Title: Three’s a Crowd
Tagline: Why is the twins’ friend Mary suddenly acting like their sister?
Summary: For once, identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield agree on something! Their friend, Mary Giaccio, spends too much time at their house. Mary is a foster child in the Altman family, but she’s acting like part of the Wakefield family.
If there’s one thing Jessica and Elizabeth don’t need, it’s a third twin!
They’re desperate to find some way to discourage Mary. Then Jessica overhears a private talk between her parents about Mary’s future. Now she knows something that could solve the twins’ problem and make Mary happy too. But Elizabeth warns Jessica against spreading her news. Does Jessica have any right to interfere with Mary’s life?
[Wing: NOPE. But she’s going to do so anyway, because she’s Jessica Can’t Take No for an Answer Future Rapist Wakefield.]
Dove wanted me to do this one because it’s apparently about adoption, and I am adopted. So basically, she’s trying to see if Wing Goes Boom enough, will my head literally explode. Let’s find out!
[Dove: Not even read the recap, but given how much Wing hates this series, she will go boom.]
We open with Janet Howell calling a meeting of the Unicorns to order. Of course, they’re sitting at a cafeteria table and not at one of their homes, so it’s not like this elite group of popular girls actually has any privacy or anything! Jessica Wakefield is very attentive, because ever since she’d been asked to join the Unicorns, she’s felt special. Pretty sure you thought yourself special long before you found this mob of bullies.
Requisite bit about how even though Jessica and Elizabeth are identical physically (long blond hair and blue-green eyes, no mention of their hearts of pure ice), they are actually very different, mostly because Elizabeth judges the Unicorns hard for doing exactly what her friends do, which is gossip about their interests and cute boys. It’s just the Unicorns and Elizabeth’s friends have different interests, so clearly the Unicorns are terrible and Elizabeth is wonderful. (*cough* Bullshit. *cough*)
Despite Jessica allegedly being very attentive to this meeting, she’s impatiently tapping her foot and staring at Ellen Riteman, because they were supposed to go shopping after school to buy more purple clothes. Jessica is afraid the meeting will run long enough all the stores will be closed before they can get to the mall. First of all, if all the stores are closed, the mall will close too (unless there is a movie theater or bar or something, and then that particular space will be open, but also, not everything will be closed in that case). How late do you think this meeting is going to run, Jessica? Surely you’ll eventually get kicked out of the building. Or are the Unicorns so special they can stay there until 10 or 11 or, god forbid, midnight? [Raven: It’s close to miiiiid-niiight, and somethin’ purple’s lurkin’ in the da-ah-aaaark…]
Janet has called the meeting because they have to do something about their treasury funds; they can’t sponsor a dance next month on only $13. What exactly have you been spending those dues on, Unicorns?! Lila Fowler wants to sell off old toys, but no one really likes that idea. Mary Giaccio, a seventh grader who has been spending more time with Jessica lately, suggests a celebrity cookbook; they will each write to a movie star and ask for a favorite recipe. Everyone loves that idea, and Jessica volunteers to do the typing, because she has an electric typewriter. OMG that’s precious. Their plan isn’t super logical, though. Do they really think they’ll be able to send letters, get responses, and sell books in time to sponsor the dance that is in a month? The money will be due far earlier than that, even if they do get responses, of which I am skeptical. [Dove: How many times do I have to explain this? Sweet Valley has its own time. A month is precisely as long as anyone needs it to be. A year has as many Halloweens/Christmases/birthdays/etc. as the plot requires — new tag created it its honour.]
Hilariously, Jessica doesn’t actually know how to type, but Elizabeth does, and Jessica is just sure that Elizabeth won’t mind helping the Unicorns “just this once” and might even write Jessica’s letter for her, a letter to Vanessa Brittan, the star of her favorite soap opera.
Jessica does take the time to tell Mary her idea was good, and then to tell us that Mary is a foster child who lives with the Altmans down the street from the Wakefields. She’s new to Sweet Valley, but well liked. Run now, Mary. RUN. NOW.
After she gets home from the mall, Jessica gets a message from Janet (via Elizabeth) because Janet wants to borrow her typewriter to write a letter to Vanessa Brittan, because of course she does. I mean, in no way did they just have a meeting where they could have coordinated all of this or anything.
Jessica then asks if Janet can use Elizabeth’s typewriter and if Elizabeth would mind doing a little typing for the Unicorns. She’s acting all quiet and sweet, because Jessica is a manipulative ass. Elizabeth, of course, agrees to do it, because she is an enabler, and Jessica promises she’ll never ask for another favor again. Considering she hasn’t yet asked Elizabeth to help writer her letter, I bet this lasts less than a day.
After school the next day, Mary ends up coming home with Jessica after school. She suggests they get help from Elizabeth on their letters, but Jessica thinks she’s working on The Sweet Valley Sixers, which is the ridiculous name of the sixth grade newspaper that Elizabeth started and runs. Apparently they’re doing a special issue for career day. Between the dance and career day, I’m not sure which foreshadowing I am supposed to follow. Also, what exactly is Elizabeth going to write about an event that is a month away and everyone already knows about it?
