Unicorns are gone, which is something, I guess, though not much at all. Elizabeth points out she could have bet her cassette deck, which is almost new, but Jessica says she couldn’t play her Johnny Buck tapes if she lost it. Elizabeth does NOT stab her in the face over this, though she should.
Steven distracts them from this fight that isn’t, which is annoying but also not, because it’s not like it’s going anywhere anyway STAB HER IN THE FACE, ELIZABETH IN. THE. FACE.
In fact, Elizabeth ends up laughing along with Jessica over how important Steven’s happiness is compared to a silly camera.
She was always amazed at how Jessica could make the most ridiculous things seem reasonable.
I’m amazed that somehow you never stab her in the face.
They decide that the way to prove Steven is over Jill is to show Janet a picture of Steven with someone else. I almost wish this was going to a Johnny Buck is Pastede On Yay place, but alas, it is not. They decide that Cathy is the perfect person for this, not just because she’s pretty much the only girl he talks to, but because she’s pretty, they’re in the same grade, they’re both in the band, and they’re both into sports. She’s the goalie on the girls’ hockey team.
(a) Cathy deserves 100% more than Steven Wakefield. (b) I love you, Cathy, marry me.
Jessica compares this to Pamela and Troy from Days of Turmoil, which continues to be her favourite soap opera, so that’s cool. Anyway, Pamela tried to get Troy to fall in love with her, he only thought of her as a friend, and it wasn’t until she married Troy’s best friend, Don, that Troy realised he had loved Pamela all along.
Elizabeth has no sense of whimsy or understanding of Jessica because she tries to logic her way out of this comparison by pointing out that Joe, Steven’s BFF, is already dating Jill and there’s no way they can get him interested in Cathy, too. Elizabeth. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE SMART ONE.
Jessica shouts at her for missing the point. Preach it, Jessica. The point is: they have to make Steven jealous by pretending to be Cathy’s secret admirer in order to make Steven realise what a great girl she is.
I take it back, I still have no interest in a matchmaking plot even one driven by the bet and Jessica being as over the top as ever. [Dove: Nope, this is the moment I started caring. Jessica is hatching a scheme? That doesn’t hurt anyone (particularly?)? I’m in.]
Steven POV. He recaps the disaster date and obsesses over Jill. He still holds out hope that she’ll fall for him if he stops acting like a geek around her. If this book was published a few decades later, he’d be whining about being friendzoned.
Another Steven POV, oh god. Joe and Steven joke around about the geometry flue (getting an F on quizzes) and how Steven’s been struggling with the trombone slide, which of course means that he’s in a weird position when Jill joins them. He accidentally knocks a carton of milk all over her shirt and jeans and when he’s diving to help her clean it up, he and Joe smack their heads together. Smooooooth, Steven. Smooth. [Raven: Actual quote from Joe, when Steven is worried about the spillage… “A little milk can’t ruin anything.” … Joe, honey, have I got some stories for you.]
Jill forgives Steven and even apologises a little for overreacting because she’s stressed about the geometry quiz; Joe goes off to study more; Jill and Steven briefly talk while she scarfs her food and in that time she insults the trombone (it “sounds like a catfight unless it’s played by a professional” — I would have said that more about any of the reed instruments than a trombone) and basketball (she dismisses it as “the game with the hoop”), and then when he asks her what she likes, he doesn’t know anything about the first thing she says, rhetoric, and then he briefly tries to bond with her over motorcycles, something else she loves, but then she runs off to study.
After Jill takes off, Cathy shows up to tease him about daydreaming in the cafeteria. He doesn’t mind when she teases him, because she never does it in a mean way like some girls, she makes him want to laugh along, too. They talk about her new job at McRobert’s in the mall; she’s trying to raise money so she can go on a European trip with the girls’ hockey team. I love you, Cathy. [Dove: McRobert‘s.] [Raven: I’m Lovin’ It.]
