Title: Jessica Saves the Trees
Tagline: Will Jessica risk losing her friends for the sake of some trees? [Wing: Are they as cute as a baby seal? Because Jessica will get her clothes dirty for that.]
Summary: Jessica goes green…
Soccer fever has hit Sweet Valley Middle School! Everyone is excited about the forthcoming season, including identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. But Jessica’s happiness quickly fades when she learns that the school plans to tear down some beautiful old trees to make room for a bigger soccer field. Jessica risks her popularity, and possibly the soccer team’s chance at a big championship, by starting an environmental crusade to save the trees. But can she hold her ground against all her new enemies—including the boy she likes?
I remember enjoying this as a tween. This isn’t my original copy – someone borrowed it and I never got it back, so there’s a big ugly CEX sticker on one of the better cover pictures. Look! You can pretend that someone’s going to burn Jessica as a witch!
I suppose we’ll find out if this is going to be as good as I remember (Poor Lila!) or utterly rubbish (The Bully).
We open with Jessica being insufferably smug to Lila, harking back to the previous book, where Jessica became a minor celebrity by using her “psychic abilities” to locate a missing Elizabeth. Apparently she’s the only Unicorn who’s ever been on TV, which is why she’s milking it so hard. I guess that time they did a sponsored dance to break a world record doesn’t count? Or the fact that she and Elizabeth were on Staying Up With Bob already, so this is the second time the twins have been on TV. And let’s not forget that she was in A FUCKING MOVIE only seconds ago, and Lila had a “too modern” face for it. Well, we won’t forget, but the ghostie sure did.
They are heading down to the soccer field to watch the boys play when they run into Elizabeth, who is inexplicably wearing a baseball cap that says “PRESS” on it. My theory is that some well-meaning aunt got it for her as a gift and Elizabeth has worn it every day in a non-ironic fashion. THE SIXERS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS, PEOPLE. [Raven: Jessica should totally troll her sister and follow her around while wearing a matching hat that says “GARLIC” on it.] Apparently Mr Bowman wants to see her.
We switch over to Elizabeth, who goes to Mr Bowman’s office, to find a lady named Ms Simmons there waiting. She owns the Sweets for the Sweet shop on Elm Street. Well, that’s two horror references in one sentence, so I’m thinking Simmons is a murderer. [Wing: We can only hope. Also, Sweets for the Sweet is the first Sweet Valley-esque name for a business that I’ve actually liked in this series, so of course it is a horror reference.] [Raven: I’m not the horror nerds you are, but isn’t Sweets for the Sweet a song reference?] [Dove: *sighs* Yes, Raven. But do fuck off.]
Elizabeth immediately realises what this is about. A couple of weeks ago (… so, during the psychic bullshit?) she wrote a scathing article about the sweet shop because she refused entry to Dennis Cookman (remember him? If you don’t, here’s a hint: his book is called “The Bully”) and Alex Betner, who has never been mentioned before and never will again. I suppose I should be grateful this ghostie didn’t just name him Peter. Elizabeth stated in her article that Dennis and Alex were turned away because Ms Simmons hates kids.
Ms Simmons informs Saint Wakefield her actual wording was “I don’t like kids who throw food around my shop.” Dennis and Alex started a food fight that got so ugly Ms Simmons had to close her shop and clean up the mess all afternoon, which lost her a lot of business, which is why she refused them entry when they tried to come in again. And now Elizabeth’s article has cost her more business, because the kids will read it an assume she’s satan.
Elizabeth did not bother to get Ms Simmons’ side of the story, she just got so cross when she heard about a white middle-class boy being oppressed that she dashed out a scathing editorial. Elizabeth is Katie Hopkins. She will not let the facts get in the way of a good surge of indignation.
[Wing: WOULDN’T ELIZABETH FIT IN WELL IN CURRENT MEDIA.]
Elizabeth offers to print a correction, and Mr Bowman says they’ll order refreshments from her for the next teacher meeting, and everything’s fine. Ms Simmons says that the boys manipulated Elizabeth. No, she’s a fucking idiot. Dennis Cookman has a long history of being an absolute shit of a kid – remember when he stole money daily from Lila? Or when he blacked Jimmy Underwood’s eye and stole his bike? Or that time he hit Aaron Dallas? – and somehow Elizabeth thinks she can believe every word he says? Dickhead.
Mr Bowman then starts shilling the boys’ soccer team to Ms Simmons, who gives off a vibe of “I really couldn’t give a shit. Just get me out of here.”
Mr. Bowman smiled at Mrs. Simmons. “We’re very proud of our boys’ soccer team,” he said. “They were undefeated last year, and that means that this year they’ll be competing in Division A.”
“Division A?” Mrs. Simmons repeated.
“The statewide competition,” Mr. Bowman explained. “Today’s scrimmage is a tryout for places on the team.”
