Sweet Valley Twins #70: Psychic Sisters
Title: Psychic Sisters
Tagline: Can Jessica and Elizabeth really read each other’s minds? [Raven: Nope!]
Summary: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are so different, it’s sometimes hard to believe they are twins—until the day they discover that they can read each other’s minds! When their friends hear about the twins’ special talent, they convince them to be the star performers in the forthcoming school talent show.
But one morning the twins wake up to discover that their gift is gone. Now Jessica and Elizabeth must work out how to convince people that they are still psychic. Otherwise, they’ll be the laughing-stocks of the entire school!
From the above synopsis, I did not expect great things.
“Oooh! Mind reading! How exciting! SPECIAL TWIN POWERS! That’s so cool!” Meh. I’ve no truck with such mumbo-jumbo, which I’ll get into later in the recap. Either way, nothing here smacked me on the ass with the Excitement Kipper.
Also, this cover? All very Big Train Staring Contest.
[Dove: I wasn’t excited about the premise of this book. But honestly, that might be because the spine of the book is silver (like the Super Editions) but the cover is pink (like the regular series) and little things like that really piss me off (as evidenced by the anger I have towards the cover of Jessica’s Bad Idea). It’s not the book’s fault the outside is imperfect, but I have issues.]
“Jessica,” Mr. Wakefield whispered. “Are you awake?”
With superhuman effort, Jessica Wakefield managed to lift the lid of one eye, and saw her father peering down at her. She tried to speak, but she was too sleepy.
Papa Wakefield’s Rohypnol kicking in, I see. Sorry, Rithigohithigipnol.
[Wing: Why? Why must you go back to that? You hate it more than any of us and yet here we are.]
Of course, there’s no such salaciousness here. The twins are sleeping in the living-room, in sleeping bags, while their father watches television. Standard.
Papa W switches off the TV and heads to bed.
Next morning, we skip to Steven’s POV, as he waits in the living room for his sisters to wake. It’s eleven o’clock, and our heroines are still asleep, so Steven can’t watch the Basketball. At the same time, Steven hears that Mama Wakefield is on the phone, trying to book a 328-person convention hall in the Washington room of the Regent Hotel. That means Steven can’t even have phone sex with his friend Joe Howell.
Poor Steven! I guess it’s wanking for you. Again.
Mama Wakefield presumably bellows more details of the black-tie event, over and over, as it appears she’s dealing with a complete gimmer on the other end of the phone line. Poor Alice has to repeat herself over and over, which must make a change from seeing double through a gin-addled fugue state.
Fugue State: NOT to be confused with a Fugee State. A Fugee State can hit you whether you’re ready or not.
Jessica stirs, but remains out of it, as Alice continues wittering on about her planned orgy. The idiot on the phone suggests the date be the 28th, rather than the preferred 15th. Whatevs. Steven ponders the nature of twindom, by comparing the twins in a time-honoured yet fresh way.
Steven looked at [the twins] and began to laugh. His sisters looked even more identical in their sleep than they did when they were awake. They both had light-blue nightgowns, messy blond hair, and were sleeping with their mouths open.
To be fair, that beats the usual blond hair, blue eyes and dimples in their left cheeks…
But they were easy to tell apart when they were awake. They had completely different personalities and interests. Jessica was part of a club of gossipy girls called the Unicorns. Elizabeth and Steven both thought they were pretty silly. Elizabeth spent most of her time working on the sixth-grade newspaper, which Steven and Jessica both thought was kind of boring.
The usual crap, sure, but presented in an innovative way. Interesting. Maybe this book won’t be too bad after all…? [Dove: I gave major kudos for: a) the way Steven sided with each sister about how the other twin was wasting their life; and b) that he thinks The Sixers is boring.] [Wing: Steven hates everything, basically.]
Steven then kicks Elizabeth, and she finally wakes. THE BOOK CAN BEGIN!
Apparently, this weird in-house campout isn’t some horrendous cabin fever due to the realities of life in the Compound. It was actually Jessica and Elizabeth’s attempt to watch a Teen Movie Marathon through the small hours of the previous night. Sadly for all involved, the twins didn’t make it very far. Neither made the Surprise Teen Feature, and neither held out for the Teen Movie Trivia Quiz. Jessica suggests that she’d have smashed the quiz because she’s psychic, which is a pointless comment because you can be as psychic as you like but you’ll never win a thing if you’re fucking asleep.
So. Complete failure all round. Glad to see the Wakefields unsuccessful for once. Although it’s so early in the proceedings that we’re sure to have the twins on top of the fucking world again before the end of this recap.
Alice FINALLY ends her interminable coke-and-hooker-fondue-party-planning phone call as the girls stagger into the kitchen for a late breakfast. Their food of choice? Corny-O’s.
Both Jessica and Elizabeth consider it strange that they both woke and craved the same brand of sugary cereal anus. Elizabeth suggests that she too might be psychic.
Later that day, Steven discovers he father asleep in the living room. Strange, as it’s usually Alice who gets busted for sleeping in the daytime. Papa Wakefield wakes, and confesses he randomly stayed up and watched the Teen Movie Marathon special feature: a French Revolution piece starring Johnny Buck. He also confesses that he gave up near the end, after being overwhelmed by the amount of commercials… mostly for Corny-O’s.
The beginning of this book, and thus the beginning of this recap, seems full of random useless facts. I mean, who in the fuck cares about Alice’s 328-person black tie dinner in the Washington Room of the Regent Hotel? Or that Ned watched a Johnny Buck film about the French Revolution?
Then we get the reveal about Ned watching a crapton of Corny-O’s commercials as his supple and pliant teen daughters lay sleeping at his feet.
Aaaaah. So THAT’S where this is going. The twins have subliminally absorbed a lot of fatutos guff through osmosis as they have slept, and the fun will come as their simultaneous regurgitation of these factoids convinces them that they have paranormal powers.
I’ve gotta admit, that’s kind of cool. And it’s being handled pretty sweetly by the ghostie too.
Intrigued, and enjoying it so far.
[Wing: It’s subtler than I expected from the ghostie, and it actually fits, because we often get random pointless facts about the Wakefields that pad out the story, so this is nothing new. (And possibly some readers may or may not be skimming at this point in some of the books because it’s generally a repeat of what’s come before. Not that anyone would do that. *cough*)]
It’s school the next day, and it appears that nobody in the sixth grade managed to stay awake for the Teen Movie Marathon. Pfft, lightweights. In this class of slumbering morons, Freddy Krueger would have a field day.
Talk turns to an upcoming School Talent Show, for which the winners receive season tickets to the LA Lions soccer games. First up:
A quick Wiki search shows me there are currently TWO LA Soccer teams (LA Galaxy and Los Angeles FC), and a bunch of older teams (Los Angeles Wolves, Los Angeles Aztecs, California Surf, Los Angeles Kickers and more). None of these are Lions. Also, soccer in the US was largely non-existent between 1984 and 1996.
[Wing: Yeah, I’m shocked that’s the prize and that people are excited about it.]
Jessica is very excited to enter the Talent Show.
“Yeah,” Jessica said excitedly. “I’m definitely going to enter the show.”
Elizabeth shot her a surprised look. “I thought you said you didn’t have any talent that people would pay to see.” [Wing: I don’t know, I’d pay to see her murder people.]
“That was yesterday,” Jessica responded. “I’m feeling more self-confident today. I’m just going to have to figure out what my talent is. I’ve still got a few days before the deadline to sign up.” Suddenly her eyebrows shot up. “Hey! Maybe we can do our pea-pong routine.”
To be fair, I laughed too. Pea Pong!
The twins quickly nix the pea pong idea, and Amy tells them that she’s going to do a tumbling routine to music. Apparently. Ellen Ritemen is going to be the main attraction, showcasing her singing. Unfortunately for Ellen, it seems like she’s actually complete horseshit. She’s top billing because her mother is in charge of the show. [Dove: *sulks* Can Ellen be awesome, just once please?]
Next, the twins and Amy discuss their upcoming Social Studies project. A book falls from Amy’s bag to initiate the scene.
“It’s for social studies,” Amy explained, taking the book from Elizabeth. “For the research paper we were assigned last week. I thought I’d do mine on the early-American settlers. What are you guys going to write about?”