Steven, on the other hand, isn’t really listening, because he’s too busy imaging riding on a motorcycle with Jill. Fuck off, Steven. Cathy deserves a billion times better than you. [Dove: Also, he says that his parents would let him have one “over their dead bodies”, which is a nice call-forward (or backward, if you look at publish dates) to Sweet Valley High #6: Dangerous Love.] [Wing: Why must you tease me with the idea that Alice and Ned die early in SVH? Because I’m pretty sure that’s not true and yet now I have hope.]
Elizabeth and Jessica put their plan into action after school, buying gold foil for step one. They run into Caroline, biggest gossip in Sweet Valley; her sister, Anita, a freshman at SVH; Janet, and Kimberly. Anita has gossip about how Steve’s been acting weird lately and about how he dumped his milk all over Jill. Janet, of course, takes this as a sign that he’s still obsessed with Jill. Janet, of course, is not wrong, but Jessica isn’t one to take that lying down.
Elizabeth freaks out and tells Jessica that she’d better start saving up to buy Elizabeth a new camera. Elizabeth, if you honestly believe that you’ll EVER get that out of her, you are even more ridiculous than I thought. (Also, tell your parents if Jessica loses it. They should step in and do something about this bullshit.) [Dove: Also, how about all the money that Jessica constantly owes her too…?]
Steven stops at a newsstand to look for motorcycle magazines; he finds at least 15 different titles, and he’s shocked by how popular motorcycles are. Oh, Steven. Conveniently for him, the news agent, Pete, loves motorcycles, too, and recommends a magazine that has a ton of basic information and ads for used bikes in the back. That does sound super helpful, to be sure.
Of course, the first thing Steven learns is that he has to be 16 to get a motorcycle license, which for some reason surprises him. It should not surprise you, Steven. Also, he decides that even if he can’t drive it for two years, he can at least own one now. I … don’t know how that’s going to work out for you, considering how broke you were at the end of the last book, but okay. [Dove: I love the idea he thinks it’s plausible he could Jill over to sit on the back of his bike in the garage and pretend to be driving. What a bell.]
Steven keeps his money in an old athletic sock he calls his “bank” — does that mean he also has an old one he calls Jessica and now a second one he calls Jill? — and in it he has a whole entire $30.42, which feels like a lot of money when it’s inside the sock. Apparently, he’s been saving up and doing extra work around the house for the last two weeks. Saving up to have another terrible date with Jill? To buy porn? I thought you blew your wad (intentional) on that date.
Oh, well, Steven is shocked that he only has $30.42, because he thought he had more, but the date had really set him back. The date for which he used Aunt Helen’s money only? The date where he had to take money back from Jessica to pay Jill back? The date — god, why do I still want consistency? I know better. And yet, here we are.
He’s also shocked to learn that even used motorcycles are expensive, and figures out that even if he saved his allowance for a year, he wouldn’t have enough. The only thing for it is to get a job. Which is a great idea and one I support.
Except. You’re fourteen. I look forward to seeing what kind of work you think you can do, considering you have no sense of reality in any other area.
(He also thinks that buying a motorcycle with his own money means Alice and Ned could never tell him he wasn’t allowed to have it. That is not how parenting works, honey.)
Oh, that conversation with Cathy has actually come back to help him, even though he ignored her for most of it because he is awful; she had to convince her parents to let her get a job — wait a fucking minute here. Are Cathy and Steven the same age? I keep thinking of Steven as a sophomore, so maybe 15-16, which would be of the age for them to start working at restaurants, etc., but if they’re both freshmen and therefore Cathy is also 14 like Steven, what the fuck is going on in Sweet Valley for teen jobs? — anyway, Cathy had to convince her parents to let her get a job and so she talked about how it would help her develop a sense of responsibility and learn the value of money. He thinks that will help convince Alice and Ned, too, and to be fair to him, those are two things the Wakefield parents lean on pretty hard when they’re telling the twins they are too young to do a specific thing, whatever that thing is. Not usually Steven, but still.