“That’s nice,” Mrs. Simmons said.
See? Zero fucks given. [Wing: Mrs Simmons is my new favourite adult in Sweet Valley.] [Raven: What the fuck is a scrimmage? I know what it means in reference to Handegg, but soccer?]
Elizabeth heads over to the field again, and bumps into Amy. She makes the following request:
“Do me a favor, will you? Take your notebook and help me keep track of the stats on the players. I’m finding out that it’s hard to take notes, stay objective, and keep your facts straight all at the same time.”
Fuck off, Elizabeth, you absolute drama queen. You’ve had one very mild telling-off – in fact, there was no punishment attached, it was more like constructive feedback on her process – and all of a sudden you’re doubting yourself. Are you that fucking fragile because you’ve literally never been wrong before that you cannot function after being told to listen to both sides of the story?
Over with the Unicorns, Jessica has had two goals dedicated to her so far by Aaron. Nobody else has, so she’s feeling epically smug. Denny Jacobson scores a goal and Janet sits up straighter, but he dedicates his goal to his English teacher after flunking a test. [Wing: …why are they dedicating their goals left right and centre?] [Raven: Yeah, that bugged me too. I guess some top soccer stars do dedicate the odd goal to recently dead relatives or their newborn babies or something, but it’s hardly something that’s done each time a goal is scored.] Everyone except Janet finds this funny. Janet knows this doesn’t reflect well on the Unicorns. She lashes out saying sixth graders never make the team, and Lila backs her, clearly fed up with Jessica’s gloating. Jessica vows that NOBODY will forget how important she is.
Also, Jessica’s back with Aaron is she? After two books of Rick Hunter. That’s all we get? Fuck that. Rick was far more interesting. Jessica needs someone to keep her on her toes, instead of just enabling her bullshit.
We cut to the next day where Jessica is trying to convince Elizabeth to do an entire story on how fabulous she is for having three (another happened off-screen) goals dedicated to her. Elizabeth is very snappy about it, and is determined to never make a mistake again as long as she lives. She asks Amy for feedback on her follow-up about Ms Simmons’ shop, and Amy says she’s added a few paragraphs. For once, she has a personality and refers to the two boys as “a pair of low-down, lying, slimy, food-fighting finks.” I think we can see where this is going. Especially since Elizabeth actually has to explain why she can’t possibly publish that.
Jessica goes back to her original agenda, and Elizabeth counters with the story that Aaron is the only sixth-grade boy to make the team. Jessica starts moaning that she wants to be in the paper, she’s famous, etc. and Elizabeth and Amy yell in unison, “Get a life!”.
So, anyone who grew up in the 90s can place exactly when this happened. For me, “get a life” was used in almost every sentence when our form room was the science lab, I still covered my folders in pictures of Michael Jackson (he was white, and people said he was a “paed”, but it was before he decided to have straight hair – so around somewhere between Dangerous and HIStory), and the entire class was reading “Flowers in the Attic” in a very furtive manner during lunch. In a few more books, we’ll hit the block where Jessica can’t stop talking about how many pairs of Doc Martens she owns. Ladies and gents, we’ve hit the 90s proper. [Wing: I mean, Michael Jackson was never white, he just lightened his skin, which is its own complicated thing in some communities. Also, I had to look up “paed” because the spelling threw me RE pronunciation, so fellow USA readers, “pedo”.] [Dove: You know, it might actually be spelled “peed”, I’ve never written it down before, and I got really confused. But then “peed” looks like the past tense of pee. We need Raven, the resident expert on bad words.] [Raven: I’d use “paed” or “peed”, with the outlier being “pede”. Not used it for a year or so, since the heady days of suspense post-Savile when you’d spot your favourite ageing celebrity trending, and immediately think “dead or paed?” Usually followed with a “Whew! Dead. Thankfully.”]
That evening, Jessica watches a talk show with her favourite actress, Lois Lattimer. (I know I always use Connie Boyer as Jessica’s go-to actress, that’s because Connie gets more book mentions than Lois. And besides, for me there is only one Lois in Sweet Valley.) Lois says that she’s really into activism and recently was part of an environmental rally. Lois is wearing a t-shirt that reads “SAVE THE TREES”. I don’t know which trees and Lois doesn’t mention any trees at all. Actually, Lois doesn’t seem to have a specific cause, she just seems to think that generally being an activist is A Good Thing. Which isn’t wrong, it would just be odd if we turned on a talk show and saw Reese Witherspoon wittering on about generally being involved in activism, without anything specific to point to. [Wing: Is this around the time that someone climbing into a tree was pretty famous? A quick look at the timeline shows that the pub date here predates Julia Butterfly Hill’s protest in the Luna tree (more than 700 days of tree sitting), and that’s the big one I remember hearing about in the 90s. Ghostie, you are ahead of your time.] [Dove: Actually, Raven and I wondered if there was a big environmental push in the USA that you might know about. I remember the book came out around the time the Blue Peter – sure, let’s bring that up again, and talk about their badges – was on a big push to recycle and not use spray cans because of CFC emissions, etc.] [Raven: There was also Swampy, but that wasn’t until the mid-Nineties.] [Dove: Which is actually when these books were published, even though they’re living in an eighties bubble, these were released in the 90s.]
