Title: The New Girl
Tagline: How can twin sisters cause triple trouble? Answer: By kidnapping a classmate and forcing them to undergo radical plastic surgery for the purposes of a joke? Pretty sure Amy would do it willingly.
Summary: Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield don’t always agree on things – until Brooke Dennis arrives at Sweet Valley.
Both twins agree that she’s horrible. She snaps at everyone who tries to be nice to her and she’s constantly saying mean things to people.
To yet even with Brooke, the twins invent a third look-alike sister whom they call Jennifer. Pretty soon all of Sweet Valley Middle School is in on the plan. But then Elizabeth discovers the real reason why Brooke is so mean. Suddenly, the plan to get revenge doesn’t seem like such a good idea.
Can Elizabeth stop her classmates from playing the ultimate joke before Brooke’s heart gets broken?
The New Girl. What an impressively awful title. And the cover? A frowning brunette points at a smirking blonde. Inspired.
I’m already disappointed in this book, and I’ve not even opened it.
Welcome, gentle reader, to the wonderful world of the Wakefield Twins. A world in which Elizabeth Wakefield (our brave little soldier) and Jessica Wakefield (Satan’s Go-To-Gal for mayhem) blithely swim towards a self-absorbed oblivion. Whenever they’re together, we raise the roof with huzzahs, as the fun is always doubled!
But is doubled fun enough?
What if we could triple the fun…?!
Gee Willikers, I’m excited! I trust you are too!
Let’s turn the proverbial page, and bang on…
We open on Jessibeth going through the ol’ homework routine. Jessica is given the choice between mastering a difficult cheer and doing her book report. As usual, she puts her evil machinating mind to a subpar use and cajoles the services of her sweet idiotic sister. Elizabeth, bless her naïve heart, tries to barter with darkness and offers to help for a reciprocal action: she needs Jessica’s aid in obtaining a Sweet Valley Sixers interview with the New Girl Brooke Dennis. But before we find the answer to Liz’s dilemma, we have a plethora of the usual “these girls are not the same” sentences for which this series is renowned.
“Jessica loves being popular, fashion, and boys. Elizabeth despises most of humanity, wears a sack, and is a raging lesbanim.”
“Jessica is a Great Old One, spawned in the fires of bile that spew forth from the putrescent cadavers of a million dead innocents. Elizabeth likes horses.”
“The Wakefield Twins look alike, but they are different as a baby hedgehog and Robert Mugabe.”
“Elizabeth is great at something, and something else. Jessica, however, prefers a third thing, and even a fourth! Imagine the hilarity. Seriously, imagine it.”
Aaaand, we’re back in the room.
Once she realises the price of a plagiarised book report, Jessica balks. She has no intention of parlaying with the likes of “Disgusting Dennis.”
“Disgusting Dennis” is NOT a good name for the horrible Brooke Dennis. The dictionary definition of disgusting is “causing disgust; offensive to the physical, moral, or aesthetic taste.” At most, Brooke Dennis is appalling. Maybe awful. Certainly annoying. “Disgusting” sounds so… so… moist.
I offer the following alternative names for your delectation:
Or, if you’re not attached to the surname Dennis, I present an A-Z of Better Names:
Bag O’ Dicks Devine
Evil Elvis [Dove: Sorry, nope. Evil Elizabeth is the title of Super Chiller #9.] [Wing: Dove is just being argumentative because she hates Elvis.]
Fucknuts Farage [Dove: Isn’t that Farage’s first name already?] [Raven: I think his actual first name is Jizzwhiskers.]
Hitler with Hairspray
I think I’ve lost it. That’s actually much more difficult that I thought.
For the recap, Brooke is officially “Bag O’ Dicks Dennis.”
We learn that Jessica hates the New Girl On Campus, denouncing her as the nastiest person she’s ever met, which, coming from one of the premier Unigibbons, is high praise indeed. In kicking the beloved dog Sally (in the previous book), Bag O’ Dicks Dennis has cemented her fate as Public Enemy Number One in the eyes of Sweet Valley’s Resident Sociopath, who is apparently immune to the effects of irony when you consider her own animal cruelty mere days before.
Once she has decided that the moral toll is too high a price to pay to purloin a plagiarised book report, Jessica vows the following:
Jessica’s eyes flashed. “Disgusting Dennis is finished all right. I’m going to make sure that none of my friends have anything to do with her. And once that happens she might as well march right back to finishing school, because she’ll be all washed up here!”
After a few pitiful arguments, Damp Dishcloth Elizabeth Wakefield sets aside her reservations and falls in line with Jessica’s view.
Back at the Wakefield Compound, the twins are raiding the fridge when elder brother Steven enters the fray, doing his best cowboy impression. We’re then subjected to a cringe-worthy display of sibling banter shop-dressed with cowboy cliches. I almost expected Woody from Toy Story to request that everyone reach for the sky. Instead, Steven blathers on about cakes; Mother Wakefield has bought some to proffer to Daddy Dennis, who is apparently a hot-shot screenwriter and darling of Hollywood. Alice Wakefield has landed the interior design job of decorating Chez Dennis, and is eager to cement the deal with illicit extramarital sex. (Sorry, my finger slipped. Lemon meringue pie.) [Wing: Don’t forget the weird tickling between Steven and Jessica bringing the requisite incest vibe.]
In order to hammer home the deal and progress the plot (such as it is), the Elder Wakefields have invited Mr Dennis and his irritated daughter to attend an after-dinner Pie Party at the Wakefield Compound that very evening. As you’d expect, this sets Jessica’s eyes a-flashing once more, something they do so often that Jessica could use them to power a major Lithuanian city for nine days straight. And when Steven casually remarks that no-one important ever comes to live in Sweet Valley (fuck you, world-famous magician Marvellous Marvin [Dove: Also, future books wherein Johnny Buck, Donny Diamond, an entire movie crew, Coco, some other cute actor, a pro football player, Delores Duffay, and pretty much every famous person the twins are interested in, would like a word.]), Mother Wakefield informs her goon of a son that Mr Dennis is none other than the screenwriter behind Steven’s favourite movie… Car Capers.
What in the BLUE FUCK is the writer smoking here? Fucking CAR CAPERS?! Not only is that the worst title for a film the world has ever seen, it’s also quite possibly the worst coupling of words in the history of language. It’s the most terrible two-word phrase since we paired Bill with Cosby, Jimmy with Savile or Mister with Nydick.
Car Capers?! I weep for humanity.
Here are some alternative whimsical car-based movie names that are all INFINITELY better that Car Capers, all of which sound perfect for a fourteen-year-old idiot…
Wish Upon A Car
Hell, even the word CAR by itself is a better movie title that bloody CAR CAPERS.
CAR CAPERS! Fuck my hat, that’s bad.