Elizabeth is already having her doubts about whether they should meddle in Steven’s love life. Look, until he and Jessica get together, he’s just marking time with anyone else, so go for it, kids. Jessica is confident that they’re doing the right thing for Steven and for themselves.
Jessica and Elizabeth go off to Sweet Valley Florist (…because of course it’s called that) to send a dozen red roses. They have things that need to go in the box: three letter Es cut from cardboard and covered in gold foil and a note that says “letter by letter, you’ll know better… who admires you.”
The florist is intrigued by this budding (intentional) romance, and so Jessica flat out breaks down the plan: send gifts, send a few more letters of his name, by the time the girl gets the letters and learns his identity, they’ll be madly in love. [Dove: I… actually love this plan. I think it’s adorable.]
(I have questions about how they are sending the letters. Since they are sending three Es at once, and they are on a tight timeline, it seems like they’re sending all of one letter at the same time — but three Es are not the right amount. “Steven” has 2 and “Steven Wakefield” has 4. What, exactly, are they doing here?) [Raven: It doesn’t say they are sending all the E’s. They are just sending “some E’s”. Which makes the whole thing very The Shamen.] [Wing: Yes, and I think I get into this later, but it doesn’t make sense to me that they would send three Es at one time when there are so many other letters to choose from. Either send all of one type or mix them up better, don’t do this weird thing that you chose to do, Wakefields.]
Also, the roses are too expensive, so they have to settle for tulips and can only do ten, because they don’t want to spend all their money in one place. (I’m amazed they have any money to spend, really; even Elizabeth spent all she’d saved up on that camera, or at least that’s what it seemed like in the last book.) The florist throws in two for free to make it an even dozen (more romantic, she says).
When they’re alone, Elizabeth tells Jessica she should be a soap writer because of how much imagination she’s showing, and Elizabeth is not wrong. Jessica is creative and fun and tells interesting, twisty (if often unbelievable) stories. Excellent tv writer, there.
Also, they have 12 letters to go, which makes me think they are doing “Steven Wakefield.” Why not send all the Es together? Or if you’re doing letters in sets of three, for example, send three different letters? Or — did you forget how to spell your own last name?
On Thursday, Steven and Cathy sit together at lunch talking about how Steven asking to get a job started a huge fight with his parents, because they are worried about his grades, the band, and basketball. Cathy wants to know if he can do all those things and work too. Cathy, don’t you do all those things and work, too? Well, I mean, a sport, not basketball, and the seasons are slightly different, but still.
Steven did talk Alice and Ned around eventually, and he gives Cathy the credit because he used those lines of hers, though he embellished them in ways that makes Cathy laugh so hard she nearly chokes on her milk. (He added something about how “hard work and determination had molded [great men] into world leaders and captains of industry.” Cathy calls him out on how corny that is, and though he’s a little embarrassed, he’s also kind of proud, because it worked.)
Cathy offers to see if they need someone at McRobert’s, but he says that he wouldn’t be caught dead flipping burgers. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST STEVEN WAKEFIELD FUCK OFF INTO THE SEA. [Dove: chained to an anchor.]
And it’s not just about him being shit to Cathy here (though that is some of it); dismissing fast food as a place to work is such a privileged, pompous thing to do, and it’s gross as fucking hell.
Cathy gets quiet after that, and Steven assumes she’s upset because of what he said. He actually apologises, which is more than I expected from him, but really she’s thinking about something else. Steven tries to talk to her some more about what kind of job he wants (lifeguard, he thinks), until Anita comes up to flat out ask her about who is sending her flowers, because Anita saw the florist van outside her house and stopped to talk to the delivery person.
Steven thinks Anita is the nosiest person in the world and hopes that Cathy tells her off; instead, Cathy giggles and gossips with her a little, to his shock. Anita thinks the story is super romantic; Steven thinks they guy sounds like a jerk and points out the secret admirer could really be an ax murderer. That makes the girls laugh, but Steven is actually pretty serious and tells Cathy to be careful.