Jessica notices that Mary is wearing her favorite bracelet, a narrow gold and silver band. Everyone always compliments her on it. (I know this because we briefly hop into Mary’s head. Excellent writing, that.)
Mary immediately attaches herself to Mrs Wakefield like a lamprey [Dove: If, like me, you don’t know what a lamprey is, don’t image search it. You’ll never sleep again.], telling her all about the celebrity cookbook idea, until Steven Wakefield barges into the kitchen and starts to mock it, because movie stars don’t cook. Of course, he also points out my question, which is that why in the world would a movie star write to a random sixth grade student. (Of course, between Lila and Bruce and other various rich and connected people, they should actually have other ways of getting content for this book, but who needs logic in Sweet Valley? Hell, isn’t Mr Dennis, from The New Girl, a big director? Haven’t they befriended his daughter, Brooke? Wouldn’t she be good to help?)
Later, Mary and Jessica talk about to whom they’re writing letters; Mary is writing to Brett Savage [Raven: Such a wrestling name.], and Jessica is now going to try Parker Smith, because Janet “stole” Vanessa from her.
They get started on their letters, and work until Elizabeth and Amy Sutton come running into the kitchen, super excited because the school is going to install soda and candy machines in the cafeteria.
Jessica, of course, pops off “Wait till fatso Lois Waller hears this one.”
FUCK OFF INTO THE GODDAMN SEA, JESSICA WAKEFIELD. I know you are but a preteen fictional character, but I hope you fucking burn. You too, ghost writer. And Pascal, for putting your name on this. And the publisher. And the editor — I am just really, really tired of all the fucking shit in Sweet Valley, the terrible treatment that is presented as just the Wakefields being their normal selves.
Elizabeth does tell Jessica she’s not being very nice, but does nothing else about it. Also, they don’t have a reliable source; they only know from Caroline Pearce, who is the biggest gossip in school per the girls, and, of course, writes the gossip column for the paper. Because sixth graders gossiping about each other in every edition certainly can’t go terribly wrong.
Mary lets Mrs Wakefield read her letter (she’s misspelled “recipe”), and Jessica suggests they meet at Mary’s house the next day to work on them more, but Mary keeps coming up with excuses until Jessica agrees to come back to the Wakefield house. In Bleak Valley, this would be Elizabeth tentatively telling herself a child abuse story that doesn’t hit too close to home, because it is about a neighbor and not herself.
Jessica and Elizabeth work on Jessica’s letter, and then Jessica agrees to call Mr Bowman for Elizabeth, because she’s supposed to get information about career day from him, so that Elizabeth will type her letter. Oh, Elizabeth, in what world is this a good idea? You know how flaky (and terrible) Jessica can be.
Career day is the 17th, and the guests will be: David Tower, Consolidated Trucking; June Abraham, Food Industries; Jane Adams, Pet World; John Jenkins, Miller Design; Henry Weir, Jewelry Mart; Gretchen Tyler, Sweet Valley Fashions; and maybe some others, but Jessica can’t find a pencil and therefore doesn’t write anything down, and gets distracted because Gretchen owns the Unicorns’ favorite clothing store in the mall. Also, students must sign up by the 14th. In no way do I see all this information going terribly, terribly wrong.
Jessica immediately calls Lila instead of giving Elizabeth what little information she remembers.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth finishes typing Jessica’s letter, and then basically snogs her typewriter for awhile, because she loves it more than anything. Oh, Elizabeth.
Jessica comes running in, super excited about Gretchen at career day. Elizabeth wants to know all the rest of the details, and Jessica IMMEDIATELY starts messing up the dates and the people, because of course she does. And she can’t believe how well she is remembering everything. This is going to blow up in Elizabeth’s face, she’s going to get mad at and then forgive her sister, and there will be no real repercussions for anything.
After school, Jessica and Mary walk home together, and Mary has to briefly stop by the Altman house to get her letter. Jessica waits outside, and after awhile, Mrs Altman comes out. Jessica starts talking to her about the celebrity letters, but Mrs Altman has no idea what’s going on. When Mary comes out, she calls her “Nancy,” and Jessica thinks it is funny to hear someone call her that.
At the Wakefield house, Mary attaches herself to Mrs Wakefield again, who is cooking dinner (broccoli souffle), which Mary says sounds delicious, and Jessica hates. Mrs Wakefield suggests Mary give Mrs Altman the recipe, because she’s supposed to be a great cook. Jessica wants to know why she’s never been invited over for dinner then, and Mary waves it off, then wants to help Mrs Wakefield. Jessica gets roped in too, even though she hates to cook. When they’re done, Mary sets about washing dishes and cleaning up, and Jessica storms off to the television, grumpy that Mary is doing that instead of hanging out with her.