“The French Revolution,” Jessica and Elizabeth answered at exactly the same time.
They turned to stare at each other in surprise.
“That’s strange. What made you pick the French Revolution?” Elizabeth asked.
Jessica shrugged. “I have no idea. I never thought about it before in my life. But I woke up this morning with the idea.”
“That’s kind of spooky,” Elizabeth said. “I woke up thinking about it too.”
And there we have it! The three girls are all slightly spooked, and the die is cast.
“We’re psychic!” Jessica said, feeling a little flicker of excitement in her stomach. “We’re definitely psychic.”
Fight. In the words of the great Johnny Storm… FLAME ON.
Psychics are SO MUCH BULLSHIT.
Psychics, Mediums, ESP, talking to the dead. I hate it with a passion.
There’s a place for it in fiction, of course. Because it’s FICTION. So a book like this is fun, especially if it continues the way I expect, with the whole psychic thing being debunked through the narrative. Hell, even books that play the psychic phenomena straight are fine. I can suspend disbelief for Carrie and friends without issue.
But such mummery and quackery in real life? Where “practitioners” of the paranormal arts convince vulnerable people that yes, Uncle Jeff really can pass on messages from the Other Side, and he’s here now, and he’s in a better place, and he loves you Barbara, that’ll be twenty pounds please?
That shit can FUCK RIGHT OFF.
Who in the HELL do these FUCKSTICKS think they are, exploiting the grieving by diluting ACTUAL BONA FIDE memories they have of their departed loved ones with steaming jets of vacuous piss? Practitioners say they provide a service, that their place is to help people come to terms with loss, but that’s mere weak justification of their mercenary actions.
Fuck John Edward, fuck Allison DuBois, fuck Uri Geller, fuck Derek Acorah, and fuck fuck FUCK Doris fucking Stokes.
[Dove: Add to that people like Ed and Lorraine Warren, anyone of their ilk and definitely anyone who indulged the Amityville bullshit – I love the way people of colour are to blame because two white morons overestimated how much they could afford to pay for a house. And, further, that this bullshit enabled a multiple murderer to say “Yeah, the Native American spirits made me kill everyone.”
I have a story about psychics. My dad died when I was 9, and I was dragged to a psychic to make sure that I could say goodbye or whatever. The “psychic” saw my age, my mother’s age, and took a swing and a miss. She reported that my recently-deceased grandmother was getting in contact with a very vague “message of love”. Both grandmothers had been dead for years, and neither of them were that fond of me. I refused to believe any of this bullshit right then and there. Mum, on the other hand, bought Doris Stokes’ book.]
[Wing: Reader, have you ever heard that thing where married couples grow to look like each other over the years? Well, Raven and Dove have grown to rant like each other, because all through Raven’s (justifiable) rant, I was hearing those exact same points in Dove’s voice because this is a conversation we’ve had often.]
Tim Minchin says it best. The below video is a great way to spend ten minutes.
Further reading? Check out Penn and Teller’s Bullshit on ESP, Psychics, Talking to the Dead… hell, basically any of them.
At the Unicorner that lunchtime, the Unicorns (without Ellen) bemoan the fact that Ellen’s upcoming performance in the Talent Show would undoubtedly, in the words of Janet Howell, “reflect very badly on the Unicorns.”
Janet suggests that the honour of the purple bellends lies squarely on the shoulders of Mandy Miller and Tamara Chase (FUCK YOU Tamara Chase). However, they are mere lip-syncers (FUCK YOU Milli Vanilli), and they are also alternates to the schedule. Jessica, yet to move onto the “psychic twins” section of the plot, wishes she had an extra upper special superpower with which she could wow the Talent Show and bring GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD. Sorry, GLORY TO THE UNICORNS.
[Dove: I made a thing:
[Wing: Fuck, I wore my adorable Jess shirt today. I THINK SHE’S IN MY HEAD.]
Next up, Jessica is struggling in class with her research on the French Revolution. Happily, one of the pictures in the book looks a little like Johnny Buck (surprise!). As her mind wanders, she notices one of Sweet Valley Middle School’s premier geeks, Randy Mason, reading a book called “Psychic Phenomena: Fact or Fiction?”
Spoiler for you, Randy. It’s Fiction.
Jessica and Randy chat about the book, and psychics in general. Randy, it seems, is a True Believer, and he supplies Jessica with a number of exciting facts learned from his research. [Wing: I do love how one of the characters who has been presented as geeky and smart is a True Believer. That’s not something you see too often in stories.] Jessica, on the cusp of believing that she and her twin have an uncommon paranormal bond, pumps Randy for more.
“Are you interested in psychic stuff?” Jessica asked.
“Yeah. My uncle got me interested. He’s totally into it. He’s a documentary filmmaker in Los Angeles, and, as a matter of fact, he’s working on a major film about psychic phenomena right now.”
This news is RIGHT up Jess’s gusset. In prime Jessica fashion, she spots an opportunity for her and Elizabeth to become famous…. For being the Psychic Twins.
Vamping spectacularly, Jessica spins Randy a yarn about how she and Liz are psychic. She tells him of the time she once saved Elizabeth’s life.
“It happened when we were really little,” she said breathlessly. “I suddenly had an overwhelming sense that Elizabeth was in trouble. Terrible, terrible trouble. I sensed that she was locked in the basement. Sure enough, when my parents went down there to look, they found her.”
Randy isn’t impressed. Not surprising really, as that story was barely even an anecdote. [Wing: Was there a fire? Was the basement filling with water? Were their eight-legged monsters? Was Pennywise hanging out? Because if not, you did not save her life. Period. But I do love your exaggeration.] Rallying, Jessica supplies a hatful of superfluous bullshit to pad the anecdote and crank up the Hype Train. Once a fake flooding is added to the mix, in which Elizabeth stood on her tippy-toes while the water lapped around her chin, Randy is officially hooked. [Wing: HOLY SHIT I’M PSYCHIC.] He declares that he’ll tell his film-making uncle all about the Psychic Twins of Sweet Valley.
It was all Jessica could do not to scream. Wait till Elizabeth heard about this!
But then she remembered that most of her story had been a big lie. Hmmm. On second thought, maybe she wouldn’t tell Elizabeth anything about it just yet.
Hah! Great Jessing there, Ghostie! [Dove: I bet that’s the constant cycle of Jessica’s thoughts.]
We head over to Tuesday afternoon, and Elizabeth and Amy eat ice cream in the mall. The best friends have some medium bants about psychics, in which Amy prompts “Madame Elizabeth” to read her mind. Eventually, as it seems like the entire school is in Casey’s Place that afternoon, the girls decide to sit with the Jessica and the Unicorns out of necessity.
As they sit, Ellen is waxing lyrical about how fabulous her performance will be at the upcoming talent show. In doing so, she throws a back-handed slap of a comment to Jessica, accusing our favourite twin of being devoid of talent. But before Jessica can pull out her machete, Randy Mason approaches with some great news:
Randy was flushed with excitement as he approached the table and sat down. “Guess what, Jessica. I talked to my uncle about you and Elizabeth. And he says he’s really interested. He might even want to interview you on camera for his film.”
“What!” the Unicorns all exclaimed.
Suddenly, the Unicorns are agog with excitement. Jessica admits to the group – a group that includes Elizabeth – that she and Liz are a little bit psychic.
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows in Jessica’s direction, and Jessica blushed and looked away. Elizabeth heard that little warning bell in her brain that meant that Jessica was about to get them both involved in something they’d regret.
Hah! More great character work from the Ghostie.
Elizabeth sat there with her heart sinking. Here we go again, she thought. Jessica’s outrageous lies and bragging seemed to get them into one scrape after another.
Well, not this time, Elizabeth decided. She didn’t know what Jessica had told Randy, but whatever it was, it had to have been totally exaggerated.
And again! It’s great to see Elizabeth actually wise to her sister’s bullshit.
Of course, Jess throws Liz a pleading glance just as Liz starts to spill the beans, and the saintlier twin crumbles like a rhubarb dessert. Which is, again, exactly correct. Elizabeth is a wet sponge, after all.