Jessica decides she needs a cause, since every celebrity she’s aware of has one. And she’s famous too, so…
That night she sees a picture of Ned and Alice in their college-but-pre-law-school-for-Ned days (*panics* ROSEY? Is that right?) where they were activists. Alice and Ned take a few minutes and wrong suggestions to work out which rally they were at (they finally remember it was the one for “Gin and sex toy Thursdays”), and Jessica notes that they look very attractive, and thinks that activism makes you hot, so that’s a good reason to do it.
The next day at school, Aaron meets Jessica at her locker, and she gets all tongue-tied now he’s a soccer god. She sees some eighth-graders walking with their soccer gods arm in arm. She notes how 1950s it is. Then Aaron offers her his arm, and she’s totally into it. She makes a point of gloating at Janet and Lila as they walk past. Aaron promises to dedicate millions of goals to her this season. (Is anyone else imagining the scene in Cars where the road is finished, everyone gets a sexy paint job, and starts cruising down the road?) [Wing: Adorable. And next thing you know, he’ll be offering her his other jersey to wear. Whatever will you do, Jessica? It’s not purple. (Probably. Though at SVMS, I suppose anything is possible.)] [Dove: Pretty sure in the Booster uniform colours are meant to be navy blue, but the Unicorns bought a shade that was closer to purple. Booster Boycott, maybe?]
Over with the fragile twin, her world is crashing down. Inevitably Amy’s copy of her retraction was published, and Dennis Cookman is out for metaphorical blood. It’s a good thing this wasn’t 52 books earlier, otherwise it would be real blood and Jessica would no longer be a twin. In fact, why is that? We never did resolve his reasons for bullying. And while we’re on the topic, what were the dimensions of that fucking cave?
And now Elizabeth has to see Mr Bowman again after assembly.
During assembly, we get to the point of this book. The school soccer field is three yards too short for regulation. It’s fine for the girls, because they’re too crap to play in Division A (I’m sure Mr Davis is not surprised by this). So, sorry boys, no Division A for you this year.
Randy Mason asks if they can use Sweet Valley High’s field. Mr Clark says no, they’re too busy using it for mass shankings of Big Mesa students and their weekly proms.
This provokes a riot, led by one of the millions of Peters in this school – this one (Peter Jeffries) is the captain of the boys’ soccer team.
Mr Clark tries to reason with them by explaining it will cost $5,000, but these are privileged white kids, who don’t really understand where money comes from or that for some people, there are limits. [Wing: Psh. Someone get Lila interested in soccer, Mr Fowler will get this done.]
Randy Mason says what if they raise the money themselves. Mr Clark says sure, if they can raise $5k in a week. Ask Bruce Patman or Lila Fowler. I’m sure that’s their daily allowance. [Wing: Ha! Great minds think alike.]
Randy says they’d have to go door-to-door and ask for donations at the mall. Jessica volunteers to help, because after all, Lois Lattimer says activism is cool. [Raven: This also bugged me. Is collecting money to build a soccer field “activism”…?]
Over with the Delicate and Fragile Writer, she’s having a hard time pleading her case as Mr Bowman tells her off for using opinions instead of facts and she needs to be objective. Uh, no, Mr Teacher, sir, she needs to not use her newspaper to publicly humiliate and bully her peers. I know it’s not her fault, but let’s address the actual issue here. Even if it was a proven fact that Dennis was a “low-down, lying, slimy, food-fighting fink” her newspaper is not the place for such wording. Unless, of course, Elizabeth really is Katie Hopkins.
Then, in a moment of breathtaking hypocrisy, Mr Bowman informs her that actually Ms Simmons was mistaken, Dennis and Alex weren’t food-fighting in the shop, it was two kids from (where else?) Big Mesa (this explains why the high school field is so heavily booked for shankings). Mr Bowman informs Elizabeth that she should have gone back to the boys to check their story. And I agree with that. But if you ask me, if adults are coming into the school to complain about the school paper, then a teacher really should supervise what happens next. You don’t let a fuckup escalate.
[Wing: But that would involve someone actually teaching at SVMS. He should have been involved from the beginning.] [Raven: This FUCKING school.]
Mr Bowman side-steps my reasoning and tells Elizabeth that he will scalp her if she makes the same mistake a third time.