Steven tries to get a job as a lifeguard, but since he’s not certified, he can’t; Mr Clarkson, who runs the pool, points him in the direction of Valley Music. Over at Valley Music, Mr. Gomez needs to hire someone for weekends and a couple of afternoons a week, and he wants someone who knows a lot about music. He mentions the trombone, which pleases Mr Gomez — right up until he starts setting some tasks for Steven. First he talks about pulling the baroque recordings out of the classical section and put them in a different display; Steven doesn’t know what baroque means and then explains that their band doesn’t play much classical music. But — but why not?
Mr Gomez turns to jazz next, because of the trombone, but Steven doesn’t know anything about that, either — or new age. Or big band. Or opera. Or anything outside of Top 40. Mr Gomez points out that’s just a small part of music, which is true, but also, you’ve completely missed some of the most popular types of music in the late 80s and early 90s, Mr Gomez, so … what kind of music store do you think will survive?
Mr Gomez sends him off to Valley Computers, which is all the way back by Sweet Valley pool. He’s biking all over town, which is actually cracking me up because every time he’s hot and tired and a little more grumpy but also really optimistic about work. (But then every time someone suggests he tries a fast food place, he grumps about how he more ambition than that and I hate him all over again.)
Of course, the computer shop needs sales and programming help, and Steven has no experience. He annoys Steven (and me) by calling Steven an unskilled worker and again suggesting he get a fast food job. Steven, because he thinks he’s too good for fast food. Me, because that whole skilled/unskilled dichotomy is such fucking bullshit, especially when it is being thrown around from a fucking retail manager. Come the fuck on, my man. YES, THERE ARE DIFFERENT SKILLS APPROPRIATE FOR DIFFERENT JOBS, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN DISMISSING THE TYPE OF WORK THEY DO AS UNSKILLED IS KOSHER ALSO HAVE YOU EVER DONE FAST FOOD WORK THERE IS A TON OF SKILL THERE THAT I COULD NOT DO EVEN TODAY INCLUDING FAST CONSISTENT COOKING AND ALL SORTS OF MATH IN THEIR HEAD.
(Also, at least in the place where I worked as a teen, roller skating. They did all sorts of hard work and a bunch of them did it on skates and I was awed.)
Finally, at the end of the day, Steven calls Cathy to see if she can get him a job at McRobert’s. He’s desperate enough now to take it. (I’m still questioning how anyone’s first question isn’t about his age, but I’m going to let it go. Obviously in Sweet Valley, the rules are different and I’m just going to waste my time if I keep focusing on this point.) [Dove: This never pinged with me, because you’re allowed to work retail from the age of 14 here. Or you were back when this book came out. Oooh, maybe this Jamie Suzanne wasn’t American?] [Raven: Yeah, I was fine with this bit, aside from the use of the descriptor ‘unskilled.’ Like, Steven being snooty and looking down at a job that he perceived beneath him was the point, no? And the whole “look at it from [the employer’s] perspective” bit was there to shove him back into his fucking box, right? Nowt wrong with flipping burgers, which I think the book largely reinforces. At this stage, anyway.] [Wing: Yeah, I’m annoyed by Steven’s looking down on the job, but it rings true; the age thing bothers me a lot, because that’s not how it works here, not even in the 90s.]
Jessica walks in on Elizabeth trying to balance a Ping-Pong ball on her nose while she drinks a glass of water. Okay then. Apparently, “Stupid Stunts” is one of the most popular segments on Staying up with Bob, and Elizabeth wants to be chosen. Jessica tells her she’s far too sensible to come up with any Stupid Stunts, that’s more Jessica’s department, and if she gets on the show, she’s going to tie a ribbon with her toes, which is something she can actually do and something that awes everyone. Well, it would take some sort of talent. But also: feet. Eww.
They decide to get some chocolate because Elizabeth knows she loves it and sneak that and more letters into her mailbox. (a) Illegal. (b) You sure do know a lot about Cathy, Elizabeth Wakefield. Are you sure you don’t have a bit of a crush? (c) Three Es would be perfect for Jessica Wakefield, I want to point out. (If you go along with how they’re breaking up the letters. Which I don’t.)