The group all chat about the project, and the twins’ involvement, with varying degrees of scepticism and excitement. Ellen, in particular, is notably vehement in her snark at the whole thing. It seems the ghostie took !EvilHorsemistressEllen as canon, rather than the !NiceButDimEllen that we all know and love. Shame, because so far the book has been note-perfect for me.
Eventually, the conversation turns to its logical conclusion: everyone wants PROOF of the twins’ ability.
Elizabeth writes down a random number. Jessica correctly guesses it’s 328. Seats at Mama Wakefield’s Orgy!
Jessica writes down a president. Elizabeth correctly guesses it’s George Washington. The Washington Room at the Regent Hotel!
Jessica writes down an article of clothing, and a colour. Elizabeth correctly guesses it’s a Black Tie. The dress code for the Orgy!
Everyone – including Elizabeth and Jessica – is amazed. Elizabeth is even a little scared. But the proof is there, for all to see. An no one doubts them now. Although how the hell a few mentions of Black Tie have impacted Jessica’s fashion sense more than a LIFETIME of OBSESSION, I’ll never know. In my head, she’d answer Purple Sweater for that question every day of the week and twice on Sundays. [Dove: A great-looking purple sweater, actually.]
I love this!
The fact that Elizabeth and Jessica are both as dumbfounded as the rest of the group is lovely. It allows them to get carried away in the patently ludicrous tale with no hint of irony or subterfuge.
The psychic powers are being taken at face value in the book, with the reader having the knowledge of the reason behind the whole thing, and it’s glorious.
It’s almost like an episode of Columbo, where the audience knows the killer and the fun is in watching Columbo figure it all out. We all know the twins ain’t psychic, but they are where they are for innocent reasons, and the fun will be in how things progress and how they extricate themselves from the madness.
I’m sick of typing “psychic” incorrectly, then having to correct it at least twice each time. It must be a mental block with me… too many aitches and cees.
Wednesday breakfast, and the twins are doing their best to be psychic while eating their Corny-O’s. Of course, it’s failing miserably. Elizabeth is beginning to doubt their powers, but Jessica is still convinced. She obviously wants the part in Randy’s Uncle’s movie more than her boring counterpart.
Elizabeth chooses this moment to quiz her twin on the exact nature of her conversation with Randy, vis-à-vis the twins’ psychic phenomena.
Jessica felt her cheeks get hot. Elizabeth could be a real stickler for the truth. In fact, Jessica wouldn’t even put it past her to tell Randy that the story about the basement being flooded was a big lie. If she knew about it, anyway.
Hah! Lovely, sassy inner monologuing.
Eventually, Jessika confesses. Partially.
Jessica examined her fingernails. The problem with Elizabeth was that she had a lie detector in her brain. “I told him about that time, years ago, when Mom and Dad couldn’t find you anywhere. I finally told them to look in the basement. And that’s where you were. How could I have known you were locked in the basement if I wasn’t psychic?”
Elizabeth scowled at her sister. “Jessica! You knew I was in the basement because you were the one who locked me in!”
Actual LOLs there. Great work. I’m thinking that we have both #BestJess and #BestLiz in this book, which is a rare treat.
[Wing: SAME. Monster Dog now things I want to play with her, because I laughed loud enough to wake her up. AND this is perfectly Jessica. She had to get her practice somewhere before she found the Mercandy backyard, after all.]
At school that morning, Elizabeth confesses to Amy that she’s doubtful that there is any psychic ability in the Wakefield residence. Amy, surprisingly, does her best to convince Liz otherwise. She even thrown Elizabeth’s oft-quoted phrase back at her…
“There might even be a Sixers profile in this.”
Hah! That’ll obviously tip the scales to belief for Liz. Actual nice work, Amy, you lank-haired spunkwaffle!
As they enter the classroom, they are accosted by Bruce Patman and Rick Hunter, wearing towels like turbans to indicate their swamihood. Really? [Wing: Aaaaaaaand I want to burn Sweet Valley to the ground again. Back to status quo.]
They mock the Psychic Twins, just as Jessica enters the room. Amy defends them, and another demonstration of their ability is requested.
Instead of the usual “think of a number” schtick, which even Rick Hunter thinks is too easy, Elizabeth is told to think of TWO numbers. She does so.
The numbers are 15 and 28. She has no clue why she chose them. But WE know! They are the proposed dates for the Alice’s Orgy!
Naturally, Jessica guesses them correctly. And everyone is now convinced that the Wakefield Twins are psychic… including Elizabeth herself.
The following day at the Unicorner, we hear that word of the twins’ ability has spread like wildfire, and the Wakefield Girls are celebrities. Of course, Jessica is LOVING it.
Most of the kids seemed kind of unclear about what Jessica’s powers were, though. She’d already had two requests for love potions, three requests for palm readings, and Denny Jacobson had asked her to read the bumps on his head.
Lovely stuff again.
[Wing: I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE A PHRENOLOGY REFERENCE IN A SWEET VALLEY BOOK. GHOSTIE, I DOFF MY HAT.]
Naturally, Jessica is vamping it up for her adoring fans, doing all she can to milk the situation. After she predicts a cliched Tall, Dark Stranger for Lila, who’s having none of it, she decides to have a petty little dig…
Jessica felt herself getting angry Lila Fowler was Jessica’s best friend, but sometimes she could be really annoying. Lila’s father was one of the wealthiest people in Sweet Valley, and he let Lila buy anything she wanted—including the same green silk blouse that Jessica had been saving money to buy for three weeks.
“I see something green, too,” Jessica added spitefully. “Something that’s going to cause you a lot of trouble.”
“Hmmm.” Tamara Chase drummed her fingers on the table. “Let’s see. Poison ivy is green. Maybe you’d better stay inside for the next few weeks.”
“Money is green too,” Kimberly Haver offered. “And Lila’s got lots of it.”
“It’s not poison ivy or money,” Jessica intoned, putting her fingertips to her head. “I see… a green blouse.”
Lila snorts derisively, calling her friend out on the blouse-based bullshit. As she does so, Mandy Miller approaches with her lunch tray… and trips, sending a bowl of lime Jell-O splatting onto Lila’s shoulder!
As Jessica watched the green Jell-O drip down the front of Lila’s shirt, she couldn’t help smiling. Nobody would doubt her psychic abilities now.
Hah! The whole psychic shit-circus is now bolstered by COINCIDENCE.
[Wing: …coincidence or Jessica terrifying Mandy Miller with one of her YOU WILL DIE looks which made Mandy trip.]
That afternoon, after Jessica suggests Lloyd Benson do some frankly voodoo shit with chicken bones to get a classmate to like him (not kidding!), Elizabeth tries to pour water on the tyre-fire. She suggests that it’s getting out of control. Apparently, Denny Jacobson has asked her to read the bumps on his head.
Ah, the noble art of Phrenology I remember reading a book on that as a teenager, then claiming I could do it at a party. Cue the rest of the night stroking teenage girls’ hair and telling them they were misunderstood as they looked on adoringly. Man, that was a good night. [Wing: You were as delightfully manipulative as #bestjess.]
Jessica giggled. “He asked me too.”
“What did you do?”
“I read them.”
“Jessica! You don’t know how to read the bumps on Denny’s head. What if you give somebody advice that’s wrong?”
Jessica frowned. “All I did was feel his head and advise him to look both ways before he crossed the street.”
Elizabeth shook her head and laughed. “Well, I guess that piece of advice couldn’t get anybody into trouble.”
“Exactly. So would you please relax and quit taking everything so seriously?” Jessica begged. “Being psychic is fun!”
Lovely! Elizabeth calls out Jessica because the situation is SERIOUS BUSINESS, Jess calls out Liz because she needs to lighten up. If that’s not the whole series in a nutshell, I don’t know what is! [Dove: I love this too, actually. Jess is being so Jess about it.]
At dinner at the Wakefield Compound that evening, Steven tries to get Jess to pass the potatoes by sending her a psychic message. It does not work. Although I reckon the rest of the family should just constantly pass Steven food at the dinner table, as he’s Sweet Valley’s very own human trash compactor.