After school, the twins go to the mall to hit up people for cash. Is anyone else wondering what $5k looks like in coins? [Note from the future, damn, I was so sure Wing would have a fact or image there.] [Raven: How about this?] Inexplicably, Lila is with them. As if Lila would ask other humans for cash, even if it was for a good cause. She is too rich for this shit.
Elizabeth is sulking because she has to write an apology to Alex and Dennis, and Jessica wants her to get over it. Jessica has her activism buzz on, and accosts a friendly-looking woman. She gives a lengthy speech, only to be told the lady doesn’t speak much English, but Jessica should find a policeman if she’s lost.
An hour later, Elizabeth is exhausted, apparently her feet hurt, so she sits down and whines a bit. Jessica is desperate to raise some money though, and chivvies Elizabeth into trying again. Bit of a role reversal here. I guess Jessica really is the fitter twin, if Elizabeth can’t stand up for a full hour without her little toesies getting tired. I’d love to see this shown in their weight. Jessica does cheerleading and ballet, and Elizabeth sits at a typewriter, and they both eat a lot of unhealthy food (but think they have a healthy diet). I know I harp on about their weight a lot, but it really bugs me that the books pitch these twins as being so healthy, when actually they’re not, Jessica just burns a lot of calories by being active, and Elizabeth burns them by being sanctimonious, and both judge Lois Waller for being fat, when really it’s just a lucky metabolism for them.
Jessica approaches a man reading a sports page and asks him if he’d like to contribute to a $5,000 field. This is the wrong approach, and he’s astounded that kids today want so much money. In his day they played kick the can on a dirt field.
This causes Elizabeth to announce she’s going home. I really want to kick Elizabeth at the moment. Jessica says no, they’re just approaching the wrong age group, and picks some kids to ask. This goes well, they get talking to a kid from Westpark Middle School (the name of the school really tickles me) who donates a quarter for their cause. Then he says that he’s at the mall because their library was damaged by a flood, so can they help him out? Both twins feel obligated to give a quarter.
Uh, did Lila go home? I bet she did. In fact, I bet she was never there. Rich people don’t beg.
After that, they bump into Amy Sutton, Maria Slater and Ken Matthews who, between them, have managed to raise a button, which a toddler dropped in Maria’s tin. Everyone agrees that this is hopeless. Time to give up, never play soccer again, etc.
Time for a Buffy-esque inspirational speech from Jessica.
Jessica frowned, thinking back to what Lois Lattimer had said. “The whole world would be better off if it stopped thinking me, and started thinking we,” she said forcefully. “The students of Sweet Valley Middle School are the future of California. Why shouldn’t people want to help us help ourselves? Doesn’t everybody benefit if we grow up into healthy, athletic citizens? Citizens who learn how to play by the rules. Citizens who know how to compete.” She paused dramatically and lifted her hands. “When you look at it that way, five thousand dollars isn’t a lot of money. Not when you consider the return they’ll get on their investment.”
[Wing: Citizens who learn to play by the rules, huh? (a) The rules rarely apply to you rich white people. (b) You sound like a slippery slope to Big Brother. (1984, not a reality tv show. Took me a minute to realise I should probably clarify.)]
This rousing speech generates a crowd, who think Jessica’s just the best thing ever, and start dropping cash into her tin, some of which is folding money. Everyone sets out again with renewed enthusiasm.
We skip to Thursday, the day Mr Clark announces the results of the collection campaign. She hurries to an assembly where Aaron invites her to sit next to him, with Denny Jacobson and Peter Jeffries and the rest of the soccer team. Fuck off, Peter. There’s too many of you. [Raven: I’d love it if the entire soccer team was made up of Peters. “And it’s Peter with the ball, quick pass to Peter, who squares it back to Peter as Peter and Peter close him down. Oooh, fantastic through ball by Peter now, and Peter is in space! He shows his pace, with Peter and Peter hot on his heels. He’s only got Peter to beat… a sublime chip, and Peter scores! Excellent work from Peter there, now being congratulated by Peter, Peter and, of course, Peter. Wonderful tactical substitution by the coach there, pulling off Peter and bringing Peter on in his place. Peter might be the top scorer this season, but Peter is playing out of his skin,” and so on.] [Dove: Huh. *thinks* Now I kind of want to change the tag to “not enough Peters”.]
Mr Clark makes a big speech about how one person went above and beyond for the fundraising. Aaron tells Jessica he’s pleased she’s getting the recognition she deserves. Mr Clark keeps this up for several more paragraphs before revealing that the person who raised the most money is… Lila Fowler.
[Wing: I laughed myself to tears over this.]
Mr Clark says that the balance collected by the students was “only $1,767” and that Mr Fowler donated the rest. Only? Are you kidding me? They collected nearly $2k in a week and he uses the word “only”. Go fuck yourself Mr Clark. What did you do? You phoned Sweet Valley High and when they said no, you gave up. Fuck off.