Also, Mr Dennis:
Despite Mr Dennis’s ridiculous claim to fame, Jessica is nonplussed. She’s got Brooke’s number, and nothing as silly as Brooke’s father writing a famous film will convince her to go easy on Bag O’ Dicks Dennis. She informs her rapt family about just how many dicks are inside Bag O’ Dicks Dennis, about how Bag O’ Dicks Dennis kicked our canine friend Sally so damned hard the poor dog bounced off an upright but was still good for three points, about the time when Bag O’ Dicks Dennis punched a baby seal in the face so hard that it turned inside out. Unfortunately for Jessica, no one would listen.
Even Steven (heh) tries talking her off the ledge, but Jessica’s mind is set.
… Jessica couldn’t help wondering why everyone was defending Brooke, even before meeting her. “Just you wait,” she told her mother and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, makes an internal vow not to judge Bag O’ Dicks Dennis by the… erm… by the quality of fabric that makes up the bag in which the dicks are stored. Or something.
One issue: Mother Wakefield is (un)surprisingly quiet, once she’s informed her mewling crotch-rats of the evening’s planned Dennis-athon. Throughout Jessica’s story of dog-hoofing, and her solemn vow to fuck shit up for Bag O’ Dicks Dennis, Alice says and does three quarts of sod all. Why bother with parenting when there’s crack to be smoked, right Alice?
That evening, pre-Dennis, the twins are again proving their differences. Elizabeth is studying hard, while Jessica practices her insipid cheer, in which she runs the “Gimme-An-X” routine to spell our SWEET VICTORY. Does this writer not know how humans communicate?
“Gimme an N!”
“Gimme a D!”
“What have you got?”
“Both Teams Fought Valiantly But Our Overall Superiority In The Attacking Third Of The Court Meant We Ran Out As Comfortable Winners In The End!”
“Wooo! Yaaay! ‘Murica!”
[Wing: I love when the Brits get going on the weirdness of school spirit.] [Raven: We hate everyone and everything.]
Basking In the redolent glow of a well-actioned cheergasm, Jessica makes plans to skip the “revolting” after-dinner Pie Party with the Dennises that evening, predictably feigning an upset stomach. And sure enough, the bell rings, and Jessica flees to her Powderpuff Fortress of Solitude.
In stroll the Dennises, and as the pleasantries are dispensed, it becomes clear that Bag O’ Dicks Dennis will be living up to her nickname in grand style. She blocks every conversation starter, declares that she doesn’t like food based on its proximity to her old home, and even has the temerity to badmouth Johnny Buck (which, to be fair, is an admirable stance [Dove: Brooke, too, despises “rock stars” that start concerts at 3pm.]). At first, Elizabeth overlooks Brooke’s rudeness, attributing it to loneliness, but as the evening wears on, this even-tempered outlook starts wearing thin.
By the end of the evening, Bag O’ Dicks Dennis has angrily snapped at everyone. Jessica, keen to have her suspicions confirmed, probes her sister for the details.
“I’ll have to admit you were right,” Elizabeth confessed. “Brooke Dennis is the rudest person I’ve ever met.”
Elizabeth, the voice of reason, has joined the Dark Side. They have cookies, after all.
Jessibeth are tasked with accompanying Bag O’ Dicks Dennis to school the following day. After a quick argument, in which Elizabeth foreshadows her newfound love of all things equine in perfect time for an upcoming book. Clop clop neigh horseys! [Dove: Clop?] [Raven: *Purses lips and makes the horse noise*]
Jessica mentions the work she has done for Sweet Valley Middle School’s upcoming “silly old book fair”, in the form of a kickass Nancy Drew poster. She ushers her sister from the room, determined to find a non-stomach-achey way to avoid accompanying a Bag O’ Dicks to school under the gimlet gaze of the towering Eye of Unigibbon. [Dove: I find it amazing that Jessica can read. Also, of course she loves Nancy Drew. The only one I ever read involved Nancy being kidnapped by smugglers, and thrown out of a plane. Thankfully, her dad was flying underneath the plane for completely and utterly unconnected reasons and caught her. #SoundsLegit #SweetValleyLuck]
[Wing: You hush your mouth, Dove. Nancy Drew books are marvelous wonders of ridiculousness and joy.]
[Dove: Quick aside from the Doven (Dove/Raven, get it?) household:
Dove: How can she like Nancy Drew but not Sweet Valley, it’s the same thing!
Raven: Ah, it’s like you said, they get you at a young age…
Dove: You like it. AND YOU’RE 42!
Raven: Actually, I’m 43.]
The next morning starts with yet more inane banter, in which Elizabeth loans Jessica her hair ribbon while trying to cajole her into walking to school with BO’DD. Predictably, Jessica has a plan of avoidance: she insists her father drive her to school as she couldn’t possibly carry her big Nancy Drew poster all by herself. And again, predictably, Daddy Wakefield capitulates immediately.
Both Steven and Elizabeth applaud Jessica’s chutzpah, and the perfect Alice Wakefield breezes out of the house with a half-hearted “Go Team Wakefield” attaboy. This leaves Elizabeth to face Trial By Bag O’ Dicks alone.
I’m roughly 2,000 words into this recap now. And this is my third attempt at writing it; I deleted the first two around this point, because I wasn’t happy with what I’d written.
To be honest, I nearly deleted THIS draft too, a little earlier. Why? Because it was meandering. Happily, I tweaked a few things and cut a few more, and produced a workable dirge with a few fun lines.
I’ve been thinking on why this recap was so tricky to begin, and so flabby at first draft stage. And here’s what I think is the issue.
In this book, until this point, NOTHING FUCKING HAPPENS.
Up until this point, which is Page 20% on my Kindle, the book has been EXCLUSIVELY Twin-does-homework-and-banters, Boy-Wakefeld-eats-sandwich, Elder-Wakefield-talks-about-bollocks, Writer-foreshadows-horses. The single half-page of movement, when the Dennises come for Pie and Pomposity, was handled in snippets and half-scenes. Heaven forbid we miss a second of Jessica doing a fucking cartwheel.
I mention this now, because overall I do like this book. I think the story works, and Brooke Dennis is genuinely nuanced. I have issues, sure, but the plot is believable and inventive, and the action builds well.
So I thought at this point, I should draw a line in the sand. I plant my flag, and declare my distaste for the book thus far.
But don’t worry. Things improve.
As soon as Bag O’ Dicks Dennis appears, things go south. Elizabeth tries her best, but every attempt at pleasant conversation is batted away with the lazy precision of a tired cat attacking a ball of yarn. Even the most innocuous of questions is treated with contempt…
“Hi Brooke,” Elizabeth said. “Do you have skin?”
Brooke snorted. “Get fucked, you twinny bellend.”
NOTE: the above is not a real quote. It is an Alternative Quote, which is, in a very real sense, a real quote.
[Dove: “Get fucked, you twinny bellend” is now my favourite insult.]
Soon, the pair descend into a sullen silence. If only the writer would do the same. (Apologies. That was cheap.)