It transpires that Sweet Valley High School has heard about the Psychic Sisters, after the Lime Green Jell-O Affair in the canteen that day. We also learn that Papa Wakefield doesn’t believe in psychic nonsense (good man), and that Alice still has important Orgy-stroke-Convention business to take care of. I’m sure that’s important.
Suddenly, the Unicorns appear! They are super unaffective!
“What’s going on?” Jessica asked, closing the front door.
Tamara took a deep breath. “The talent show committee had a meeting this afternoon. Bruce Patman is a student representative, and he told them about you and Elizabeth, and guess what? They want you to be in the show.”
Yay! The plot thickens! Also, the Psychic Sisters get to be the main attraction, rather than Ellen. So bonus! Apparently, even though Ellen’s mum is on the committee, Daddy Fowler is on the board of the Children’s Hospital for which this charity Talent Show is happening. Sick kids trumps school board all day long.
Jessica is ecstatic, and agrees immediately. The Unicorns ask her if she needs to check with Elizabeth. She does need to. She doesn’t do so. Instead, she signs the entry form with a flourish: Madame Jessica Wakefield, Psychic.
We snap-cut to Sunday night, were Elizabeth is adamantly refusing to do the show. Jessica is trying her very best to wheedle herself into Elizabeth’s brain in order to kick down walls and force a change of mind.
Below, a rather long quote from their conversation. Don’t judge me: it’s great.
“What’s the matter with you?” Jessica demanded. “We both wanted to be in the talent show—now here’s our big chance. We can show the whole world our psychic powers.”
“I don’t want to show the whole world my psychic powers,” Elizabeth responded. “I think the whole thing is kind of scary.”
“We’d be upholding the honor of Sweet Valley Middle School,” Jessica argued. “Don’t you care about the school’s reputation?”
“Of course I care,” Elizabeth said quickly.
“And if we win first prize, we’ll win a pair of pro soccer tickets for the whole season.”
“That would be pretty cool,” Elizabeth said slowly.
Jessica smiled. Elizabeth was weakening. It was time for the clincher.
“And it’s for a good cause. All the money from the ticket sales goes to the Sweet Valley Children’s Hospital. You wouldn’t want to let a whole bunch of sick kids down, would you?”
“Of course not!” Elizabeth exclaimed.
Wonderful! Step by step down the rabbit hole, breaking her sister’s resolve through a thousand paper cuts.
Elizabeth caves, of course. Good Elizabeth.
That night, two things occur. First, the madcap Orgy-planning Alice tasks Elizabeth to deliver a Very Important Letter to the Regent Hotel the following morning, containing a cheque payment for the Orgy / Interior Designers’ Banquet. Alice can’t deliver it herself as she’ll be out of town on business. Second, we learn that Jessica has sourced some funky Halloween style costumes that should look great for their Talent Show performance, all flowy dresses and headscarves. Nice. [Dove: Can’t she re-use the costume from when she was The Amazing Mademoiselle J at Lila’s New Year’s Party?] [Raven: Unicorns never wear the same outfit twice.]
In school the following day, they find the place – and soon, the town – decorated with posters for the Talent Show. Posters done by the wonderful caricature artist Sarah Thomas, that feature Jessica and Elizabeth front and centre.
We then have a great section in which Jessica discovers that Sarah, in her rush to redesign the poster from the Ellen-themed original, didn’t have time to start from scratch. Instead, she just made a few adjustments to the original half-complete poster of Ellen… so Jessica ended up with Ellen’s nose and mouth.
Jessica was proud to be on a poster, but it was a drag to have Ellen’s face. “It’s too bad Ellen is so much uglier than me,” she mumbled. “If I’m going to be on twenty posters all over town, I want to look my best.”
“Gee, thanks!” an angry voice said.
All three girls turned and saw Ellen looking at them through narrow eyes.
Oh noes! Ellen is being set up as an antagonist. Such a shame. I much prefer her ditzy idiocy in the majority of other books. [Dove: Nope. Maybe this is why I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. I love seeing Ellen. I hate seeing her spiteful.]
Ellen and Jessica trade barbs. Jessica’s not psychic, Ellen can’t sing, etc. Fade to black.
That evening, at Maria Slater’s house, the twins confess their worries to the washed-up child starlet. Ellen’s comments, it seems, have hit home, particularly with Elizabeth. As a once-professional actress, she cannot enter the Talent Show as it’s for Amateurs only. The twins are courting her advice on how to make their act more… dramatic.
While imparting her considerable wisdom, Maria reveals she once starred in a movie about a bogus psychic. She played the “psychic’s” granddaughter, and the pair had a whole code routine worked out which helped them fleece unsuspecting rubes.
“What happened at the end of the movie?” Jessica asked.
“The detective catches her and the phony psychic gets arrested by the police.”
Elizabeth swallowed hard. “Really?” she asked in a hoarse whisper.
Maria puts Elisabeth’s reticence down to Stage Fright, takes them for ice cream as a salve. Over a sundae at Casey’s place, she imparts many tips and tricks to help the twins, making them feel much more confident about the whole thing. Bless Maria!
[Wing: I love Maria, and I can’t believe we get to see her so often. I mean, I’d still rather have more books about her fully, but I’ll take what I can get.]
As Elizabeth tells Jessica and Maria that she’s feeling much better, Randy Mason rocks up. His Uncle, the documentary filmmaker? He’s coming to the Talent Show, and will be filming their act for his documentary!
“Great!” Elizabeth croaked, feeling the color drain from her face.
Excellent work. Again. This book is fantastic. It builds, then knocks it down, then builds, then knocks it down. I’m hooked.
That evening, Elizabeth wails about the prospect of the Talent Show going wrong. Jessica is past that, and is fixated on the talk shows she and her sister will be invited on once their act goes, I dunno, whatever the early nineties version of viral is.
In order to help Elizabeth’s mood, they embark upon a practice session of… I wanna say psychopathy? [Wing: Well, it does involve Jessica…] Of being psychic.
It’s a total failure of course.
Elizabeth glared angrily at her sister. “How am I supposed to figure out what kind of dog you’re thinking of when you’re thinking of a flower?” she demanded.
“Don’t yell at me,” Jessica said. “It breaks my psychic mood.”
Twenty minutes gone, and they’ve not gotten a single thing correct. Surely the law of averages would suggest that they’d be close on a couple of things?
They vow to try again the following day. But again, they fail miserably. Jessica isn’t worried – they are proven psychics, after all – but Elizabeth is distraught. It’s Tuesday night, and the Talent Show is Friday. Not long to get back into fighting psychic shape.
At school on Wednesday, Jessica has a run-in with Ellen and Denny “Head Bumps” Jacobson. Again, Ellen pours scorn on the Psychic Sisters, but Denny rallies to Jessica’s defence. He thanks her for her excellent advice.
“What did I advise you to do?” she asked.
“You told me to be sure to look both ways before I crossed the street,” Denny answered.
“Big deal,” Ellen said, giving Jessica a withering stare. “That’s just common sense. You don’t have to be psychic to know that it’s a good idea to look both ways before you cross the street.”
“Yeah! But I live on a one-way street. Usually, I just look one way before I cross it. But yesterday, I looked both ways. And it was a good thing I did, because there was a car coming down the street the wrong way. If I hadn’t looked both ways, I might have been hit.”
Jessica’s heart soared. She was psychic.
MORE coincidental reinforcement. Love it! It’s totally believable that a pair of twelve-year-olds might believe they are psychic, given the way the “evidence” has been presented.
Ellen continues her rain of salt, but Janet Howell helps soothe the choppy waters. So much so that Jessica enquires what might happen should their Psychic Sisters act not go to plan at the Talent Show on Friday.
Janet tells her, in no uncertain terms, that should the act prove to be a failure, it would reflect VERY badly on the Unicorns.
After a brief interlude where Steven and his friend Joe Howell discuss the Talent Show, and a planned attendance from a bunch of their High School chums [Dove: It’s funny, when the twins get to high school, they give zero fucks about what’s going on at the middle school, unlike Steven and his friends.] [Wing: AS IS NORMAL. I suppose this can be excused as them picking on their younger siblings, but it’s weird.] , we skip to a distraught Jessica doing her best to heighten her (and Elizabeth’s) latent psychic ability by making the pair of them sit under a pyramid made of a broom, a mop and a yardstick.