[Wing: And in mostly coins and small bills from what we saw earlier. That is freaking amazing.]
Mr Clark then goes on to say that as soon as Mr Fowler donated the rest of the cash, he ran out and bought a plaque to put on the bleachers that reads “To the Fowler family, from the students of Sweet Valley Middle School with gratitude. Without your generous support, this soccer field would not have been possible”.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a generous gift and gratitude is always a good thing to see, but this whole assembly works like kickstarter. If you don’t get the full amount, crawl in a hole and die. Mr Clark only extends gratitude to the Fowlers. He does not mention the kids that spent the last week rattling tins at strangers at all. [Raven: Again, this FUCKING school. Also, this whole Mr Clark praising Lila came over as very creepy in a Nydick way.]
Lila gets up on stage and repeats Jessica’s inspiring speech, and gets a standing ovation. This is probably why she was name-checked as fundraising with Jessica and Elizabeth, but said/did nothing in those scenes. So she could overhear Jessica’s rousing speech. [Wing: I love Lila. I love her.]
Jessica is furious with Lila for upstaging her.
And you know what? For once, I’ll give her a pass. She’s rightly upset, but her anger is misplaced. [Wing: Disagree. At least some of her anger should be for Lila who flat out took credit for a lot of the work Jessica did, including rousing people into action with her speech. Sure, Mr Clark is full on shit here, as usual, but Lila’s in the wrong, too. And she’s supposed to be Jessica’s BFF, which makes it worse.]
Let me tell you a story. When I was eleven, I was in the high set of maths (the clever-people set). I also had a vicious bout of tonsillitis and a chest infection that upgraded to pneumonia. I was off school for a couple of weeks, and when I got back, my first class was maths. When I got into maths, I sat down at my usual seat, and went on with my work. I noticed that people were staring at me. I assumed it was because they’d forgotten I was in their class. It was very early in the school year, we had all come to the school as strangers, and I’d been away for a couple of weeks. But the staring continued. Eventually, a girl to the left of me leaned over and said, “You’re not supposed to be here any more. Dr K___ announced it last week. You have to go down to the thickies’ class.” This opened the floodgates. Other people chipped in. “Yeah, Sally came up from the thickies, and you have to go down to take her place.” … “Your new class is in Block D? Do you know it?”
And eventually, about six other eleven year olds told me where I was supposed to go, and who my new teacher was.
My teacher said fucking nothing.
Anyway, back then, I really hated Sally, who had usurped my position in the smarty-pants class and caused me all of this humiliation and upset.
As an adult, I now know that it was Dr K___’s responsibility to deal with this, and he could have done literally anything else in the world to handle it better. But eleven year old me didn’t know that, so I hated Sally with all the fire inside of me.
And this is what Jessica’s doing. Although she and Lila have a long-standing Frenemy thing going on, whereas I barely knew Sally. But Jessica’s been snubbed publicly – along with everyone else who gave up their free time. Pretty much everyone who fundraised should be upset.
Aaron immediately forgets Jessica’s hard work and says there’s not many kids who could get an adult to invest in them. Uh, Aaron, how about all the adults Jessica and co got money from?
Peter Jeffries raises his hand and says that all goals this season are dedicated to Lila. [Raven: Quit it with this goal dedication bollocks, like it’s some form of bloody currency.] As the assembly ends, Aaron actually bumps into Jessica in his hurry to fawn all over Lila. And he’s not the only one, she’s mobbed by the adoring school crowd. As Jessica runs out of the room to hide her tears, she hears people like Ken and Winston (why she cares about them, I don’t know) praising Lila’s awesomeness.
Later that day, Elizabeth tracks Jessica down, and asks her for a quote about the school field. Jessica replies with no comment, and when Elizabeth presses her, she snaps that she did all the hard work, she was rattling tins and giving speeches, and Lila just swooped in at the last minute and got all the credit. Elizabeth is ashamed of her sister. How can she be so selfish? Elizabeth really thought she had changed, and really she’s just competing with Lila, etc.
Really? This is classic Jessica. Even if she was being unreasonable, this is how she rolls. Everything she does is self-serving. Second, she wasn’t competing with Lila, she was trying to be like her current favourite actress. Finally, she has a point. Not about Lila, but about the fact that Mr Clark not only didn’t thank all of the small-money fundraisers, but that he referred to their efforts as “only”.
Just then, Lila comes down the hall, surrounded by adoring fans. She smirks at Jessica and says, “Not jealous, are you?”, at which point Elizabeth agrees that Lila is awful.
Argh. No, morons. Mr Clark was awful. Jessica and Lila are just being Jessica and Lila.
[Wing: Mr Clark and Lila are both being pretty awful. Jessica’s not been awful yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.]