Back at the school, Elizabeth has finished the paper, and shows off the master sheets to Amy, Mr Bowman, Caroline, and Julie Porter, who is allegedly another of Elizabeth’s best friends, but has been fairly absent of late. [Dove: I’m not even sure Julie exists. She never does anything except be there at lunch when Elizabeth is talking to Amy.] [Raven: None of them exist, Dove. Only Bleak Elizabeth.] [Wing: Raven is so deep.]
Mr Bowman makes sure she’s done a final proofreading pass, and Elizabeth is very proud of what she’s done. He holds her back a moment when they’re done, and tells her that she’s doing a great job as an editor, and he thinks that they have a good chance of winning the Los Angeles Newspaper Guild award for best middle school newspaper. I have my doubts about that, Mr Bowman. Elizabeth is super excited to enter the current edition, and I am bracing myself for the embarrassment to come.
When Elizabeth gets home, she tells her mother all about it, and then says that she’s staying late at school the next day because Amy and Julie are throwing a surprise birthday party for Mr Bowman, because Caroline found out he’s turning 27. I have so, so, so many issues with that statement. [Raven: Great, now I’m picturing Elizabeth singing “Happy Birthday, Mr Bowman” a la Marilyn Monroe. My head is squicked.]
That night, Jessica tells Elizabeth that Janet is coming over to use the typewriter, but Elizabeth took it to school to use in the newspaper office, and won’t be able to bring it home in time. Jessica decides to pick it up and bring it home herself.
She runs into Mary on the way to Mr Bowman’s office the next day, and Mary is really happy to see her. Mary basically invites herself over (again), even though Jessica hesitates. It’s not until they get the typewriter home that Jessica realizes she never asked Elizabeth how to use it. Hmmm. Elizabeth loves it more than anything, Jessica is terrible, I wonder where this is going…
Not only does Janet show up while Jessica is trying to figure it out, but she brings Betsy Gordon and Tamara Chase, who are both seventh grade Unicorns. Jessica lies and tells Janet just to plug it in and type. When Janet asks for her help, she says she jammed her finger in gym class because that fatty Lois ran into her. The Unicorns all laugh, except Janet, but not because she’s a decent human being. She’s worried that Jessica won’t be able to type up the recipes. I hope you all burn.
Mrs Wakefield comes home, Mary rushes to help her bring in groceries, Jessica gets angry that Mary is paying so much attention to Mrs Wakefield and never invites Jessica over to her house, or out shopping or to the movies.
And then, Janet completely messes up Elizabeth’s beloved typewriter. SHOCKING.
Elizabeth comes home furious in the middle of this, but she’s not (yet) mad about the typewriter. Oh, no, she’s mad about all the messed up details in the career day article. She has to completely retype the paper (oh my god, I remember how much work middle school newspapers were before we used a ton of computers). Elizabeth immediately forgives her, though, and actually says it’s a good thing Jessica brought the typewriter home, because the deadline for the competition entry is tomorrow.
GEE, I WONDER IF PERHAPS SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED TO THE TYPEWRITER.
Except Mary comes in and salvages the thing by fixing it. OH MARY. They want to know where she learned to fix typewriters, and hell, when she learned to type. OH MARY. Jessica thinks that she’s really a mystery, and she doesn’t understand why Mary keeps things like being able to type a secret. DUN DUN DUUUUUUH.
Oh, wait, no, not that. I’m still to ragey over the fat shaming to be interested in any mystery, much less a non-entity like this.
The next day, Mary invites herself over again, but Jessica says that she’s going over to Ellen’s. When Mary looks upset, Jessica wonders if she’s just feeling left out, and invites her to join them, but she goes home instead. This confirms Jessica’s suspicions that Mary only wants to hang out with her to spend time with Mrs Wakefield.
Jessica asks Ellen if Mary ever comes over, and she does sometimes, but she never hangs out with Ellen’s mother.
Mary runs into Elizabeth after school (I assume after she ran into Jessica), and offers to help her type next time, if she needs it, because she’s pretty good. They talk on the way home, and then Elizabeth invites her inside.
Mary craned her neck. “Looks like your mom is home,” she said.
“You want to come in for a minute?” said Elizabeth.
“Sure,” said Mary. She followed Elizabeth through the back door.
And thus the Wakefields were slaughtered in their own beds later that night. END SERIES.
Jessica finds Mary in the kitchen when she gets home. Mary says that Elizabeth invited her in for awhile, but Elizabeth has gone upstairs to take a nap, and Mary has been hanging out with Mrs Wakefield, helping with dinner. And yes, it is a little weird that Mary only wants to hang out with her (and Mary is being super obvious), but she’s also clearly going through some things at home, what with being a foster kid and all. Cut her some fucking slack, Jessica. Except that will never happen, because all that matters is what Jessica wants (Jessica gets). [Dove: Also, I find it more weird that a twelve year old needs a nap at around four pm after a regular day at school.]