When Steven shows up at McRobert’s after school, Cathy is all excited about the chocolate and the new letters. These three are E, D, L. I still don’t understand why they sent the first three letters as all Es what the hell. Anyway, Cathy things the first name could be Ed, but she doesn’t know anyone named Ed, so it could be a last name like Edelman, maybe. And whoever it is has a lot of Es in their name. Why yes. Yes they do. Much like a guy named StEvEn WakEfiEld.
Cathy introduces Steven to Rick, her manager, who does need some more help and agrees to hire him and immediately start training. They both think Rick is a creep and Cathy warns that he can be really grouchy if he’s kept waiting.
Steven freaks out when he sees himself in the uniform, which is both ugly and doesn’t fit, and Cathy talks him down and reassures him that everyone knows he’s a cool guy no matter what he’s wearing. He decides to give the job a try, thinks that Cathy even looks a little cute in her uniform, and knows it’s going to be fun working with Cathy even if Rick is terrible.
Saturday, Jessica suggests they give up on the plan because Steven hasn’t even been showing any jealousy so why spend more money (that they don’t have, their fund is empty after the chocolates); Elizabeth, of course, does not let her back out, considering what is on the line.
The twins go down to breakfast and try to subtly get some information from him. They learn he’s excited to work with Cathy and that he thinks Anita is a big mouth over the whole secret admirer gossip — and then he actually asks to be excused from the table before finishing his breakfast, which never fucking happens. [Dove: No, seriously, this never has happened.]
Jessica is thrilled because this clearly means he’s jealous, and throws herself back into planning — by asking for an advance on her allowance. Alice and Ned shoot this down because of that whole Aunt Helen money and efficient budgeting, etc.
Elizabeth then asks if there are any chores they can do for extra money. Alice says no, but Steven has a bunch of laundry from his gym locker and will pay them $1.50 to wash and fold it all. That’s a terrible price, but they take it because what else can they do at this point?
They decide to buy a helium balloon with a heart on it and tie the balloon and the letters to Cathy’s mailbox so she sees it when she leaves for work and will then mention it to Steven. Because I’m sure one will notice identical twin preteens tying something to a mailbox in broad daylight.
Elizabeth goes to cut out the letters and sends Jessica to start Steven’s laundry, holding firm when Jessica tries to talk her way out of it. Jessica finds Steven’s “bank” in the laundry when the washing machine starts to make funny noises because something heavy is banging around. [Raven: I’m surprised Jessica agreed to touch Steven’s laundry. I’ll bet some of his underwear is so stiff with dried discharge that it’d be impossible to fold.]
Conveniently, the Wakefields have a “finders, keepers” policy when it comes to things found in the washing machine. It’s mostly a joke rule to make sure everyone checks their pockets before throwing clothes into the laundry, but it is a rule.
Jessica ponders this while she moves the clothes from the washer to the dryer and that was by god the fastest wash cycle I’ve ever seen those gym clothes cannot possibly be clean right now gross.
Over at Valley Pharmacy (… of course) where they’re going to buy the balloon, they run into Amy with Melissa McCormick [Dove: HI, MELISSA! ILU! (She’s awesome in Poor Lila!)]. They used to take ballet lessons with Melissa but don’t know her very well and she’s always come across as shy; she and Amy are working on a school project together. Is this setting up a future book? It feels like it might be. Anyway, Amy and Melissa are at the pharmacy because Melissa’s brother, Andy, hurt his ankle playing basketball and needs some athletic tape to keep it wrapped, and Amy needed glue for their science project.
Oh, damn, Elizabeth catches Jessica buying a bunch of balloons and tries to interrogate her over where it came from, but Jessica stays one step ahead of her (sometimes literally) all the way up until she ties the balloons and the letters to the front door handle and rings the bell. Brave. I like it.