After school, Jessica sulks in the tree line by the field, watching the boys fawn all over Lila. Lila and Janet made a point of excluding Jessica from their plans – the boys invited Lila to watch them… I don’t know, show off on the soccer field?
She can’t help but cry as the boys call out their dedications to Lila. She then spots a small brown bird (maybe a sparrow? I love sparrows, I miss my bird feeder and bird bath), [Wing: You haven’t put one up in the new place yet? I’m shocked!] [Dove: My backyard is about six feet square, there’s no way to put up a feeder and birdbath and get the birds to use it. It’s too close to the houses, and most people on this street have cats. And a fleet of wild cats live in the public land behind our street. Sigh. Space, but no birds. One day both.] and sarcastically tells it that if it’s here to tell her how important the soccer field is, then it can strongly do one. I think it’s a jab at Disney, but since pop-culture references don’t exist in Sweet Valley, it’s just a bit weird.
She tells the bird her woes, and feels comforted when he doesn’t fly away. Then she has a good old ugly cry at the base of the tree.
Question: Is this the same batch of trees where SOAR planted their baby trees?
The next day, Lila is posing for photos for the Sixers in front of her locker wearing a soccer jacket. Which is now a thing, apparently. Also, why not pose on the field? Janet warmly points out that this reflects well on the Unicorns. She asks if Lila’s will be the only photo in the paper. Elizabeth says yes. She was meant to pose with her dad, but a meeting came up. Elizabeth adds pointedly that she will list the names of every fundraiser though.
As the Unicorns walk away, Elizabeth sees Jessica looking sad, she’s been left out again. Jessica has a go at Elizabeth for making a big deal of Lila, it should be Jessica’s photo in the newspaper, not Lila’s. Elizabeth had anticipated this, and points out that fundraising is a big deal, so it makes sense. She has to be “objective” about this.
Uh. No. What you could do, Elizabeth – as someone who doesn’t answer to anyone at the paper, despite your two-for-two fuckups – is get a picture of every fundraiser. Put Lila in the middle holding the plaque, so everyone knows that her donation was the “most important”, but highlight the way that all the little people did their part too. It’s not either/or. You could easily do this, you stupid waste of space. Thanking all the fundraisers is objective. Do you notice how other fundraiser news articles never just has one person in the picture, it’s always a “look how this community pulled together” picture, will the lead organiser in the middle?
[Wing: Very good point.]
Jessica says it’s the last time she takes up a cause, and Elizabeth snaps at her that she shouldn’t have taken up the cause for the credit she’ll get after – she’s not wrong, but it’s like she’s never even met Jessica if she thinks that’s likely. [Wing: I’m torn on this, because there is is a theory that no work toward a cause can be fully altruistic because the person doing the work benefits in some way (attention, increased happiness, sense of purpose, etc.), but that doesn’t make it a bad thing for them to take up the cause in the first place.] She talks Jessica into coming with her to meet the engineer who’s going to enlarge the field. Is it just me or does it sound really weird to go to an “engineer” to knock down some trees and draw some paint lines on grass? [Wing: I’ve seen engineers brought in when building new sports fields, but that’s mostly for bigger landscaping and structural issues RE stands, etc., which doesn’t seem to be the case here.] [Dove: I assumed it was right, but my brain just tells me that every engineer spends 90% of their time welding. It’s what the engineer on the farm did when I was growing up.]
They go to see the engineer, who is a woman (+1 point) but doesn’t have a name (-1 point), who says that to get the field to be regulation, they’re going to have to enlarge it on two sides. They’re going to have to bulldoze the trees that line it. Jessica is not happy, when she thinks about the sweet little bird she bonded with the other day.
When they get home, Ned seems sad about the trees being bulldozed, because as a kid he would camp in them, and learned everything he knows about nature (knowing Ned, pointing at a tree and saying “tree!” is as far as it goes) from those woods. Uh… so, you used to go camping near a middle school? That’s just weird, dude, no matter what age you were. And that’s best-case scenario. If it’s not weird, it’s creepy.
Alice says that it would be interesting to find out how old the trees are in those woods. Why don’t the girls investigate, after all, Jessica’s always had an interest in nature. This surprises everyone, including Jessica, who requires clarification. Alice reminds her that she nursed Whiskers, the baby seal, back to health. Steven says it was because she had a crush on one of the volunteers. Jessica owns this, but admits she loved Whiskers in the end. And I’m giving this an A+ for continuity, because that was 30 books ago, and Melissa McCormick’s mom is going to rise from the dead in less than 30 books from her death, so continuity is not something we get a lot of.
[Wing: I’m amazed at the continuity here versus the only Unicorn to be on television earlier.] [Dove: Theory: this ghostie got involved in a batch of books much earlier, took a break and came back here?] [Raven: Also, WHISKERS!]