Wash, rinse, repeat the next afternoon, too. Jessica is grumpy with her. Mary reads her letter to Mrs Wakefield, until Steven appears to once again be an ass about the idea. (This is totally believable and not actually terrible for an older brother, though.) He eats a bunch of food, bickers with Jessica, and Jessica wants to know why no one is paying attention to her. JESUS FUCK, JESSICA IS THE CENTER OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE ISN’T SHE?
Mrs Wakefield tells Mary about how she met Mr Wakefield (who never really shows up as much more than a name), and Jessica is pissy over that, too. Mrs Wakefield is pulled away by a client phone call, leaving the kids alone together. Mary goes to get the typewriter from Elizabeth’s room, and when she gets back, asks if Elizabeth likes horses because she has pictures of them everywhere. Yes, and their parents are going to let her start taking riding lessons in a few weeks. OH. THERE YOU ARE ACTUAL FORESHADOWING. That’s the next book, right? It is. And oh, wait, is this not the adoption book Dove wanted me to read? We switched book order at one point, and I am now so confused as to which book she was talking about at the time. They all blur into one terrible mess for me.
ANYWAY, Mary has gossip about Lila, who might be getting a horse, because her father just up and offered to buy her one. Mrs Wakefield comes back, and Mary wants to hear the rest of the story. Jessica meanly asks how her parents met, and Mary admits she’s not sure. Mrs Wakefield quickly covers the awkwardness by talking about Mary’s letter. Mary heads home, but not before Mrs Wakefield invites her to stay for dinner. When she can’t that night, they make plans for her to come to dinner the next night, and Jessica is, as always, angry at someone else getting attention.
That night she stews over it, until she comes up with the perfect excuse to keep Mary from coming to dinner (without hurting her feelings, because Mary is a Unicorn, so of course her feelings even sort of matter).
Her “great” idea is to pretend to have a stomach virus and be very sick, and Mary suggests she not come over all by herself. Jessica is super pleased by this.
She gets home to an empty house, or at least a house where no one answers when she calls out. She vaguely starts cleaning her room (which is a mess of clothes, albums, hair bands, and cookie crumbs everywhere — I hope you get bugs, Wakefield. Flesh-eating bugs.)
Elizabeth runs in asking if she’s okay because Mary told her Jessica was sick. Jessica is about to say she feels much better, but OH, there is Mary right behind Elizabeth. Apparently, Elizabeth invited her over to bake cookies, and it is just a shame Jessica feels too bad to have any. I’m glad this backfired on you, Jessica. I wish it was real fire.
A few days later, Elizabeth and Amy sit on the cafeteria stage after school so they can talk about career day. Amy’s intrigued by the number of lights above the stage. Elizabeth is focusing on distributing their work (Amy is going to report on Weird, Abraham, and Jenkins). Amy gossips about Mr Bowman’s new tie, because she thinks he has a girlfriend he’s keeping a secret from them. First, way to be heterocentric. Maybe he has a boyfriend, or a gender queer partner, etc. Second, why the fuck do you care so much about your teachers’ social lives?! [Raven: I dunno, I quite like the inappropriate wonderings about such nonsense. I remember seeing my teacher in a supermarket when I was age 10 or so and being astounded that she had to buy food like normal people.]
Lois lumbers up to them, shifts her weight foot to foot, asks about the candy machines, because SHE’S FAT YOU GUYS OH MY GOD SHE’S FAT AND FATTIES LUMBER AND HAUL THEIR WEIGHT AROUND AND ONLY CARE ABOUT JUNK FOOD AMIRITE [Dove: Yeah, everyone else walks, but Lois lumbers. Also, read this series and point to a single book where none of the Wakefield kids eat a tonne of junk food. It’s impossible. But they’re slender, so it’s cool that they have burgers, ice cream sundaes, donuts, waffles, pancakes, etc. every single day. Lois should only eat broccoli, until she learns not to lumber. Fuck you, Sweet Valley.]
I hate everyone involved in making this book, this series, this world, and I hope you all burn.
They ask the math teacher when they’re being installed, and she laughs at their joke. Looks like Caroline might have made a mistake. Elizabeth invites them over to her house where there is plenty of good stuff to eat, unless Steven ate it all. Now see, Steven’s appetite is treated as a healthy teenage boy eating a ton. Lois is the fatty fat fat who only eats because she’s fucking fat. BURN. EVERYTHING.
They run into Mary on the way, and Elizabeth invites her over, too. This is going to go well, I’m sure.
Jessica gets home from Lila’s just in time from dinner; she’s been avoiding having Mary come over by spending all her time at Lila’s and Ellen’s. Mr Wakefield is, for once, around, and asks what everyone did with their day. When Elizabeth says she had Mary (and Amy and Lois) over, Jessica gets exasperated at her. Steven teases Jessica of being jealous about Mary spending time with her family. Jessica is furious, because no one else sees that Mary only wants to spend time with Mrs Wakefield.
Of course, Elizabeth feels guilty that she’s upset her sister, because Elizabeth never feels anything but guilt and/or forgiveness for Jessica for any long amount of time.