At school, Elizabeth stumbles into Amy Sutton and July Porter, her compatriots at Sweet Valley Sixers. Bag O’ Dicks Dennis shoots down their attempts at friendship, as you’d expect, and then makes her position clear regarding possible friendships. Amy gives as good as she gets (Go Team Peripheral Character!), and Bag O’ Dicks Dennis glides away with a vow that she won’t be at Sweet Valley Middle School for long.
Thankfully for Elizabeth, her timetable does not gel with Bag O’ Dicks. Jessica, however, has no such luck. In Social Studies, BO’DD is seated next to Flakey Wakey, and the banter flies hard and fast. It’s apparent that Brooke and Jessica will not be the best of friends until at least the penultimate chapter.
Suddenly, the air is (Caroline) pierced with a shriek!
Charlie Cashman has surreptitiously twanged an elastic band onto the unsuspecting neck of Sweet Valley’s resident gossip, Caroline Pearce. As with all such pranks, it passes unnoticed before the teacher Mrs Arnette. The Hairnet offers succour to the injured Pearce, and inquires as to what the problem could be.
In steps Bag O’ Dicks Dennis.
With a flourish reminiscent of a Victorian detective, she spills the metaphorical beans on the whole debacle, before fingering the twangy gangster for the idiot he is.
The whole room was suddenly dead silent. Even Mrs Arnette seemed shocked. … The entire class, with one exception, thought tattletales were the lowest form of humanity.
Well, that explains how Mr Nydick got away with it for so long.
Mrs Arnett punishes Charlie, but the real story is BO’DD’s betrayal of the Schoolchildren’s Code of Conduct.
In this book, Brooke Dennis is horrible. She does some horrible things.
However, in this book, Brooke Dennis does some things that are deemed horrible, which are in fact completely acceptable.
Being a tattletale? I’m an old man, so I think what she does here is fine. It’s not yet Prison Rules in Sweet Valley Middle School. Charlie ain’t gonna cut a snitch. However, I concede that, from a twelve-year-old’s viewpoint, BO’DD’s action here isn’t quite cricket.
So, her score so far?
Acceptable Acts: 0 – Dick Moves: 1
In her next class, Jessica is happy to discover she’s sat nowhere near BO’DD. She bonds with an injured Lila Fowler over plans to humiliate the Evil Dennis, and their cackling almost eclipses the great lesson plan: Mr Bowman has decreed that, instead of reading in English (the very thought!), the students can work on their posters for the book fair.
Naturally, everyone crowds around Jessica’s superlative Nancy Drew poster. It seems that Jessica is actually talented in the art department. Jessica preens over the attention from her peers. Her poster is badass, and she knows it.
Mr Bowman decrees that, as the New Girl, Bag O’ Dicks Dennis should help Lila with her Charlotte’s Web poster. Naturally, things do not go smoothly. First, goaded by Lila the Irritated Unigibbon, she attempts to “improve” the Charlotte’s Web poster by painting angry jagged lines over it.
Acceptable Acts:0 – Dick Moves: 2.
In doing so – and this is the kicker – she accidentally overturns a jar of blue paint that destroys Jessica’s hard word by turning Nancy Drew into Doctor Manhattan sans massive blue penis.
Jessica is horrified, as are her friends. They turn en masse on BO’DD, and call her out for dickery.
Jessica shook her head and stared at her ruined poster. “Brooke knocked the paint over.”
Instead of apologising, Brooke stunned Jessica by insisting angrily, “I did not.”
Instead of meekly taking ownership of the accident (unlikely), or more believably shouting everyone down and claiming it was “just an accident”, she doubles down and claims Lila Fowler jogged her elbow, thus deflecting the blame.
On hearing this, Lila becomes apoplectic, her face purple with rage. She has ascended to Peak Unicorn.
Mr Bowman, hamstrung by preteen lies, is forced to play peacekeeper and blame no-one. Bag O’ Dicks becomes more hated than ever.
Acceptable Acts: 0 – Dick Moves: 3.
(Maybe my Grand Theory of Brooke Dennis doesn’t stand up to actual scrutiny.)
The anger of the school breaks down all previous social barriers and stigmas. Down is up, black is white, cats and dogs are living together… and the Unigbbons sit with Elizabeth and pals at lunch in order to fill them in on BO’DD’s shenanigans.
Elizabeth is mortified when she hears of Jessica’s misfortune, but in a wholly predictable turn, she puts the maleficence of BO’DD in the Accident Box. As she argues the toss with Lila and her sister, Caroline Pearce arrives with some shocking gossip (shossip).
Bag O’ Dicks Dennis… has told off Bruce Patman!
Flushed with the power of a powerful tale, Caroline informs the thronging masses that Brooke had the temerity – the audacity, even – to lambaste Sweet Valley Middle School’s most eligible sixth-grade rich kid for pushing in front of her in the lunch queue. She called him a jerk and stormed off!
Acceptable Acts: 1 – Dick Moves: 3
Sorry, but I’m with BO’DD here. Bruce Patman is an elevated cleft of a boy, living larger than his privilege can accommodate. Brooke slapped him down with a bit of verbal cut and thrust, and good on her. [Wing: They’re so, so shocked that she would dare yell at someone so rich. Isn’t half the school, or more, also fucking rich? Way to perpetuate classism.]
Then, as the collected preteens look on, the plot thickens…
Here comes BO’DD.
Without so much as a how’s-your-father, the evil Brooke Dennis struts straight into the centre of the group, and plonks herself down in an empty seat to eat her lunch!
The crowd goes WILD.
Amy piles on. Lila piles on. Even The Sainted Elizabeth piles on. And Bag O’ Dicks Dennis stands (sits) her ground.
I love Brooke Dennis here. Her logic is sound – technically, she is allowed to sit where she likes in the lunchroom. But the whole exchange is a massive screw-you, and deliberate thumb in the eye of the entire year.
Is it an Acceptable Act? Probably not. However, I’m giving it to her for the playful glee of the entire exchange.
[Wing: Yes. Yes it is.]
Acceptable Acts: 2 – Dick Moves: 3
Elizabeth is the first to lie to Brooke regarding the chair:
Brooke glared at the fifth chair. “It looks pretty empty to me.”
“Well, it’s not,” said Elizabeth, trying to hold her temper. “We’re saving it.
The throng buy into the tiny lie, and Jessica raises the stakes. Not only is the seat saved, it’s reserved for a mysterious THIRD Wakefield twin: Jennifer.
(Throughout history, there has only been one case of twins being born as a set of three individuals rather than a set of two, and on further inspection they turned out not to be twins after all.)
Brooke’s eyes narrow, and she seems unconvinced, even though The Sainted Elizabeth leaps headlong into the deceit. Jessica uses the distraction to slip away, and returns, in a cunning blue-cardigan-and-bow disguise that would defeat Columbo in his pomp. [Dove: Sacrilege! Nothing would defeat Columbo.]