Jessica, still wallowing in self-pity, agrees to go with Elizabeth to investigate the trees, because nobody else asks her to do anything.
The next day they go to the Nature Society which is called… Sweet Valley Nature Society. Is anyone else shocked by that name? They meet a man called Bill, who has a bird sitting on his hand. The bird is called Tweeter, and he looks like the bird Jessica befriended in the woods. Still no word on the breed, so I’m still going with sparrow, even though for all I know, they’re not common to California. [Wing: They are!] Tweeter was found by a logger as a tiny baby. When the trees were cut down, he was made homeless, and his mother flew away. They’ve tried releasing him into the wild, but he just flies back. Jessica gets a bit teary over this.
Bill says that some trees in California are over four hundred years old, and if the trees surrounding the field are that old, maybe the expansion should be challenged. Jessica suddenly comes to life, realising her little bird friend might end up like Tweeter. She says that it should be challenged and Bill needs to do something about it now. He’s called away for a meeting and invites them to pick up some pamphlets.
Wow, Elizabeth, you suck at your job. You went specifically to find out how old those trees were and you said nothing beyond introducing yourself, you asked no questions, and now you’re walking away with a leaflet. Maybe Mr Bowman should take the paper away from you.
When they get outside, Jessica immediately demands that Elizabeth’s article should call for the soccer field not to be expanded.
Elizabeth stamped her foot. “The minute he said that about the trees I knew you were going to start some kind of thing about it. You had that look in your eye.”
“What look in my eye?”
“The look that tells me to watch out, because my life is getting ready to turn upside down. The look that says I’m going to wind up involved in something I’ll regret. The look that tells me to run for my life.”
Oh. So Elizabeth has met Jessica before.
Elizabeth stamps her feet several more times, saying she has to be objective, so she’s not going to say a word about the trees. Because nothing’s more objective than burying a story that gets in the way of your current story. FAKE NEWS!
[Wing: Like I said, she’s the perfect journalist these days.]
Jessica says she’s going to let everyone know about this, and then Elizabeth will have to report on it. Elizabeth says that she thought Jessica was done with causes.
“I’m through with causes that help people,” Jessica shouted back. “People are mean and selfish. But trees and animals are helpless and nice.”
Fair point, well made, pumpkin. You take your stand. [Wing: So this is why she buries people in the Mercandy backyard. She’s helping the environment. #bestjess]
Elizabeth says that Jessica’s doing this for the wrong reasons, to get revenge on Lila. And if that’s the case, I’m not sure that Jessica knows it, because the parts from her point of view were very focussed on how cute and trusting the bird was and how worried she was about the animals.
Elizabeth says – in a move that is both condescending and passive-aggressive – that she supposes it doesn’t matter what Jessica’s motives are, as long as she does something good. [Wing: This is not what you said thirty seconds ago, you fucking hypocrite. #worstliz] Jessica retorts that Tweeter would approve and that’s good enough for her.
The next day, I assume, Jessica uses her evil powers for good. She hunts down the first wave of people with an ounce of empathy or activism in their soul: Mandy Miller (one of the few decent humans in Sweet Valley); Amy Sutton (Team Boring is Team Good); and Sarah Thomas (loves animals). She rallies them quickly, and says they need to save the trees.
“We’ve got to try to save them.”
“No,” Jessica corrected. “We’ve got to succeed in saving them.”
No means no, unless you’re Jessica, clearly.
Sarah says she’ll draw some posters, Mandy offers to make leaflets to hand out at lunch. Jessica teams up with Sarah and Amy goes with Mandy. They need to get to work fast because the bulldozer will be here on Friday morning.
By lunch, Jessica’s rabble-rousing like a pro. She and Sarah batch painted a bunch of posters with a little bird in a nest and the words “SAVE THE TREES!” and Mandy and Amy are leafleting hard.
Jessica manages to sway Lloyd – good plan, start with the nerds who don’t care about sports (Sweet Valley is a cliché), and have the skills to get organised. Lloyd suggests they start a petition. He’ll write it up tonight, and collect signatures during lunch tomorrow.
Next she sways Peter Burns – like I said, too many fucking Peters. [Raven: Fucking hell, it’s Pete Burns!] This one is not the soccer captain, this one likes soccer, but prefers nature. He will not only sign the forthcoming petition, he’ll ask his dad how to organise a protest, his dad was an activist in the sixties. Jessica feels a glow of pride as she realises that people look up to her.
Until she bumps into Aaron, who’s like:
He balls up one of her leaflets and storms off. So I guess they’ll be no more 1950s arm-in-arm walking to class then? Oh well, never mind, Jessica, every recapper prefers you with Rick Hunter anyway. [Raven: I thought it was weird how a bunch of kids were immediately swayed into siding with the trees, when the entire school was massively pro-soccer the previous day.]