Then Jessica takes her clever plan one step further and actually makes it look like they were just out on a casual walk so they can stop and talk to Cathy. When she hears they know about her secret admirer, she is very disappointed they didn’t hear it from Steven, but cheers up the more they talk, because he’s very secretive and it’s not easy for him to express how he feels. She’s clearly hoping he’s her secret admirer, and Jessica is well pleased with her plan.
This is pretty adorable and delightful, though keep in mind Cathy isn’t the point of the bet.
Cathy and Steven have a good time at work that afternoon even though they’re slammed. They keep joking around and laughing, and the only fly in the ointment is the secret admirer. Steven can’t figure out why that part bothers him so much.
Joe comes up to order gopher nuggets and lint balls from Steven, which makes me laugh, and is actually not a terrible way to quickly show that they really are friends and joke around together. I like it. I like it even more when Steven gives Joe the wrong change and Joe gives it back because of course he wouldn’t cheat his best friend. That gives Steven all sorts of feelings, because he is trying to cheat Joe out of his relationship with Jill (let’s just set aside the fact that a person is not a thing to steal, okay), and now he’s starting to feel guilty. I REALLY like this part, actually. Yay friendships.
… and then Steven decides that the only honorable thing to do is tell Joe what’s going on and how he feels. I am surprised that Steven decides this so quickly. And the talk that night goes well, actually, because Joe isn’t all that interested in Jill and doesn’t have time for girls anyway because of his new hobby. He takes Steven into the garage to show off an old, rusty motorcycle that he’s rebuilding. OH MY GOD, I LOVE YOU JOE. ALSO, apparently Jill only started liking motorcycles after Joe told her he wanted one. She always says she likes the things he likes, and that’s one reason it’s hard for him to get interested in her, he’d rather spend time with someone who has ideas of her own. No, seriously, I kind of love you right now.
And actually this friendship is seriously solid. I did not see that coming. [Raven: Yeah. Joe’s a good guy.]
Steven trudges home, in a quandary. He knows he doesn’t have a chance with Jill, he knows it is pointless to get a motorcycle and is feeling weird about how he was changing himself to try to please her just the way she was doing for Joe, and he knows he can’t quit his job without sending Alice and Ned through the roof.
Elizabeth finally gets the truth about the money out of Jessica (by threatening to flush her Johnny Buck tape) and quits the project, despite them having a family fucking rule about things found in the washing machine what the hell. [Raven: GO ELIZABETH! I mean, I don’t for a second believe she’d have actually flushed the tape, but it shows SOME semblance of spine here!]
They waste all of Sunday and most of Monday on this fight, eventually Jessica gives in (because she’s afraid if she loses and Elizabeth refuses to hand over the camera that Jessica will get thrown out of the Unicorns, basically), and they decide to deliver the rest of the letters without any gifts that very day.
Over at work, Cathy is grumpy because she hasn’t heard from her secret admirer since Saturday and she’s afraid he’s lost interest. She doesn’t even care that Steven nearly sets the place on fire when he forgets about the fries.
They talk about how they’re both unlucky in love and how Steven likes Jill and Cathy is actually super cool about all of this despite her clear crush on him. They joke around and throw food at each other — and are interrupted by Jill coming up to order a chicken sandwich. Cathy pushes him to ask Jill out, and when he does, Jill treats him like he’s joking and walks out. Steven feels complete humiliated, understandably.
Cathy comforts him, they have a moment there in the mess when Cathy removes a piece of lettuce from Steven’s hat and Steven wipes strawberry shake off her face, and suddenly neither of them are laughing and he really wants to kiss her and — then they’re interrupted by a little kid coming up to the counter. [Raven: Can we pause for one second to truly appreciate the following line: “Steven reached over and wiped a spot of strawberry shake off of Cathy’s face. Funny how he’d never noticed how pretty she was—even with that gook on her face.” … … … Pretty sure I know how Steven likes to, ahem, “express his pleasure” with the ladies, folks!]