Lila, ever the Unigibbon, catches onto the scheme immediately. The others follow suit. Conversation is Jennifer this, Jennifer that, Jennifer the other. And Bag O’ Dicks is finally introduced to the softly-spoken Fluttershy-channelling Jessica/Jennifer hybrid.
Jessica turned to Brooke. “Oh yes,” she whispered in her soft voice. “I’m so glad to meet you, Brooke. I just know we’re going to be great friends.”
With a snort and a pithy comment, Bag O’ Dicks collects up her dicks, slides her zip closed and marches off.
The crowd bursts into laughter. They’d got her good!
Lila, Jessica and Amy love the deception, and vow to keep it up in order to put Brooke Dennis in her place. Elizabeth, blessed may she be, is not mentioned specifically in the joyous afterglow of the initial plan, but she’s guilty by association. They spread the jolly jape around the rest of the sixth year, ensuring that everyone greeted any Wakefield Twin dressed in a cardigan with a bow in her hair as Jennifer.
For the rest of the day, everyone does.
[Wing: How the fuck does this not fall apart immediately? Surely a teacher, or an older student, or someone would say something wrong in the hall.]
That afternoon, Brooke and Jennifer strut the halls of Sweet Valley Middle School together.
Brooke confided to Jennifer. “I’m glad it’s going to be just you on the walk home today. No offence, Jennifer, but I don’t like Jessica one bit. If fact, you’re about the only person in this whole school I’d consider talking to.”
At this point, the writer goes onto explain that Jessica, as Jennifer, has been sticking to BO’DD all afternoon, pretending to enjoy her company and listening to her rant. And it has worked: BO’DD has accepted Jennifer as a friend, going so far as to invite her to see a movie that very evening.
Jessica-Jennifer, hereafter known as JessJen, thinks on her feet. She declines the offer with a lie: she’ll be watching her “sister” Jessica in the Booster Squad at the game that evening. BO’DD uses a little passive aggression, and Jessica is forced into inviting her new friend to watch the whole damn shitshow. Yep, she invited Brooke to accompany her in watching herself. Stellar.
While I enjoyed this story overall, there are a few things I hate about this book. This is the biggest.
HOW ON EARTH HAS “JENNIFER” MANAGED TO BEFRIEND BROOKE DENNIS IN A SINGLE AFTERNOON?!
A single afternoon – an afternoon that still isn’t over – that will have, presumably, had lessons in it. Lessons which, presumably, “Jennifer” doesn’t share with Brooke because if they did share a lesson then the teacher would spoil their fun in the first five fucking minutes. I know I’m down on the teaching staff of Sweet Valley Middle School, but they can’t be so vacuous and bereft of brain cells that they’d let a fictitious child pass muster in their classroom. Or perhaps that’s a plot of a later book…
And Brooke Dennis is a complete nightmare! She’s had nothing but vinegar and snark for everyone in the entire school, in every single encounter we’ve seen, INCLUDING HER ONE SPOKEN COMMENT TO JENNIFER, and yet we’re supposed to believe she’s embraced this mysterious girl that is related to the one girl she actively despises? Do the writers believe the readers to be brain-dead? If I’m brain-dead, can I have a teaching post at Sweet Valley Middle School? [Dove: Janet Howell says no. You have a purple tie, this was not sanctioned by the Unicorns. You are black-balled.]
Seriously, this whole embracing of Jennifer needed much more exposition and explanation than it actually received. I am convinced that something has been cut from the narrative here, maybe five or six pages that gave some credence, some believability to the proceedings. Without it, it’s so much bollocks. Enough bollocks to fill an entire bollock-making factory, a bollock-making factory in which the bollock-making machines have been switched to full bollock-making capacity and left to churn out bollock after bollock unimpeded for twenty-eight days straight of frenzied bollock production.
That, you will surely agree, is a lot of bollocks. [Dove: You’ve just said “bollocks” more often than American writers trying to write Brits. Thank you for perpetuating that stereotype. (See V for Vendetta as an example of too many bollocks.)]
[Wing: Too many bollocks in the bag.]
[Raven: Point made, but at least I was bit more creative that just saying “bollocks” as a single word interjection every five lines. And as we know, being creative with bollocks makes everyone happy.]
Before their last lesson of the day, Jessica is forced to embroil the Immaculate Sister Elizabeth into the harebrained scheme. Elizabeth, more than content to observe the horror from the sidelines like some cackling voyeuristic degenerate, is a little less forthcoming when task with getting her manicured fingernails dirty down in the prank trenches, but eventually she capitulates into walking BO’DD home in the guise of LizJenn. Jessica being Jessica, of course, doesn’t elaborate further about her double-booking at the basketball game later that evening.
Ever the pious little asshat, Elizabeth has second thoughts almost immediately.
Elizabeth couldn’t help wondering:
Was anybody really nasty enough to deserve such a dirty trick?
Oh, get fucked, Liz. Grow a spine. Besides, Dick Moves are beating Acceptable Acts 3-2, and numbers don’t lie.
As Brooke and LizJenn head home, they are accosted by Amy. Breathless, she uses veiled language to warn of the approaching Mr Bowman, who was searching for Elizabeth to discuss a Sweet Valley Sixers meeting.
In Brooke’s confusion, LizJenn braces for the teacherly impact as Mr Bowman rounds the corner. Thankfully, Amy deflects his questions by admitting she “got the wrong Wakefield.” Mr Bowman then believes he’s found Jessica instead of Elizabeth, and wanders off.
So much for the teachers having an ounce of sense. I take it all back, maybe the collected staff couldn’t out-think a cupful of dried lichen.
Brooke, bless her naïve little heart, puts the whole thing down to a bout of Twin Magic (or Triplet Mysticism, if you will). Boy, she’ll soon tire of that line of bullshit, I’m sure. [Dove: … is Vince McMahon one of the Jamie Suzanne writers?]
Back at the Wakefield Compound, Jessica breaks the news of the double-booked twintastrophe to Elizabeth. And she isn’t happy. She had second thoughts going into the scheme, and the close call with her favourite teacher had done nothing to assuage her bruised conscience. Jessica, however, is at her scheming best, and promises that the prank would be brief, and that retribution would be swift (and likely fatal).
Elizabeth stares down Jessica’s pocket aces, glancing at the two-seven-off-suit that is her resolve, and folds immediately. One of these days, Jessica is going to convince Elizabeth to steal her mother’s credit card and use it to buy enough anthrax to contaminate the entire town’s water supply, killing everyone in Sweet Valley but the Principal at Sweet Valley Middle School (who obviously drinks nothing but gin).
Once the plan is cast, the twins spend a page-and-a-half discussing types. In a rare moment of self-awareness, Jessica nails her personality to a tree.
Her long lashes lowered, and she smiled almost shyly at her twin. “I could never be as bright, talented, or sweet as you, Liz. What else have I got to care about but being popular and looking good?”
Again, Elizabeth gives her fishing sister exactly what she’s craving. Ring a bell, salivate. Elizabeth is Pavlov’s fucking Dog.