Later that night, Elizabeth and Jessica talk about what has Jessica so annoyed. Jessica gets pissy again when Elizabeth dares ask if she’s sure about how Mary is treating them, because Jessica can’t handle it when anyone questions anything she’s said. Fuck off into the sea, Jessica. Elizabeth says that maybe Mary wishes she had a mother like theirs, and Jessica snaps that there’s nothing wrong with Mrs Altman, Mary can be satisfied with her. That’s not really the same thing, Jessica, now is it?
Amy and Elizabeth hang out with Mr Bowman, so Elizabeth can ask about the newspaper guild results (nothing yet), and Amy can oh-so-subtly take looks other people’s grades (Lila has a D on her essay). Way to keep those grades confidential, Mr Bowman. Faaaaaail. [Raven: Another stellar performance by the teaching staff at Sweet Valley Middle School, folks.]
Mary finds them, asks if Elizabeth is going home, and Elizabeth invites her over.
Jessica gets home to find an envelope addressed to her. Inside is a large, signed black and white glossy of Parker Smith and a typewritten letter.
“Dear Jessica, Thank you for your nice letter. Your celebrity cookbook sounds like a fabulous idea. I’m enclosing Van’s and my favorite recipe for sweet ‘n’ sour barbecued ribs. Good luck with your cookbook. Love, Parker. P.S. Being married to Vanessa is heavenly.”
Okay, that is kind of an adorable response letter, though I am super surprised his people actually wrote back to her. Jessica immediately takes it over to show Lila.
Elizabeth, Mary, and Amy get to the Wakefield house right after Jessica leaves, conveniently. Up in Elizabeth’s room, she shows them a tiny gold locket with a picture of a horse inside. It belonged to Mrs Wakefield as a kid, and she gave it to Elizabeth. (The horse is just a picture Mrs Wakefield found in a magazine, not one she owned. [Dove: Fucking fail. Lockets are for things that are real in your life.] [Raven: Who made Dove the Commissioner of the Locket Police?] [Wing: Obviously Dove herself.]) Mary tells them that Lila might be getting a horse, which surprises Elizabeth because she didn’t know Lila liked horses. Elizabeth, don’t you pretty much hate Lila? Why would you know what she likes, beyond boys and clothes, for which you judge her constantly?
Mrs Wakefield comes home, Mary offers to help her cook, and Elizabeth writes it off as Mary just liking to cook. But when Elizabeth sees her helping Mrs Wakefield weed the garden, she realizes Jessica is right, because no one likes weeding. That’s not entirely true, I know plenty of gardeners who enjoy the process, but I’m guessing few preteens and teens like to weed. (I don’t garden at all. Black thumb, like my evil, black heart.)
Mary and Amy are gone before Jessica gets home (convenient), and Jessica is super excited to try Parker and Vanessa’s favorite recipe that night. Probably should have stayed home and showed it to your mother then, JESSICA.
Elizabeth tells Jessica that their mom and Mary already made something, and Jessica demands to know if she finally noticed that Mary follows their mother everywhere. Of course, Elizabeth actually has noticed it now. Elizabeth doesn’t actually admit to it, but wants to know why it bothers Jessica so much when she wasn’t even there. Jessica says she doesn’t want to share her mother, especially when Mary has a perfectly good foster mother who cares about her. She doesn’t want Mary even coming to the house anymore.
Are you fucking kidding me, Jessica? Even leaving of all the nuances of the foster family and Mary’s history, how fucking selfish do you have to be to not want to share your parents with other people? I mean, obviously I have siblings (also adopted), so I am used to sharing my parents’ attention, but also, when I was their age and all through high school, my parents (particularly my mother, because my dad was a truck driver for a long time and not home a lot) casually took in my friends, all the time. Everyone was welcome, everyone called her mom, everyone turned up for her funeral because she still meant so much to them. And I still have a couple friends from back then whose parents are like parents to me. Not to mention, my family basically adopts every friend I bring home to this day, including Dove. So this selfishness over not wanting to share your parents makes absolutely no sense to me at all.
Elizabeth points out that Mary means no harm, but Jessica throws enough of a fit that Elizabeth agrees not to invite her over. Because of fucking course she does. Goddamnit, twins. I hate you.
In Mr Bowman’s class the next day, the newspaper staff is hard at work doing things for career day, like making advertising posters and coordinating sign-up booths. UMM. Both of those things sound like they should be done already! [Dove: *smirks* Ah, America. Advertising for mandatory things. If this was in England, there would be a quick announcement in assembly. If you missed that, then tough luck.]
They get a letter from the newspaper guild, because of course they have been chosen as a finalist. They have to submit another current issue for the judges’ consideration. How fucking convenient for a brand new paper to be receiving such attention.
After school, Mary tries to invite herself over, but Elizabeth makes up a (transparent) excuse about having too much homework. Mary seems hurt, Elizabeth realizes that saying no to her isn’t going to be easy, I set things on fire. Now, no, there’s no reason they have to invite Mary over every day. But Elizabeth is once again giving in to whatever Jessica wants even when she knows it’s the wrong thing to do, and they are being assholes to Mary for no reason. Mary is a fucking Unicorn. I thought Jessica was bending over backward to give them whatever they want.