Again, when I was a teen, I read a book about the power of pyramids. A correctly aligned pyramid, it says, focusses power to the centre of the structure. So things placed there are imbued with energy. The book itself seemed obsessed with using pyramids to keep razor blades sharp. [Wing: …whut.]
I made a couple of pyramids out of cardboard, as suggested by the book. They did fuck all.
Also, a mop, a broom and a yardstick? That’s three sides. You need four for a pyramid. How typically Jessica to get a pyramid wrong. Great work, Ghostie!
As the girls sit under the pyramid, Elizabeth tries to psychically inform her twin that she has a severe case of bedhead hair. Steven stomps in and threatens them both about their act: if he’s embarrassed at the Talent Show in front of his friends, things won’t be pretty.
While Jessica answers the phone, Elizabeth decides that she should pull out of the Talent Show. Their psychic connection appears to have evaporated, and the whole thing would be a huge embarrassment to all involved. When Jess returns and tells her that Lila has planned a huge after-show party at the Fowler Mansion, at which representatives of the Children’s Hospital, and people from a variety of news stations, would be present, Liz thinks it’s time to pull off the band aid.
Then Jessica smooths down her bedhead hair. Elizabeth is psychic after all!
Phew, that’s a relief.
Elizabeth quickly began to reassemble the pyramid. Maybe they were clutching at straws here, but it was all they had. “Let’s get back to work. Maybe there is something to this pyramid business after all.”
Again, nice building, and breaking, and rebuilding. It sure is a rollercoaster.
In bed that night, Elizabeth is woken by her father.
No, not that.
Papa Wakefield tells his daughter that Alice is taking an earlier flight back on Friday so she can be at the Talent Show.
Unfortunately, when her mother is mentioned, Elizabeth realises… she’s not delivered the letter to the Regent Hotel!
Upset with herself, she vows to call the hotel first thing in the morning, and then drifts into a troubled sleep full of bizarre dreams.
In her dream, she’s with her family at the unprepared Regent Hotel. George Washington is the manager, and as he’s never received a letter or cheque from the Wakefields, their party cannot go ahead.
All the “psychic” information from the twins’ trials is neatly woven through the dream in this very entertaining dream sequence, which concludes with the entire Wakefield clan turning on a beleaguered Elizabeth, and the real Elizabeth bolting awake in a cold sweat.
In her post-nightmare haze, Elizabeth has a worrying thought. She dashes to read her mother’s undelivered (and thankfully unsealed) letter to the Regent Hotel. It confirms her worst fears… somehow, all the information from the twin’s psychic questioning is contained within.
Breathlessly, she rushes to wake her twin and deliver the crushing news. They are not psychic after all.
After a groggy reading and stumbled comprehension, Jessica begins to see the problem.
“Oh, no!” Jessica breathed.
“Oh, yes!” Elizabeth wailed.
“We’re not psychic,” Jessica gasped.
“We never were!”
“But what about all the other stuff? The Corny-O’s and the French Revolution? The lime slime and all that?”
“Those were just coincidences,” Elizabeth moaned. “And if they weren’t, there’s got to be some logical explanation that we just don’t know about. Oh, Jessica! What are we going to do?”
Jessica’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “But I’ll think of something. I always do.”
Elizabeth let out a deep breath. “I know. That’s what’s worrying me.”
Will she think of something? OF COURSE SHE WILL. She’s Jessica fucking Wakefield.
#BestJess. All killer no filler, this book. [Dove: I bet Elizabeth clenches every time Jessica says “I’ve got a plan.”]
A quick call to the Regent Hotel the following morning sees Elizabeth vow to deliver the cheque and Letter at 5pm on Friday, a mere two hours before the Talent Show. Will that timing be important? WHO CAN TELL? [Dove: As someone who can’t be late when going somewhere, this bugged me a lot. I just wanted to shake her and tell her to get up early and deliver it. Or take it right this second. Any moment she’s not delivering that cheque, she could be delivering it. Fuck it, bunk off school, everyone will assume Jessica is Elizabeth, because Elizabeth would never bunk off. Just deliver the cheque. But, obviously not, because plot.]
The following afternoon at school, Jessica grabs Elizabeth by the lockers with a gleam in her eye. Their problems have been solved… by Maria.
In an empty classroom, Maria – who is up to speed with the entire debacle – shows the twins the script from the phony psychic movie. The script contains the entire code of secret signals, such as ear wiggling, by which the two con artists could communicate. And Maria can teach them how to do it.
“No way!” Elizabeth said in a firm voice. “I don’t want to do anything dishonest. We’re supposed to be for-real psychics, not phonies. People are paying money to see us.”
“Elizabeth!” Jessica protested. “Maria’s right. It’s showbiz. People pay money to see magicians, too, and they don’t really believe the magicians are sawing people in half or making rabbits appear out of thin air.”
#BestLiz. Irrationally, pig-headedly goody-goody.
[Wing: I love everything about this.]
Jessica pulls out ALL THE STOPS to convince Elizabeth to learn the code. She lays it on thick. Their lives are ruined. She’ll be banished from the Unicorns. Steven will be ostracised by his friends. They’ll both receive a Butters-level grounding.
Elizabeth felt awful. Jessica’s voice was quavering and she looked pale. “I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said again.
Jessica shook her head. “Don’t worry about me,” she said in a low voice. “I’ll be…” But Jessica didn’t finish her sentence. Her hands covered her eyes and her shoulders began to shake.
“Jessica!” Elizabeth cried, hurrying to Jessica’s side. “Please don’t cry. Please!”
WOW. Jessica going NUCLEAR.
It’s an act, of course. As soon as Elizabeth crumbles, Jessica snaps out of it.
Elizabeth put her hands angrily on her hips. “Jessica! You big faker!”
“Actress!” Jessica corrected. She darted a smile at Maria. “Thanks for the acting lesson.”
#BestJess. That is all.
The twins learn the code off-screen, which involves blinks and nose scratches and lip biting. Elizabeth, being Elizabeth, needs time to study it. Jessica has it memorised immediately.
“I’ve already got it memorized,” Jessica said proudly.
Elizabeth laughed. “I know. How come you can memorize something like this in no time at all, but you can’t memorize anything for a test?”
Jessica grinned. “Because getting an A on a history test won’t get me into a movie.”
More #BestJess. Love it. Good work again, Ghostie.
They run through the bones of the act, and Maria is induced at their glamourous assistant. She can assist, if not perform, it seems.
So, all now looks rosy in the twins’ psychic garden. Nice work.
When I was at University, I did something like this. I was in Devon, rehearsing for a play. Another actor (whose name unfortunately escapes me) and I concocted a simple psychic code to trick the other actors. They’d think of a letter while he was out of the room, and while I was in the room reading a newspaper or book and feigning disinterest in the whole thing. He’d come back into the room, put on the whole swami act and then glance at my hands. I’d be holding the newspaper, feigning utter disinterest, but pointing one finger at whatever letter they’d chosen. If the letter wasn’t on the paper (say, Q), I’d point at a letter some number of spots in the alphabet before it, with the corresponding number of “extra” fingers to indicate where to skip on. Thus a Q could be one finger pointing at a Q, or two fingers pointing at a P, or three fingers pointing at an O and so on.
The rest of the cast were convinced, and really got into it. We even performed it for some local celebrities, who, being a little bit hippy-ish, started talking about auras and reiki the power of crystals, etc, and it all got a bit serious.
We never confessed. Until now.
I realise that, early in this recap, I told everyone what the whole psychic thing was a massive codswallop pie. I stand by that assertion.
At the same time, I realise I’ve peppered the recap with anecdotes that involve me indulging in such nonsense, back in my youth.
Maybe that’s why the book resonates so clearly with me: because my formative years were spent wandering down such paths less trodden.
I also used to do Tarot readings. That was fun.
Humans are terrible at processing randomness, and far too eager to spot patterns in chaos. Three heads in a row? The next is sure to be tails. The cloud looks like a rabbit, the tea leaves look like Auntie Brenda, and so on, and so on.
Complete horseshit. But interesting. All a learning experience.