They decide that Jennifer’s single quality, in the eyes of BO’DD, is that she’s not like either of the non-imaginary Wakefield Twins. Thus, she shouldn’t act nor dress like either of them, in order to strengthen the connection with their victim. Stephen, ever eager to oblige his sisters, offers to lend them his clothes in order to give Jennifer a style all of her very own, which could presumably called Teen Musk And Pitstain. Of course, Stephen’s offer is not at all creepy, and in no way will he be spending his Alone Time later that evening deeply sniffing his own sister-tainted rugby shirts while furiously masturbating into a sock.
At the game that evening, many Important Things happen. I’ll now bullet-point them for your convenience and pleasure.
- LizJenn and BO’DD bond.
- LizJenn and BO’DD fall out.
Huge, I’m sure you’ll agree. Taking them one by one…
LizJenn and BO’DD bond
At first, LizJenn is irritated by Brooke’s insistence that basketball is a stupid game for stupid people. Of course, Brooke is correct here.
Although basketball was invented in 1891, it wasn’t until 1892 that anyone thought about putting a hole in the bottom of the basket. Even then, the hole was too small for the ball to fall through and it had to be poked out with a big stick. And when they replaced the basket with a ring and net in 1893 they still didn’t put a hole in it.
Seriously. I’m surprised basketball boots have laces.
Brooke soon moves onto more friendly comments, praising LizJenn on her wardrobe and sharing that she hates her own clothes, as they are picked out for her by a stylist.
LizJenn is torn here, as her new friend is proving to be a little more complex than the evil super-villain the rest of sixth grade are making her out to be. She’s opening up to her new friend, and this vulnerability makes her seem almost human.
LizJenn and BO’DD fall out
During the game, not long after Lila Fowler mentions she’s invited the “triplets” to her upcoming slumber party birthday bash, the home team score and the crowd goes wild. Correction: most of the crowd goes wild… BO’DD remains impassive.
Impassive, that is, until her chosen nemesis Jessica Wakefield overshoots a cartwheel and falls arse-over-tit.
When that happens, Bag O’ Dicks can’t contain her glee.
Elizabeth stopped and stared up at Brooke. She was smiling – a big, broad smile that made it clear she had actually enjoyed watching Jessica fall. Now there was no more small voice telling Elizabeth it was wrong to trick Brooke Dennis.
Before she does anything rash, which for Elizabeth would probably be something like writing a stern letter to her regional ombudsman but never actually posting it, she is stopped by the Slytherin Queen of Sweet Valley Lila Fowler, who urges her to hold her revenge and serve it cold instead. Elizabeth bites the proffered apple, and the die is cast.
Personally, I like this turn of events. The writer begins to humanise Bag O’ Dicks Dennis nicely, giving her good points and bad, boons and flaws. Elizabeth’s warming to her is believable. Good job, Not-Francine-Pascal! [Dove: Jamie Suzanne is the collective name for the fleet of ghosties writing this.] [Raven: Noted.]
That weekend, both LizJenn and JessJenn get some time off: Bag O’ Dicks Dennis is away at a Hollywood screening with her father. They share tales of Brooke Dennis, getting their stories straight so their quarry remains in the dark, unsuspecting of the intrigue that threatens to envelop her. We learn that Brooke still hates Jessica, Brooke also hates Lila and her slumber party birthday, and Brooke also hates the very concept of birthdays and hopes that anyone who ever celebrates a birthday gets stung on the eyeball by an angry hornet.
Elizabeth suddenly remembers: she promised Brooke that she wouldn’t tell anyone about Brooke’s approaching birthday the upcoming Monday. She then tells Jessica. Way to be strong, Elizabeth.
Jessica jumps on the news, realising that Bag O’ Dicks Dennis has discarded her platemail and exposed her fleshy underbelly. Lila, she realised, will be delighted with the news. The con is on, and Brooke Dennis will get her comeuppance on her birthday!
For the next four pages, the Wakefields eat a nice meal at a decent restaurant. I’m going to skip over most of it, because really, who gives a fuck? I will, however, mention that this might be the first time I’ve seen an attempt at actual parenting from the Elder Wakefields. Both inquire about their daughters’ relationship with the New Girl Dennis, ostensibly through genuine interest in their progeny but actually to veil an inquiry into Mr Dennis and the possibility of his taking the interior a design account elsewhere. However, despite their shameless selfishness, they do their best to impart some truth nuggets into the brainpans of Sweet Valley’s Aryan Nation.
From the mouth of Mr Wakefield:
“Girls, I know it isn’t easy to be nice to someone who isn’t nice to you. But, remember, you can’t always tell why people are nasty. Brooke may not be as tough as she seems.”
Nice try, Daddy W. Jessica, however, turns this life lesson to her own advantage, cajoling cash from her father to buy Lila a birthday present. This proves once more that Jessica is destined for prison or politics. My money is on both.
[Wing: Both those paths begin with Jessica the Lawyer. Even Daddy W says so.]
It’s now later that week, and Lila’s slumber party birthday bash is proceeding apace. After some backchat from the help, Lila steers the conversation to the subject of Bag O’ Dicks Dennis. After the inevitable slumber party giggle-fit pillow fight (which would have fuelled Stephen’s Alone Time for months), Jessica recaps the triplet situation to a captive sixth grade audience. They begin brainstorming an appropriate punishment in earnest.
- It has to be “excruciating,” “revolting,” and “humiliating.” [Dove: With those specific words used, I would anticipate some kind of ipecac or laxative-related prank. Of course, nobody in Sweet Valley has bodily functions, so that’s out.]
- It has to be something the whole school can enjoy.
- For Elizabeth, it has to involve Brooke Dennis falling “flat on her face.”
- Jennifer has to be involved in the final prank.
Of course, it’s Jessica that comes up with the fiendish plan, to occur at the approaching Book Fair which is conveniently happening on Brooke’s birthday.
Suddenly, her face lit up with a foxlike grin. “And I think I’ve thought of something so deliciously evil that we’re going to need help from the boys.”
Jerry McAllister takes shop, and Bruce Patman’s father has a millionaire’s basement workshop… what can Jessica have in mind? [Dove: Because, obviously, girls don’t do things that involve tools here.]
I really like how this book frames Jessica as a malevolent creative genius. Violet Beaudelaire ties back her hair and becomes a kickass MacGyver engineer; likewise, Jessica Wakefield’s face lights up and the evil plans are afoot. Again, good job, Not-Francine-Pascal!
The plan? Task the boys to build a collapsible chair for use in the upcoming Book Fair. A chair that could be disguised amongst ordinary chairs… a ninja chair, if you will. A chair that can be reserved for Bag O’ Dicks, who will sit in it and fall over. Huzzah!
Before I discuss the merits of the plan, let’s pour one out for woodshop equality, as that has died and gone to mancave heaven. Why the hell can’t one of the girls build the chair? Afraid of splinters? Admittedly, they claw a little back by saying Jerry is a dab hand at woodwork, and Bruce has both the tools and the inclination for mischief. Of course, Brooke cut him dead in the canteen for cutting the lunch line, so yeah, fuck that hideous witch, right? [Dove: Not even going to go there with the implications of a boy needing to teach a girl a lesson after she called him on his entitlement.]