The next day, Elizabeth’s excuse is she has to work on the paper, and Mary is terribly hurt, but she tells Elizabeth she hopes the paper wins. A few days later, Mary approaches her for a third time, and Elizabeth resents Jessica for putting her in this position. She decides to be truthful with Mary, and tells her that they noticed Mary only wants to spend time with Mrs Wakefield. Mary bursts into tears and runs off. Way to go, Elizabeth. Way to be a bag of dicks.
That night, Elizabeth tells Jessica about how miserable Mary is, and Jessica double downs on not caring. Mary’s a fucking Unicorn, right? I realize I keep coming back to this, but I thought Jessica did anything for her Unicorns! What the fuck is even happening right now, ghostwriter?
At a special Unicorn meeting to discuss the cookbook, Jessica realizes she feels sorry for Mary too. I am going to set you on fucking fire, Wakefield. They talk about Jessica typing up the recipes, which she’s already forgotten she promised to do. At first she thinks she’ll be fine because Elizabeth will be able to help her, but then she realizes Elizabeth will be busy with the newspaper, and she’s on her own. Jessica wishes that she and Mary were friends again, because Mary could type them all easily.
JESSICA. FUCKING. WAKEFIELD. YOU GIANT BAG OF DICKS.
Mary approaches Jessica after the meeting and gives her the gold and silver bracelet that Mary always wears and loves. She apologizes for any misunderstanding, and says she wants to be friends again.
Is … is this book about to go suicide attempt? Because that’s exactly what this fucking looks like. [Raven: Not the first time I thought such a thing…]
I’m guessing no, but that is the first place I went after everything.
Mary invites Jessica over to have dinner, and Jessica goes. Elizabeth is, of course, surprised to learn about it when she gets home, and waits to talk to her sister. Jessica shows off the bracelet, and says they’ve completely made up.
Career Day finally runs around. Jessica is freaking out because she lost her beige sandals, and she begs to borrow Elizabeth’s. WHICH ELIZABETH IS FUCKING WEARING. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, BOOK? ARE YOU LITERALLY HAVING HER TAKE THE SHOES OFF HER FEET FOR HER SISTER, AGAIN? MORE THAN ONCE? THIS IS A THING THAT HAPPENS? [Raven: I actually hope this becomes a running joke in the series. Partly because it’s so heavy-handed it verges on the bizarre, but mostly to see if Wing ever runs out of Caps.]
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THE WAKEFIELDS?! [Dove: My first thought would be: they’re breathing.]
Elizabeth goes around taking careful notes all throughout career day, because she is trying so hard to win the contest. And that would be a fun storyline for me (who was involved with newspapers and journals throughout all my schooling), but I hate everyone and everything, so.
Later, Jessica and Mary sit down to type up the recipes. Some of the celebrities apparently sent more than one, and the girls also found recipes in fan magazines and newspapers. I am shocked.
Mrs Wakefield comes home, but Mary has stopped following her around. Mrs Wakefield says Elizabeth left the final ditto master downstairs for them to look at. I am not 100% solid on what that is, but based on other things I know about publishing, this is possibly the final copy from which they will run off all other copies, which means that if anything happens to it, Elizabeth will be screwed. Please tell me this is not what’s happening. Fucking hell, Elizabeth, what were you thinking?!
Sure enough, Jessica spills grape juice across the article about Gretchen’s presentation. Of fucking course she does. Of. fucking. course. [Raven: I’m pretty sure Mr Nydick has spilled worse on the twins’ homework a few times.] [Wing: And this is why we keep getting flagged as a suspicious website, y’all.]
They frantically try to clean it up, but the majority of the article is impossible to read. Mary suggests they come clean to Elizabeth immediately, but Jessica instead wants to write a new article (a few paragraphs of it at least) and type it up on the extra ditto masters they have for the cookbook.
Immediately, Jessica starts making changes to things like the headline. Also, neither Mary nor Jessica can fucking spell. This is going really, really well, obviously. They even include Parker Smith’s recipe for bbq ribs, because of course they do.
Jessica runs the new page downstairs, and when she comes back up, Mary is talking to her mother about the recipe book. There’s a moment of uncomfortable silence between Mary and Jessica when they get back to Jessica’s room, but then Mary asks Jessica to read her the recipes while she types, and Jessica’s doubts are forgotten.
That night, Jessica overhears Mr Wakefield telling Mrs Wakefield that he had a call from Mrs Altman about adopting Mary. UMMM. Since she was calling you for legal advice, you should probably not be telling anyone this, not even your wife, and especially not when someone else might overhear. WTF, Wakefields. [Dove: Also: WHAT FUCKING DISCIPLINE OF LAW DOES NED FUCKING PRACTICE? Give it time, he’ll do family, property zoning, criminal, and probably all the others as required. This is not what lawyers do.]