The twins start cycling home, now full of vim and vigour concerning their upcoming act. The code should work fine, and it’s all just a bit of fun… right?
On their journey home, the meet Randy Mason, who manages to break it all down again in the most fantastic fashion.
First, he bigs up their powers. A bunch of the sixth grade guys need some psychic assistance with their love lives. Jessica says she’s happy to help, much to Elizabeth’s dismay.
Next, he drops the A-Bomb. His uncle, the documentary filmmaker coming to record their act on Friday? He’s currently in WASHINGTON. Helping the CIA. Serving as STATE’S WITNESS. In a case prosecuting a FAKE PSYCHIC.
Elizabeth gulped. This was awful. It was one thing to fool people at a middle-school talent show. It was another thing to mess with the CIA.
“I hope your uncle really nails that psychic,” Jessica said angrily.
“Jessica!” Elizabeth whispered.
But Jessica was off and rolling. “I hope your uncle gets that psychic put away for a long time, so he can’t ruin the reputation of other, for-real psychics, like me and Elizabeth.”
“Jessica!” Elizabeth croaked.
“Phony psychics should be locked up for life!” Jessica finished, stamping her foot.
It’s another thing to mess with the CIA! #BestLiz
For-real psychics, like me and Elizabeth! #BestJess
This book just keeps knocking it out of the park.
Randy informs the twins that his uncle will be watching their act very closely indeed. [Dove: Thanks to Nydick and Steven, they’re used to close attention from males.]
At dinner that night, Jessica tries communicating in code to her oblivious twin. Practicing the code. Probably a good idea. Unfortunately, Papa Wakefield spots the incessant facial ticking, and calls Jess out on her bizarre behaviour. After dinner, Liz tells Jess that she won’t use the code in their act. As she says, if their father can spot the twitches, Randy’s uncle is sure to do the same.
“It’s wrong, Jessica. You heard Randy. Phony psychics undermine the credibility of real psychics. That’s why the police and the CIA don’t take them seriously.”
“Well, they shouldn’t take them seriously,” Jessica said. “Because I’ll bet they’re all just as phony as we are. If you look at it that way, we’re doing the right thing. We’re making the world a safer place by keeping the police and the CIA from wasting their time with people like us.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes and glared at Jessica. “I hate it when you do that.”
“I hate it when you twist things around and make stuff that’s stupid and wrong sound logical and moral.”
Nice work, Ghostie! Calling out one of Jessica’s main character traits. We see you, Jessica Wakefield.
Also, nice work Jess! Calling out the fakery behind the entire psychic field. Very James Randi of you. (By the way, if you don’t know of James Randi, go click the link. He’s amazing.)
This time, Elizabeth is stoic in her refusal. No code for the act, period.
Jessica tries the fake waterworks again, to no avail, even though she conjures up an actual tear. Eventually, at loggerheads, the twins both storm off.
Jessica flew into her room and slammed her own door. But she still wasn’t satisfied. So she went over to the bathroom door, opened it, and slammed it shut—three times in a row.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Then, just in case Elizabeth didn’t realize how angry she was, she slammed it shut again.
WONDERFUL! [Dove: I’ll admit, this was a high point for me. I’ve been that angry in the past. Although when I was her age, my door never hung right so I couldn’t give it a satisfying slam. I feel Jessica’s frustration at not enough slams.]
Jessica inner-monologues like a demon diva, cursing the sky and wailing that Elizabeth is ruining her life. After the unavoidable humiliation at the Talent Show the next day, Jessica would have to leave school, changer her name, the whole kit and caboodle. She finally tries to sleep, with malicious intent towards her goody-goody sister fermenting in her troubled waking mind.
Elizabeth, half asleep and dreaming fitfully, has another nightmare that evening. This time, she and Jessica are failing miserably on stage, and the collective crowd are booing. There is a call for their arrest from a stern man with a video camera, and police snap handcuffs on their wrists while the crowd bray for blood.
“Lock them up! Lock them up!” the audience began to chant.
I wonder where I’ve heard that before…?
[Wing: Oh god.]
After her nightmare, Elizabeth dashes to Jessica’s room. She tells her curmudgeonly and half-asleep twin that she is willing to incorporate the code into their act. After all, what choice does she have.
Jessica is understandably sceptical at the new turn of events. This is understandable, as her twin has flipped and flopped more than a store that specialises in beach footwear. … … Thonged?
“Jessica! Don’t you trust me?”
Jessica chewed on her lip for a moment. “Well, I am a little worried that you’re going to have another conscience attack. I’m not sure I can trust somebody as honest as you are.”
Elizabeth held out her hand. “Here, I’ll shake on it. That means you have my word. And you know I always keep my word.”
Jessica’s face brightened and she grabbed Elizabeth’s hand. “That’s right,” she said with a smile. “You always do keep your word. I guess that’s the upside of having a goody-goody for a sister.”
More great self-awareness from Jessica, and the Ghostie.
The girls practice the code long into the night.
We skip to Friday afternoon, and the Unicorns are gathered on the school steps. Everyone is excited for the evening’s festivities. Lila’s party should be epic, full of Channel Ten News people and shrimp / liver pate.
Talk turns to Ellen, who is apparently still hellbent on discrediting the Psychic Sisters. But the Unicorns know that the bone fide true psychic phenomena that embraces the Psychic Sisters is sure to put the Unicorns on the map.
As the Unicorns wave the cycling twins away, Elizabeth starts worrying again. She confesses this to her sister. The party-goers at Lila’s all sound like savvy showbiz professionals… they’re sure to spot the fakery.
“Are you having a conscience attack?” Jessica asked, a worried expression on her face.
“No. I’m having an anxiety attack,” Elizabeth shot back.
“Whew!” Jessica said with a smile. “That’s a relief.”
MORE #BestJess! God bless our spectacular little sociopath. [Dove: I’ll admit, the dialogue in this one is spot on.]
Back at home, after the twins try on their frankly adorable costumes (silky dresses, headscarves, bangles, and stars / moons cut from silver paper…bless them!), Elizabeth decrees she has to bike over to the Regent Hotel to belatedly deliver her mother’s Orgy Letter. Jessica is worries about letting Elizabeth go.
Elizabeth noticed that Jessica was still frowning. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
Jessica shook her head. “I don’t know. I just have a strange feeling that I shouldn’t let you out of my sight.”
“I’m afraid you’ll chicken out on me.”
Hah! And here I thought this would be a spooky premonition about actual psychic intuition… Elizabeth gets in trouble at the hotel, which Jess had a “bad feeling” about. I’m glad they undercut that particular trope.
When Elizabeth get to the Regent Hotel, it appears to be abandoned. The front desk is deserted, the lobby shops locked up. Eventually, she finds her way to the large dining room, and meets a painter who has been waiting for her arrival before knocking off for the evening. Mr Peters, the manager, is apparently in his office on the tenth floor.
Elizabeth takes the lift (elevator) up to the tenth floor. Ominously, the lift is alarmingly slow, and incredibly rickety. Elizabeth is in a hurry – she has to get this chore over with and be at the Talent Show for 6pm.
She catches the manager Mr Peters in time, and he rushes off after informing her the place will be empty for the weekend. Ominous.
While waiting for the elevator (lift), which is taking its own sweet time to arrive, she decides it’ll be quicker to use the stairs. Down she bounds, floow after floor, until she reaches the bottom.
Disaster! The door from the stairwell to the lobby cannot be opened from the inside!
In a panic, she tries the second floor. And the third. And the fourth. All the way back up to the tenth. All of them are locked.
She’s TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET. Sorry, she’s TRAPPED IN THE STAIRWELL.
Panicking, she starts banging, hoping to attract the attention of Mr Peters. But it’s to no avail. Apparently, he’s already gone.
The hotel is empty, and she’s trapped until Monday morning.
At this point, I’m still loving the book.
If Elizabeth doesn’t make it to the Talent Show, and the whole thing fizzles to a shitty anti-climax, I will be FLIPPING FUCKING TABLES.
We’ve had a few books in which the payoff has been such a letdown after a grand build. If this is one of them, there will be carnage.
Not even kidding.