So, the plan.
I like it. It’s pretty inventive, and pretty mean, and pretty believable. It does seem an “apt” retribution for the perceived slights of Bag O’ Dicks Dennis, and when coupled with the reveal of Jennifer’s non-existence, it should be both humiliating and devastating in equal measure.
The girls plan the logistics of the operation, and Jessica plus entourage go check out the boys in Bruce Patman’s workshop. Jerry has begun work already, and eventually the collapsible chair is ready and tested to ensure it is fit for purpose. Jerry really is a whizz at woodwork, which will likely stand him in good stead if he’s forced to work in the woodshop once he goes to prison.
The chair is a simple affair, with a hinged seat designed to give way under the weight of a seated twelve-year-old. Jerry tests it out, and ends up sandwiched in the frame like a discarded puppet. Chalk one up for the boys. Job done.
The Sixth Valley Gossip Network, likely championed by Caroline Pierce, spreads the news of the upcoming jape to all concerned parties. We do not learn how, but I like to think Elizabeth put some coded Pig Latin cryptic message in the Sweet Valley Sixers.
Jessica, again inspired, devises a delicious twist to the proceedings, both increasing the humiliation and solving the problem of sneaking the trick chair into school: she’d disguise the chair as Jennifer’s Book Fare project, and have BO’DD help carry it!
Of course, despite being the mastermind behind the plan, she passes the buck to Elizabeth regarding the actual tasks. JessJen has no time to accompany Brooke to school with the chair, or sit with Brooke at the Book Fair. It has to be LizJenn doing these things. And, as we now all expect, and as we’ll all come to loathe and resent, Elizabeth wilts into acquiescence.
Throughout this book, Jessica begs Elizabeth to perform a variety of tasks. Each task is a chore to Jessica, and she is simply shirking any and all responsibility, safe in the knowledge that her Sainted Sister will pick up the slack.
I’m irked somewhat that the writer constantly uses variations on the “I’ll never ask you for another thing as long as I live” line, as to me that’s the nuclear button for cajoling a significant other into doing something unpleasant.
My issue is that in overusing this phrase, which is basically stock and pointless and highlighting that Jessica doesn’t follow through and Elizabeth doesn’t call her on it, the writer is making Jessica out to be a proper little responsibility-dodger.
It annoys me so much I’d gladly punch the smirk of Jessica’s blonde and blue-eyed Aryan face. But apparently you can’t punch Nazis any more.
[Wing: It is always appropriate to punch Nazis. Captain America agrees.]
The following day, on the way to school with LizJenn, Brooke helps lug the disguised chair towards her fate. And each step of the way, she displays contempt for Jessica Wakefield, and the now-ruined Nancy Drew poster Jess designed for the Book Fair that afternoon.
According to BO’DD, Jessica is a crybaby.
According to BO’DD, Jessica is an attention seeker.
According to BO’DD, Jessica is a two-faced phony.
As the insults pile on, Elizabeth becomes more and more annoyed. She tries reasoning with Brooke, to no avail. Eventually, she drops the heavy box on Brooke’s foot in a fit of pique. But even as they hand the box to the custodian at the school, Bag O’ Dicks can’t stop being a Bag O’ Dicks. BO’DDs Gotta BO’DD…
Talking about Jennifer’s “project”, Brooke admits she doesn’t have to like it as long as it wins.
“After all, if another Wakefield wins the prize, maybe Jessica will stop hogging the spotlight.”
LizJenn can take no more. Tired of the constant sister-sniping, she snaps back at Bag O’ Dicks in fury. She bares her teeth and snarls, demanding why Brooke cares at all, especially since Brooke didn’t care what anyone at Sweet Valley Middle School thought.
“It matters what you think, Jennifer,” Brooke told her. … “I’d feel sort of proud to watch you win that prize. See you later.” She waved and walked off down the hall.
Elizabeth waved back, wondering why Brooke always made her feel sad and angry at the same time.
No snark here. That was lovely.
After Math(s), Lila and Jessica explain the finer points of the plan to a newly-wavering Elizabeth. The contrast between Bag O’ Dicks and Brooke the Human are beginning to muddy the well. Both Lila and Jessica pile on the peer pressure, claiming that Bag O’ Dicks deserves all she’s getting and more. Elisabeth is caught in a dilemma. She even channels her father’s wisdom (I wonder how many times I’ll say that crock of shit line while recapping this series), but, as you’ve probably guessed, she sides with Jessica in the end.
Poor Jessica. She fell over, and Brooke Dennis smiled. For that, BO’DD must die.
With her resolve now firmly back in place, she is approached by the Girl of the Hour herself. Brooke is looking for Jennifer. Elizabeth, knowing the Jennifer Kit of red cardigan and matching bow is safely stored in her locker, swears she’ll pass on the message to meet BO’DD at lunch.
Sure enough, wearing both cardigan and bow, LizJenn meets Brooke for lunch. Brooke is sat alone, with two silver foil packages on her lunch tray. At Brooke’s request, they go outside to eat lunch, retreating to Brooke’s private area, the hilly lawn behind the school.
As LizJenn enjoys the peaceful surroundings, Brooke opens up. She has the birthday blues, and is feeling down. She presents LizJenn with a foil package: a piece of chocolate birthday cake. Elizabeth is mortified.
Feeling suddenly very embarrassed, [Elizabeth] smiled awkwardly at Brooke. “Gee, what a pretty cake. I love chocolate.”
“I hate it, but Dad didn’t even ask me what kind I wanted. He just phoned in an order to the best bakery in town and had them deliver it this morning.”
As Brooke Dennis opens up her heart, the tears begin to flow.
Her parents are divorced. Her father is always away on business. Her mother doesn’t care about her daughter at all, having chosen a new life with her partner and impending baby.
And the only person who’d wished her a happy birthday was the guy who delivered the cake.
With Brooke’s tears in full effect, Elizabeth takes stock of the situation. She realises that, as her father had said, there is much more to this that meets the eye.
Brooke isn’t a monster. She’s very human, and very alone.
Suddenly Brooke raised her head and looked steadily at Elizabeth. “Do you know what, Jennifer?” she asked, her voice trembling. “You’re the first friend I’ve ever had.”
And Jennifer doesn’t exist at all, Elizabeth thought miserably.
[Wing: We have entered the darkest fucking timeline and it is goddamn heart breaking.]
For the next two pages, Brooke outlines her awful life, and explains why she acts the way she does. It’s a defence mechanism to help her cope with her loneliness. It’s a way to keep everyone at arm’s length, so she can’t be hurt again. She even explains the notorious dog-kicking scene from the previous book, in a way that makes me feel for her even though she kicked a bloody dog.