Jessica is super excited about this, because if Mary has a mother of her own, she’ll leave Mrs Wakefield alone. Jessica rushes to tell Elizabeth about it. She’s also going to tell Lila and Ellen, and suggests they throw Mary an adoption party, but Elizabeth warns her to wait, because what if something goes wrong (Why would it? They’re perfect parents, Jessica argues) or what if Mary wants to tell everyone herself (Why would she? Jessica argues, and she couldn’t tell everyone herself anyway). FUCK. OFF. INTO. THE. SEA.
Look. LOOK. While being adopted is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing anyone should feel pressured to hide (and not something parents should keep a secret from their kids), it is Mary’s decision who she tells about what and when and where and how and why. NOT JESSICA FUCKING WAKEFIELD’S.
That fucking night, Jessica very carefully adds a line to Caroline’s gossip column: This just in! Mary Giaccio, Sweet Valley’s most popular foster girl, is about to be adopted!
JESSICA FUCKING WAKEFIELD I HOPE YOU FUCKING BURN.
The day the newspaper comes out, Elizabeth dresses really nicely, because she wants to look her prettiest. Never mind how often she mocks the Unicorns for caring about fashion so much.
Jessica and Elizabeth walk to school together, and Jessica shows off the cookbook recipes to Janet, who is very impressed by how they’re done. Jessica demurs that she had a little help from Mary. Really. Did you. A little help, huh? She also hints about some news in Caroline’s gossip column.
After lunch, Amy, Julie, and Caroline meet to staple the newspapers. They, of course, immediately notice the changes. They think the Mary bit is good, but are confused by the bbq ribs recipe.
Elizabeth sees a copy of the paper after all the others have been distributed, and she goes to “wring someone’s neck.” Except no, because you’ll forgive her immediately and she will learn nothing from any of this.
When a bunch of Unicorns approach Mary to congratulate her, Mary says that Mrs Altman isn’t her mother, and then bursts into tears and rushes away.
Janet says that she should be grateful that someone wants her, and FUCK YOU JANET I HOPE YOU FUCKING BURN TOO. ALL THE FUCKING UNICORNS CAN FUCKING BURN.
This idea that adopted kids, foster kids, are “lucky” that someone wants them, that someone has “saved” them is so much fucking bullshit. I am so angry I don’t even have words for this shit. [Dove: Also, plenty of foster kids do not need or want to be adopted.]
Elizabeth and Mary have a quick talk, and Mary says she doesn’t know where her mother is, but she knows she’s looking for Mary; apparently, Mary’s parents got divorced when she was four, and her mom decided to move them to California. They ran out of money in Kansas, and her mom met Annie. Her grandmother in Florida got very sick about six months in, Mary’s mom left her with Annie while she went to check on the grandmother, and that’s the last time Mary saw her. Annie told Mary she died and took her to California. One day she left and never came back. Then Mary ended up in a children’s home, followed by a string of foster homes.
By the time Jessica gets home, Elizabeth has talked herself out of being angry, because of course she fucking has, since she and Jessica have so much to be grateful for compared to Mary. Mother fucking fucking everything fucking burn what the fucking fuck.
They talk about Mary calmly, and then get into a fight about the changed article. I am replicating it here in full, because I am still so angry I can’t even write words well.
“But this is the issue I’m submitting to the newspaper competition,” Elizabeth said. “I can’t turn it in like this. The whole thing will have to be redone. It’s full of spelling errors, and it has this ridiculous recipe.”
“That happens to be Parker Smith’s personal barbecue recipe,” Jessica replied in a huffy voice. “I thought it was a good idea.”
“It wasn’t,” Elizabeth said. She could feel herself getting angry again. “What gives you the right to change someone’s work, anyway?” she said. “Did you ever stop to think that maybe I might not like what you did? Or that I might look like a fool in front of my friends or Mr. Bowman? Did you even ask me if you could do that?”
Jessica’s eyes narrowed. “I wouldn’t be so critical if I were you,” she said. “You should be happy I tried to fix your story. It sounds much better now.”
“I never wanted it fixed in the first place,” said Elizabeth. She stood up angrily. “Next time you decide to do someone a favor, Jess,” she said, “make sure it’s not me.” She ran inside and slammed the door.
Jessica sat back down with a thud. Her sister had some nerve! How was that for gratitude? She kicked the tree trunk and frowned.
Mary and the Altmans talk about what she wants. Mary says she cares about them a lot, but she can’t agree to being adopted. They are hurt, but appreciate her honesty.