[Dove: When I re-read this, I couldn’t remember why Liz got trapped, I knew it was in a hotel and it was after hours, so I was ready to flip tables if it was that simple, because there’s always someone around in a hotel, no matter what time. But the ghostie did cover that with the whole closed-for-refurbishment thing. So I did not flip tables.]
[Wing: I’m skeptical of how this will end, but I do give the ghostie credit for not taking the obvious route of having her be stuck in the elevator, which is what I expected. (I’m not sure the stairway exit doors should be able to lock for fire safety purposes, at least the one that exits to the first floor, but I’m going to let that go.)]
At the Talent Show, Jessica is beginning to panic. There’s no Elizabeth.
Thankfully, although it is nearing seven o’clock, and Elizabeth was expected to arrive at six, the fact that the Psychic Sisters were not on until the end of the show is working in their favour. Ms McDonald (the music teacher in charge) flaps a little, especially since the skateboarding rap act has broke his jaw and wrist so can’t make the show. Pfft, lightweight. What ever happened to The Show Must Go On?
Still, good news for first alternates Mandy Miller and Tamara Chase (FUCK YOU, Tamara Chase).
Maria and Amy commiserate with Jessica over her missing sister, and try to deduce where she might be. All the while, Ellen Riteman lurks at the periphery, warming her voice with operatic vocal exercises.
So, is Ellen actually still singing, then? I presumed not, as the Unicorns were happy once the Psychic Sisters took Ellen’s place as the Star Attractions. Surely Ellen will bring disrepute to the Unicorns wherever she appears in the bill, if the tales of her awful warbling are to be believed…?
As they wait, Cliff Mason appears. He’s Randy’s film-maker uncle, and he’s VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS.
Jessica’s heart began to thud. Mr. Mason sounded pretty serious about this. He looked pretty serious too. In fact, he looked like a man who probably enjoyed prosecuting phonies.
He gave her a sinister smile. “I hope I haven’t wasted my time.” He nodded curtly. “Good luck!”
Haha, great stuff!
Ellen begins sneering at Jessica, calling Elizabeth a chicken, and nailing the fact that Elizabeth was scared to perform in front of Mr Mason.
“Elizabeth had to run an errand before the show,” Jessica explained nervously. “She’s just a little late, that’s all.”
“Hah!” Ellen barked in a very loud, gruff voice. Then something strange happened. Her hand flew to her throat and her eyes opened wide in horror.
“Ellen? What’s the matter?” Maria asked quickly. Ellen opened her mouth and tried to talk. But all that came out was a feeble squeaking sound. “Ellen! Are you all right?” Jessica asked.
Ellen pointed frantically to her throat. “Mmm vv… ce…” she managed to say.
BRILLIANT! Ellen has strained her voice while mocking Jessica. She can’t sing at the Talent Show, and the Unicorns’ reputations are safe.
Through her raspy, damaged whispery voice, Ellen accuses Jessica of being a witch before hurrying away.
Okay, so I actually like this.
I realise that we here at Sweet Valley Online have a soft spot for Ellen. And in this book, she’s portrayed as the sneering antagonist, which doesn’t gel well with us.
However, having her downfall de fun and with a slapstick element is good.
When Ellen was a super King Kamehameha Bi-atch [Wing: Really.] in Lucy Takes the Reins, the slapstick ending where she was chasing the Unicorns around the arena after their cheers of support caused her to fall off her horse was great fun.
Same here. Losing her voice and denouncing Jessica as a witch? Funny!
We still love you, Ellen.
And I still love this book.
[Wing: Dove, do we get a book about the Wakefields are Witches?]
Jessica runs to call the Regent Hotel, in the vain hope her twin can be contacted there. Unfortunately, the phone answer message is clear: the hotel is closed for renovations. Understandably, Jessica concludes that Elizabeth has lied to her. Why would she need to go to the Regent Hotel if it wasn’t open?
The clock ticks to seven. No Elizabeth.
The Talent Show starts, and Jessica is distraught. Ellen’s departure from the schedule makes the Psychic Sisters act due to kick that much earlier than planned. But you can’t be a double act with only one member. Jessica finally comes to the conclusion that Elizabeth has ditched her.
A hot tear began to trickle down Jessica’s cheek. She couldn’t believe it. She just couldn’t believe Elizabeth would do something this cruel.
She’s paying me back for all the awful things I’ve ever dragged her into, Jessica thought miserably. I should have known this was going to happen. I should have known she’d back out. She said she thought it was wrong. And this is her way of teaching me a lesson.
Finally, Jessica actually vocalises what a complete tool she can be to her long-suffering sister. Great work AGAIN, dear Ghostie!
Jessica, abandoned by her psychic sister and totally bereft of a plan, is in a pickle.
We cut to Elizabeth, in a pickle of her own. Crying and afraid, she turns to the one outlandish idea that may yet save her…
If only she really were psychic, she could send Jessica a message telling her she was trapped here in this horrible stairwell.
Elizabeth shut her eyes and concentrated as hard as she could. Maybe… just maybe… there was something to this psychic business after all. And if there is, she thought desperately, please let it work now.
Oh, HELL no.
If the twins turn out to be ACTUALLY PSYCHIC AFTER ALL, I’m going to flip a table, right that table, and then FLIP THAT MOTHERFUCKER AGAIN.
Back at the Talent Show, things are getting critical. Manganimously, Jessica suggests to Mandy and Tamara that their lip-sync act needs a third member – the voiceless Ellen. But even the sight of three twelve-year-olds miming to popular Johnny Buck songs can stop the braying from the crowd.
“WE WANT THE PSYCHIC SISTERS. WE WANT THE PSYCHIC SISTERS. WE WANT THE PSYCHIC SISTERS! WE WANT THE PSYCHIC SISTERS!” The audience was shouting and stamping their feet.
Eventually, the time comes. Jessica goes on alone.
She greets the crowd warmly, to a burst of applause. She notices Randy’s Uncle, pointing his camera at the stage. She notices her family, her friends. How can Elizabeth do this to her.
We cut to Elizabeth concentrating with every fibre of her being.
We cut back to the Talent Show…
Jessica looked back in the direction of Randy’s uncle, and suddenly a light bulb went on in Jessica’s brain.
When my uncle heard that story about Elizabeth being trapped in the basement, he flipped! she heard Randy’s voice saying in her head.
Trapped! The word reverberated back and forth in Jessica’s mind.
What had she been thinking? Elizabeth wouldn’t do something this mean to Steven or Jessica. Never in a million years. If Elizabeth said she was going to the Regent Hotel, then that’s where she had gone. Obviously, something had happened to her at the hotel. Somehow, she’d gotten stuck there. Somehow, she’d gotten trapped.
Okay, this gets a pass.
Are the twins psychic? The scene is written in such a way to suggest they may be. But Jessica’s inner monologue is sufficiently vague to suggest coincidence. The Ghostie’s fine use of callback to a previous conversation, and Jessica’s logical assumption that if Elizabeth hadn’t arrived then she must be in trouble is perfectly believable.
So yeah, I’m happy so far. Let’s hope they stick the landing.
Jessica put her hand to her forehead dramatically. “Ohhhhhh!” she moaned.
She rocked back and forth, as if she felt faint. “Ohhhhhhh,” she moaned again.
She couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at the camera to make sure Randy’s uncle was getting it all.
“DO SOMETHING PSYCHIC!” someone in the audience shouted.
Okay, so I already know this is going to be fabulous.
WE LOVE YOU, JESSICA!
Jessica wails, and flails, and acts like a girl possessed. The crowd are spellbound. Shaking from head to toe, she informs the crowd that she is receiving a psychic message from her sister, currently whereabouts unknown.
Jessica raised her eyes to the ceiling and lifted her arms. “ELIZABETH! CAN YOU HEAR ME! WHERE ARE YOU!”
Then suddenly, Jessica reeled back. “Ohhhhhh!” She spun around on the stage, and then she let her head and shoulders go limp again. “I’M AT THE REEEeeegeent Hoooooootelllll!” she said in Elizabeth’s voice.