He’s not there to order food, though, he’s delivering an envelope of letters. Cathy gets all the other letters and starts trying to make them spell a name. Steven gets super sad, because he’s finally figured out how much he likes Cathy and now it’s too late and oh damn, the letters spell Steven Wakefield who could ever have guessed.
And then they kiss and it’s wonderful and there’s a bright light flashing and Elizabeth and Jessica freaking out with joy. They come clean about what they’ve been doing, Rick shows up and fires Cathy and Steven (to their joy, so I guess Cathy’s not so worried about that Europe trip anymore [Dove: Love life > aspirations]), and the Wakefield parents are not only not upset that Steven was fired but find the secret admirer story funny.
Steven, teasing Elizabeth, throws a pea at her and she bats it back across the table with her knife, hitting him in the forehead with the pea. Everyone’s shocked that she could pull this off, and Steven makes her try it again.
This is, of course, a really stupid stunt, so everything is wrapping up into a tidy bow, as usual.
… oooooh, until the Wakefields do some real parenting and refuse to let actual things of value be passed back and forth because of a bet. Things like cameras and show tickets. Steven suggests they buy the tickets, Ned goes along with this plan, and again all is well. But at least there was some parenting!
The Unicorns meet at Janet’s house so Jessica can show them the picture and win; Elizabeth gets delayed by construction and has to take the long way around because we need some more fake tension or something? Because of course she arrives literally as the clock chimes the hour, Jessica talks Janet into taking the money which allows her to lose without losing face, then the Unicorns go upstairs for a meeting.
Elizabeth stays downstairs a moment before going home, trying to catch her breath, and Jill comes in looking for Joe. She sees the picture of Steven and Cathy kissing, and that night calls Steven to ask him out on a study date, because apparently she’s the kind of girl who always wants the guy she can’t have. [Dove: And with great delight I say: goodbye, Jill.]
Just like on Days of Turmoil, Jessica says, which is why she calls it educational TV.
Elizabeth and Jessica are called up to perform during Stupid Stunts and Pea-Pong ends up being an audience delight, of course. And honestly, it’s adorable, especially when at school on Monday, people throw peas at them in the cafeteria in a really fun, sweet, friendly way, and Todd brings them both bouquets of flowers.
OOOOH, looks like the whole Melissa and Andy thing was a setup. Andy’s uncomfortable when people ask him about Melissa and he’s desperately looking for a job and something must be very very wrong, Elizabeth’s WRONGNESS sense is tingling.
I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I really enjoyed this book. It’s adorable and charming, Jessica and Elizabeth are ridiculous and smart and creative, I really like Steven and Cathy, I was shocked by how great Steven and Joe’s friendship ended up being, the Wakefield parents actually parented — it’s fun. It’s cute. I kind of loved it.
What is wrong with me?
[Dove: It’s ok, I liked it too. I thought the plan was surprisingly cute for Sweet Valley. Usually their plans are, “Well, gosh, shall we have a party?” Steven actually had a bit of personality here, and so did Joe. Jill did not, but it was deliberate. Cathy seems like a cool person. I really enjoyed this one. Particularly when Steven thought it was possible he could invite Jill over and they could sit on his stationary motorcycle and imagine they were driving. Bless the little idiot.]
[Raven: This was great fun. I really enjoyed that it was largely from Steven’s point of view. Joe was cool, Cathy was great, and Jessica was her scheming best. But I’ve gotta say, I REALLY loved Elizabeth in this! From her huge outrage at Jessica’s terms of the bet, to her ridiculous stunt practice, to her attempt to flush Jessica’s Johnny Buck tape. She was much better than the Saint Elizabeth we’ve come to know and loathe. She even called Jessica on her bullshit, TWICE! (Once when Jessica was trying to shirk out of continuing Operation Get Rid of Jill, and once when she stood firm when Jess wouldn’t return Steven’s sock-money.) So yeah, GO ELIZABETH! Although I have to say that Pea Pong is fucking ludicrous.]