[Wing: Want to take this moment to point out that Brooke is the anti-Christ for kicking the dog, but JESSICA GOT AWAY WITH ABANDONING THE DOG AND LOSING THE DOG.]
Elizabeth, scorched in the blowtorch beam of Brooke’s intensity, knows she has to call off the prank. Because if she doesn’t, this girl could shatter.
The stakes are mammoth now. She does her best to deflect Brooke from attending the assembly. Brooke, however, is having none of it. As a last resort, Elizabeth claims that crowds make her nervous.
“I hate crowds,” Elizabeth said, desperately trying to keep Brooke from heading for the gym. “What if I win and make a fool of myself in front of all those people?”
“Don’t worry, “Brooke assured her, linking her arm through Elizabeth’s as they walked through the gym door. “If you feel a little scared when you get up to accept the award, just luck back at the audience. You’ll have a friend right up in the front row, cheering for you!”
Right in the feels.
This whole chapter? It got me good.
Is it heavy-handed in places? Sure. The whole “why doesn’t mummy love me?!” schtick can be seen as hackneyed. Yes, Brooke is a little OTT with regards wailing at the sky and gnashing her teeth. And as I’ve mentioned, Brooke’s descent into friendship is a little helter-skelter.
But boy, it builds well, and it works to make Brooke Dennis a sympathetic character while exponentially bolstering the suspense for the proposed prank payoff in the upcoming denouement.
In the small sample size of Sweet Valley Twins books I’ve read thus far, there is a lot of stuff to hate.
But this chapter?
In the gym, Elizabeth springs to action. She’s now firmly aboard the We Love Brooke Dennis train, and knows she has to derail the Prank Express that’s heading her way. Of course, with the entire sixth grade longing for a satisfying conclusion to The Disgrace of BO’DD, she has to move quickly.
First, she tries to steer Brooke to an empty seat. Brooke, however, wants to sit front and centre, in case Jennifer wins a prize. This plays into the hands of the ne’er-do-wells.
LizJenn then suggests an alternate seat, away from the collapsible monstrosity. This avenue of escape is blocked by a speedy Bruce Patman, who dives headlong into the untampered chair. Brooke scoffs and almost ignores him, when Lila Fowler swoops down to claim the final empty spot.
With only two seats left, one of which is the colossal grief-stool, LizJenn is running out of options.
In a last ditch effort, Elizabeth claims the rigged chair with some force. Brooke, surprised, acquiesces with a smile.
So in steps Jessica. Sweet Valley’s very own Lucifer.
Determined to see the pantomime play itself out, she shows her true shape and pulls a stroke of manipulative genius.
Quickly, Jessica told Brooke the one thing that she knew would make her get in the booby-trapped chair. “I’m sorry,” she said in a loud, firm tone. “Neither of you can sit in that chair.” She put her hand over the seat of the chair, knowing Brooke would then insist on sitting there. “It’s reserved.”
A cynical masterstroke, showing Jessica’s low and conniving grasp of human nature. And it works like a dream. Brooke Dennis claims the “forbidden” collapsible chair for herself.
“This is still a public school,” she scolded, all the resentment back in her face and voice. “No one can push you and me around, Jennifer.”
So, the trap is sprung. The chair is straining, and Brooke is doomed.
We move to the prizegiving. Jessica, with no poster to enter into the proceedings due to Brooke’s earlier indiscretion, is tasked with awarding a special prize.
The prize for Most Entitled Sixth Grade Sociopath goes to…
Surprise sur-fucking-prize. Jessica wins a contest for Best Poster without even entering a damn poster into the contest.
To be fair, this is actually fine. The Nancy Drew poster was presented to us as a fine piece of work, and Jessica had worked hard on its creation and was justifiably proud. She shown aptitude and resolve, and its destruction wasn’t through anything of her own making. So chalk one up for Team Evil, and give Jessica a gold star from me.
The crowd seem pleased by this Random Act of Kindness. Elizabeth, of course, is majorly stoked for her sister, stands and applauds. Surprisingly, Brooke does too, showing genuine happiness for Jessica’s success.
Clapping with everyone else, Brooke exchanged happy grins with Elizabeth. “Maybe now Jessica won’t be so mad at me,” she said. “I’m really glad, Jen.”
The applause subsides.
Brooke Dennis sits down.
This is another great section. Elizabeth’s frantic attempts to steer Brooke away from the inevitable are well paced and dynamic. Everyone gets involved in the deceit, so the blame is correctly apportioned. And Jessica pulls the final twist that cements Brooke’s fate.
But for me, the nicest thing about this section? Brooke’s genuine friendship for Jennifer. It’s not displayed in the grand revelation of the scheme, or in her interaction with the assembled sixth graders. It’s little things, in the phrasing.
“No one can push you and me around, Jennifer.”
“I’m really glad, Jen.”
Beautiful, simple choices of words that capture the growing friendship perfectly.
Poor Brooke. She’s no longer alone. She’s happy for once.
And it only lasts for seconds.
With a sickening crack, the chair gives way. Brooke Dennis, compelled by gravity, collapses through the seat and pretzels up in panic.
There is a hideous, pendulous silence.
Then the laughter starts.
Titters and squeaks at first, growing into laughter and full-blown guffaws.
Brooke, aghast, now understands Jennifer’s strange behaviour over their seating mere minutes before. She’s been betrayed. Betrayed by her only friend.
Brooke is strong, despite this setback. She’s been friendless before, she’ll be friendless again. She can cope. It’s be hard, and she’ll be lonely, but whatever. Shoulders back. Eyes blazing.
The glare glazes. The shell hardens. Brooke Dennis transforms once more into a Bag O’ Dicks.
Openly crying, she points the Fabled Finger of Blame at a distraught Elizabeth.
“It was Jennifer.” Her old anger was back. “She did this to me. It’s all her fault.”
The assembled children double their cackling, delighted at this further humiliation.
The true number of Wakefield Girls is revealed by a confused teacher. With a glacial slowness, Brooke finally understands the depth of the “triplet” deception.
Faced with this second wave of derision, she crumples. Her resolve cracks, her soul withers.
“How could you?” she asked, whirling to face the laughing students around her. “How could you?” At last she turned to face Elizabeth, who stood with her head bent, too ashamed to look Brooke in the face.
Defeated and humiliated, Brooke flees.
Another awesome section, largely thanks to the fine build-up that preceded it.
Brooke’s Fall is complete, believable, and harrowing. Her descend towards oblivion, framed as it is in the Sweet Valley universe, has real depth of emotion. She’s built up as a nuanced and complex character that is hated at first but vulnerable where it matters.
The prank is large, and the reaction is genuine. It’s a full-on Sissy Spasek Carrie moment, and I loved it.
Good job, Not-Francine-Pascal!
It seems as though I’m praising this book more than is expected of me. We’re here to snark, yes? Not to praise? If that’s the case, I apologise for stepping out of my remit. But hey, I call things as I see them. I gotta be me.