When Elizabeth tries to fix the article, Mr Bowman actually praises Jessica’s writing voice, which hurts Elizabeth’s feelings. (He doesn’t know it was Jessica, of course, because god forbid anyone ever tell an adult about the shit Jessica pulls.) [Raven: Mixed feelings here. On the one hand, Jessica’s whole “we can re-write the article” schtick just made her look like an idiot, and not her usual Evil Genius self. I found that to be rather annoying. However, I do like the fact that her efforts were praised as being part of a “fresh voice”, becuase as readers we KNOW the rewrite was awful, which means if that pile of crap is being lauded then maybe Elizabeth is actually awful too. And if THAT’S the case, it makes the whole “well done Elizabeth, the paper has won a prize” storyline come over as more of an invented teacher-led attaboy for Elizabeth and her cronies. Mr Bowman knows he can’t enter the Wakefield drivel into an actual competition, so invents one instead. Everyone’s special, everyone gets a gold star! And the paper is quietly shredded to make mache giraffes in the fifth-grade art class.]
Mary then talks to Elizabeth about how Jessica was just trying to help fix things, and she meant well, and blah blah blah. You know what would have been actually fixing things? Telling Elizabeth they spilled the grape juice and helping her fix her article the way she wanted. FUCK.
Mary is going to be moved on to another foster home in northern California since she doesn’t want to be adopted, because the Altmans do want to adopt, and another foster kid can be there in her place. She doesn’t want to leave them, and they don’t want her to go, but the welfare agency is forcing it to happen. This is all really so fucked up. [Dove: Yeah, no, that’s not how it works at all. Fostering is not a rent-before-you-buy scheme (although sometimes it turns out that way), it’s an entirely separate entity to adoption. You do not foster someone with the hope of adopting them, generally you are fostering while their home life stabilises, or you might get long-term foster kids, but it is not the step between being childless and adopting. If the Altmans have a spot open for a foster kid, Mary has filled it, it’s just tough titty that she said no to being adopted.]
Elizabeth is waiting for Amy after school (she got detention for doing a backflip in the library), when she sees her mother walking up to the school. Only it’s not her mother, it’s a woman who looks quite like her! GEE I WONDER WHERE THIS IS GOING. I AM FUCKING DONE. [Raven: So much yup. They can shove their neat little bows up their arse.]
The woman walks home with them, and they tell her all about Mary, because no one in Sweet Valley has fucking learned about stranger danger. The woman doesn’t want them to tell Mary she’s there; Elizabeth asks if her name is Annie, because of course that is where Elizabeth’s brain went, not to the logical place as to why Mary attached herself to Mrs Wakefield so hard core.
Sure enough, it’s Mary’s mother, and Elizabeth talks her into actually seeing her daughter, because of course she does. They have a tearful, loving reunion, and I can’t even give a fuck because I’m too furious at all the bullshit Jessica Wakefield has done in this book with no fucking repercussions.
Basically, Annie changed their names and ran off. Recently, Annie was arrested for shoplifting, and when they ran her background, they discovered her real name and that she was wanted for kidnapping charges. A police officer thought to check the state welfare agency for the changed name, found Mary, and then Mary’s mother is on her way. Jessica has to give that bracelet back to Mary, because Mary’s mother gave it to her and she never remembered.
Mary and her mother go to meet the Altmans. There’s a lot of talk about “real” mother in here, which is why Dove wanted me to recap this, I’m sure, but I’ve already gone boom too much to say a lot here except that blood /= real, and if you think it does, and that is the only way to be a family, you’re as fucked as Jessica Wakefield.
Amy, Elizabeth, and Julie look through Mr Bowman’s grade book, because they are bags of dicks. Apparently Lila has been lying about her test grades, and it’s based on those lies that her father has promised her a horse, which Elizabeth acts like she’s never heard before, even though Mary flat out told her a few chapters ago. Who needs continuity in Sweet Valley?
Mary is getting ready to move out of her locker, because she’s heading to a new school soon. Elizabeth and friends help her, and Mary is super sad that she’s having to leave Sweet Valley now, but she doesn’t want to bother her mother about it. Elizabeth offers to talk to Mrs Wakefield and have her talk to Mary’s mother, and sure enough, it looks like things are going to work out.
The Unicorns sell their recipe books and everyone wants them. Mary and her mother are staying with the Altmans until they find a new place to live, and he’s going to help her mother find a job. The Sweet Valley Sixers win the newspaper contest, and Elizabeth gives Jessica credit for that article (they are coauthors on it). Jessica is super excited to be a writer now, though a few books ago, she refused to help with the newspaper at all. Again, who needs continuity in Sweet Valley?
Jessica and Lila talk about Lila’s new horse, and Lila is surprised to learn how much work it is. Jessica tells her to call Elizabeth for more information, and feels weird that Lila doesn’t seem to care about horses much even though she says she wants one. Guess we’ll find out in the next book what goes wrong here.
Everything is terrible, and I want to burn Sweet Valley to the ground.
[Raven: Big bag o’ meh, this one. I properly hated the Deus Ex Mamachina. Although I did enjoy witnessing Wing’s piecemeal sweary meltdown slowly insinuate itself throughout the recap. One thing I have to mention, Wing… you constantly demand that the Wakefields both burst into flames and get in the fucking sea. In a very real sense, this achieves nothing.] [Wing: Not if I both burn the land and boil the sea.]