Papa Wakefield springs into action. His daughter is in trouble, and there’s no time for messing about. Once assured of the veracity of Jessica – she’s not playing a prank this week – Ned drags his daughter from the stage (as she cries “You’ve been a wonderful audience” and I AM LAUGHING SO HARD [Dove: What an exit, always leave them wanting more, Jess!]) and they all decamp to the Regent Hotel to find Elizabeth. With Cliff Mason, Documentarian in tow. (Still laughing).
At the hotel, as Jessica smiles into Cliff Mason’s camera, the police break into the building in search of our missing heroine. Mr Peters arrives, and as they all wander through the hotel, there are some great dialogue between all the characters that just make me love this book even more. Stuff like this:
“Maybe that’s the banquet manager,” Jessica said.
“Maybe it’s the banquet manager,” Mr. Mason repeated in a dramatic voice.
His delivery made Jessica wish she’d said it with a little more punch. “Can I do that line again?” she asked.
Mr. Mason lowered the camera. “This is a documentary Jessica. Not a feature film.”
Mr. Peters frowned in confusion. “Who are you?”
“Cliff Mason. Documentarian. I’m here to get this psychic event on film.”
“Oh!” Mr. Peters said. “I see.” But Jessica could tell by his expression that he had no idea what Mr. Mason was talking about.
Eventually, fantastically, they discover the trapped Elizabeth, and the twins are reunited.
Elizabeth was overjoyed to see her parents. But she was even more overjoyed to see Jessica. “I knew it,” Elizabeth cried. “I knew you’d figure out I was here. I knew you wouldn’t let me down. I sent you a psychic message and it worked. It really worked!”
“I knew you wouldn’t just back out on me!” Jessica cried. “I knew you had to be in trouble.” Then she turned quickly and grinned at Mr. Mason’s camera. “See?” she said, tapping her turban again. “Psychic!”
I really like the above lines. Elizabeth believes they actually are psychic now. Jessica puts it down to knowing that her sister is dependable, and deducing her absence was something sinister. How the tables have turned.
The final chapter is also a delight. In it, the party guests at the Fowler Mansion all watch the Channel Ten news bulletin that covers the entire debacle. The Wakefield Twins are stars, and the news might even go national. The interest in the story will drive some great publicity for the Children’s Hospital, Cliff Mason sold the footage of the incident to the News Station so he’s not mad, and – most importantly –
IT ALL REFLECTS VERY WELL ON THE UNICORNS.
But the burning question, on the lips of the characters in the book and the fair readers out there… was this a real psychic incident? Channel Ten News say it best:
“Psychic phenomenon? Who knows. It could just be a case of two sisters who care enough about each other to always believe the best. Jessica says she knew Elizabeth would never let her down. And her sister, Elizabeth, says the same thing about Jessica. Psychic or not, it’s an exciting story of sisterly love and eleventh-hour rescue. Thanks for tuning in. Good night!”
Here’s Don with the weather.
Me? I’m pretty sure the Ghostie is a non-believer. But, perversely I guess, I quite like the fact the intentions are ambiguous.
A couple of things as this book wraps up. First, Steven imparts some words of wisdom to his father, as they both watch a crowd gather around the now-popular twins.
Steven groaned. “I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe that their act totally bombed but they still managed to turn it into a big success and get on television. How come stuff like that always happens to them and never happens to me? They are so lucky, it’s sickening.”
That they are, Steven. That they are. More great work from the Ghostie. [Dove: He has a similar moan when they star in a Corny-O’s commercial later. I stop hating him when he lampshades how lucky they are.] [Wing: Normally I’d agree with him, I’ve made my hate for Wakefields Must Win pretty clear, I think, but in this case, I love that they pulled it off, because it’s not just luck, it’s Jessica in particular being clever as hell and dramatic and dragging everyone along with her. #bestjess indeed.]
Thankfully for Steven’s sanity, the twins did NOT win the soccer tickets. They went to the ventriloquist.
And finally, we segue into the sentence or two of foreshadowing for the next book, which is all about… Soccer, apparently. Although you wouldn’t guess by this fantastic finishing line:
What will happen when the soccer craze hits Sweet Valley Middle School? Find out in Sweet Valley Twins No 71, Jessica Saves the Trees.
No no no NO… it should read Jessica Saves the Penalties.
I’m sending out a silent message to you all. Concentrate deeply. Are you picking it up? Can you tell me… if I enjoyed this book or not?
You can?! Gee, you must be psychic!
Yep, I loved this book. It was a romping good time, from start to finish. Everyone had killer lines, the plot was sufficiently twisty, the characters all true to themselves, and the ghost writer’s smile came through in every line. This might be my new favourite. If it’s not my favourite, it’s Top 3 not close.
Perhaps the one issue I have with it is the fact that they chose Ellen as the antagonist, but even that was pretty funny in the end. I’m not even mad.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the rest of the series will have trouble living up to this high standard. I don’t have to be psychic to know that.
[Dove: Raven loved the hell out of this. He wouldn’t stop texting me photos of each page on his kindle. This is the most joy I’ve ever seen from him over a Sweet Valley book. Me, on the other hand, I just read it as your standard “this is the thing they’re into now” book. I didn’t dislike it, and Raven’s highlighted some excellent lines in the book, but to me it was just ok. Not outstandingly good or bad, just your average fun book. What I’ve got a great kick out of is seeing Raven’s reaction. He was adorable.]
[Wing: I like it a lot better after reading Raven’s recap. His enthusiasm is infectuous. (Didn’t love it nearly as much as I did the Curse of the Ruby Necklace, of course, because GHOST SHENANIGANS.]
“Also, soccer in the US was largely non-existent between 1984 and 1996.”
Minor league soccer has been around decades, but the MLS (MAJOR league soccer) was founded as part of the bid for American to host the ’94 World Cup.
I warn you now – and I will do my absolute best – not to rant at the next recap because it’s full of bullshit soccer, sorry bullshit football, “facts.”
“[Wing: Yeah, I’m shocked that’s the prize and that people are excited about it.]”
Minor league (USL) has had passionate fan bases for a long time, and I would see that being true in SV, where transplants give up their prior allegiances at the guard tower. Los Angeles (and San Diego) are not great sports towns because despite the populations, many people are non-native and continue to support their hometown teams. This is especially true with soccer; LAFC was originally named after a Mexican team in an attempt to capitalize on this but had no relationship and went bankrupt. Sorry, I know you guys like fact-checking and trivia, but I am unsure if you care about this.
“Further reading? Check out Penn and Teller’s Bullshit on ESP, Psychics, Talking to the Dead… hell, basically any of them.”
Houdini HATED this phenomena and actively worked to disprove it.
*claps* ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD
“Wing: I do love how one of the characters who has been presented as geeky and smart is a True Believer. That’s not something you see too often in stories.”
They return to this idea with Lloyd Benson in a few books.
“As they enter the classroom, they are accosted by Bruce Patman and Rick Hunter, wearing towels like turbans to indicate their swamihood. Really? ”
Chant with me: Fish are friends, not food. Cultures are not costumes!!!!!
“After she predicts a cliched Tall, Dark Stranger for Lila,”
SVH 126 Tall, Dark, and Deadly
Vampire!!! I know Enid’s a major player, but I can’t remember which of the populars she’s competing with.
““Jessica! You don’t know how to read the bumps on Denny’s head. What if you give somebody advice that’s wrong?” Jessica frowned. “All I did was feel his head and advise him to look both ways before he crossed the street.””
“[Wing: I love Maria, and I can’t believe we get to see her so often. I mean, I’d still rather have more books about her fully, but I’ll take what I can get.]”
Good news: she’s front and center for the Unicorn series.
“They’ll both receive a Butters-level grounding.”
Bleak Valley crossover with Butters’ Very Own Episode?
“I’m not sure the stairway exit doors should be able to lock for fire safety purposes, at least the one that exits to the first floor, but I’m going to let that go.”
I always take the stairs and I have gotten stuck in stairwells before. Usually it’s a system like only the lobby floor is open. Once, my brother and I walked into a hotel in downtown LA to get a good view of the city. We got up to the high floors via the stairwell and my brother started popping in and out of the stairwell (and setting off alarms.) I went ahead without him, ending up on the helipad via a door that locked only from the helipad side (which still makes no sense to me.) Ultimately security grabbed us and that’s when I found out then that the hotel was closed for renovations.