[Wing: Hey, when you see things to praise, you should praise. Theoretically, we’re here to snark with love. I just don’t usually feel the love. The last few scenes, though, are pretty damn great. Raven is right.] [Raven: Glad I’m not alone in this.]
Nevertheless, the rest of the book is business as usual. The standard drops, as do my expectations.
Don’t touch that dial. Normal service will be resumed once more.
Elizabeth, determined to make amends, tracks Distraught Dennis to her lonely lunch spot from earlier that day. In her ham-fisted but well-meaning way, she tries to make amends for the cataclysm of shit the sixth grade rained down on Brooke’s head.
Predictably, Brooke isn’t buying it. But there’s a change to her. Instead of her usual prickly derision and angular bravado, Brooke is attending her own Pity Party. Frankly, after the horrors that afternoon, I can hardly blame her.
Elizabeth offers the olive branch, and Brooke slaps it away. Good on you, you sad little Bag O’ Dicks.
Back at the Wakefield Compound, Elizabeth and Jessica are in trouble. The Elder Wakefields, spurred on by a call from Elder Dennis, were furious. Well, they were Sweet Valley’s version of furious, which appears to be nothing more than a detached perturbation.
“I thought that you two had outgrown foolish look-alike games. Especially ones that hurt others.” Mrs Wakefield said in a gentle, sad voice.
Oh, Alice, you sweet summer child. It’s book six of 189.
Both Elizabeth and Jessica wish to make amends. They wish they could take it all back, and become actual friends with BO’DD. Blah Blah Blah Blah. Sorry girls, you’ve been absolute asshats. That ship has sailed long ago.
But, as the girls repent their sins before their incredulous elders, young Steven comes up with a plan that’s so bizarre, so asinine, so Steven, that it just might work.
In order to prove to Brooke they are genuine about being friends, they should both go to her house to apologise. Both dressed as Jennifer Wakefield.
Good one, Steven. Stellar idea. In no way is this a ruse to get a final hit of the old Wakefield Sister scent onto your seedy rugby shirts, in order to fuel your perverted lusts and have you tugging like a chimp into a discarded flannel.
The twins agree with the plan. They let the whole school in on the action, and summon the now-repentant sixth grade to the Wakefield Compound in order to throw Brooke a surprise birthday party. Getting Brooke to attend would be difficult, but the Elder Wakefields promise to force Elder Dennis to drag her screaming through the streets.
Party planning starts in earnest. Cakes are baked – not chocolate – and decorations are hung. Mary Giaccio helps by clinging to Mummy Wakefield like a lovesick limpet, which nicely seeds the action for the next book.
With the house dressed and the party ready to start, there’s only one thing missing… Bag O’ Dicks Dennis. And unfortunately for the twins, it seems like Brooke isn’t interested in making up.
Again, good on you, Brooke. Keep them sweating. They were terrible, and deserve it.
Elizabeth, however, channels Mr Nydick and refuses to take no for an answer. She grabs Jessica, and they set off to fetch the guest of honour. On the way, they do two things:
- They collect Sally the dog from Mrs Bramble, and
- They dress themselves, and Sally, as Jennifer Wakefield, with bows in their hair.
What the hell?!
I mean, I sort of understand taking the dog. Kicking Sally was the catalyst that started this entire clusterfuck, and there was some waffle earlier about Brooke’s mum having show dogs or something. But why dress the dog as Jennifer Wakefield? Do I have to start calling the dog SallJenn now?
The Wakefields are weirdos.
After so much good work, the book has descended into farce once again.
I’m going to race through the rest as, quite frankly, it’s awful and I have places to be. And this recap is almost as long as the book it’s recapping, which, like a pervert in an elevator, is wrong on a number of levels.
Also, the text is back to making me lose the will to live. So there’s that.
In the incredibly unsatisfying denouement to this book, a number of things are achieved. Tackling them in order:
Brooke Dennis Forgives Everyone
In a highly predictable turn of events, the Let’s-All-Be-Jennifer-Yes-Even-The-Dog plan actually fucking works. I hate this plan, as it makes no sense at all. But what really annoys me is that Brooke’s forgiveness, a little like her earlier speedy friendship with Jennifer, is done and dusted far too quickly. After such a horrible prank, and beautifully-handled collapse, it’s such a waste to have Brooke climb aboard the Wakefield Love Bus at the first opportunity. Hell, she even manages to joke about what happened before the ringing laughter in the pit of her soul has faded to blackness.
“OK, Jessica,” she said. “Just as long as Daddy can come too. And,” she added, winking, “if you promise I get a real chair to sit in!”
The Dennis Family Issues Are Resolved
In the face of Brooke’s humiliation and reconciliation, Mr Dennis realises he’s been partly to blame for his daughter’s predicament. If she is a Bag O’ Dicks, her father is at the very least a Pouch O’ Gonads. The Elder Wakefields step in and take charge, letting Mr Dennis know exactly how things should be going forward. The whole Why-Did-Mommy-Leave-Us thing is wrapped up with a neat bow, and everything promises to be wonderful for Brooke once more.
Sweet Valley: California’s Rug. Sweep Your Troubles Under It. Don’t Let The Existential Dread Set In! Don’t Let It Set In.
The Party Is A Success
The sixth grade rallies round their new friend. The no-chocolate (notolate) cake is consumed, Happy Birthday is sung, candles are extinguished, wishes are made. And in the melee, Brooke demonstrates her newfound ability to actually talk to her father about how she feels: she tells him she’d like to make her own wardrobe choices from now on, opting for comfort rather than style. She want to dress like her first friend, Jennifer. Mr Dennis accepts the terms with grace. Which leads us to the best news of the day…
Steven Wakefield Refreshes His Wank Bank
From the back of the room, Stephen offered to help. “Until you trade in those designer clothes, Brooke, maybe Jennifer’s wardrobe would come in handy.” He whirled around like a model, displaying the red cardigan he had lent the twins for their triplets trick. “You can borrow my sweaters anytime.”
Never change, Steven Wakefield. Never fucking change.
As you’ve no doubt surmised, gentle reader, I really enjoyed this book. Sure there were things I hated, most notably the speed of Brooke and Jennifer’s easy friendship, but the story was fun and the characters were well rounded. And Bag O’ Dicks Dennis was awesome. Mostly.
Two recaps down. Two books I enjoyed.
I’m supposed to hate these, aren’t I?
Am I doing this right?
[Dove: I’m so glad it’s not just me. I know Wing hates them, but for some reason I do love them. I think possibly Raven had the appropriate prep for this: he read Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series, and this seems like the American counterpart for that. As for the book, I enjoyed this too. Once again, Raven’s book this month is my favourite of the three.]
[Wing: I think Dove has hypnotised Raven into compliance. Possibly with boobs.]
[Raven: … … boobs.]
Looking back at things I’ve enjoyed, and smashing them to pieces with the Snark-Hammer. Lover of games of every stripe and hue. NOT A REAL BIRD.