The next afternoon, Mandy and Jessica are getting fresh posters and leaflets when the Unicorns walk in. Janet and Lila are particularly furious with her. Jessica asks if they’re here to help. Janet says no, this is an emergency meeting to officially demand Jessica stops her SAVE THE TREES nonsense. (It’s not me, it’s the book. It demands I capitalise SAVE THE TREES.)
Lila tells Mandy that Jessica’s only doing this because the plaque thanks her, not Jessica. Nobody in their right mind would save a bunch of “moldy old trees”. Mandy says she would. Mary quickly agrees. That does not work for Janet, who gives an ultimatum: Unicorns or saving trees. You can’t have both.
Mandy quickly picks the trees. [Wing: Because Mandy is the goddamn best.] Jessica flounders for a moment, she considers throwing it all in and making up with the Unicorns. Then she pictures cute little Tweeter, and how the bird in the woods had been there for her when the Unicorns had excluded her. TREES, MOTHERFUCKERS.
And then Mary joins them.
Janet declares that “THIS IS WAR!” (she actually does say that) and they stomp out.
[Wing: …I suddenly have a great need for Mandy, Mary, and Jessica have their own special club and absolutely trounce the Unicorns in every way possible.] [Dove: Write it! They can be the Alicorns. Winged unicorns are better than regular ones.]
Jessica feels the weight of responsibility of two of her friends throwing over their Unicorn Club membership for her cause. She says they made the right decision.
Over with Elizabeth, she and Todd are discussing the SAVE THE TREES demonstration. Todd tells her there’s a SAVE THE SOCCER FIELD faction, who are planning a counter-demonstration. Elizabeth says she’d better head over to them and report on that too.
Is it just me or is Elizabeth shit at being a reporter? She makes an assumption and prints a lie. She makes another assumption about her first assumption and prints spite. Now she’s cheerfully oblivious about what’s going on on her lead story.
So we get two paragraphs while she’s over there, and Peter Jeffries (too many fucking Peters) makes the proclamation that there are plenty of trees, so who gives shit about the ones they’ll have to bulldoze? Elizabeth then heads off, apparently she’s gotten all she needs on that subject.
Then we have that famous scene from West Side Story, which is so famous that I know it but I’ve never seen it, where the two warring factions saunter up and finger-snap at each other.
Sophia Rizzo has joined Team Activism, and yells that the other side are “Tree killers”. [Wing: Clearly I’m #teamactivism just based on the members. AMAZING.]
The Tree Killers respond that they’re “Tree Huggers”. And I’m going with those labels, because it’s much easier than coming up with a new team name for them every paragraph.
Elizabeth is disappointed in both sides. It’s fine to feel inspired to take up a cause, but calling each other mean names is just not cricket. Fuck off, you sanctimonious jizz-whistle. Although she’s right, screaming that the other person is Satan is not how to win an argument. Jonathan Pie makes much the same argument, but without Elizabeth’s condescension (and Tom Walker, the actor who plays/writes Jonathan Pie has a much less hyperbole-riddled discussion about than in pretty much any interview you see).
Charlie Cashman yells that the tree huggers are just bitter they didn’t make the team. Belinda Layton points out she did make the team (I thought no girl made the Division A team?). So someone crumples a leaflet and throws it at her. It hits her square in the forehead. [Wing: Lies. She would have dodged the hell out of that.] She throws it back and it hits Janet. [Wing: Completely intentional, considering her skills.]
And within seconds everyone is throwing paper at each other, until Mr Clark threatens to suspend everyone. If everyone is prepared to calm down, he’s willing to hear both sides of the argument in his office. Jessica says she doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. It goes about as well as you’d think.
Jessica stepped forward. “We don’t want to discuss anything. We demand that you cancel the construction of the soccer field—now!”
Elizabeth sucked in her breath with a gasp. Jessica wasn’t going to help her cause by being rude to Mr. Clark.
“Miss Wakefield,” Mr. Clark said in a patient but seething tone, “if you ever use that tone of voice again with me, I will call your parents down here and the four of us will have a long talk about courtesy. That goes for everyone in this school. Do I make myself clear?”
[Wing: I have a feeling that is not going to go the way you hope it will, Clark.]
Mr Clark tells everyone to calm the fuck down and go to class.
Todd asks Elizabeth whose side she’s on, and she says as a reporter she’s completely objective. [Wing: God, this is one of the worst lies about reporters (and scientists, etc.)! There is no such thing as complete objectivity from a person. Everything we experience is coloured by what we’ve experienced before.] Todd, showing a modicum of intelligence, notes that no report is completely objective. [Wing: Holy shit, I agreed with Todd. The world is ending.] Also, surely she’s a tree hugger because she’s always interested in the environment. Elizabeth maintains that she’s objective.
There’s nothing wrong with being human, Elizabeth. You could say, “I’m pro-tree, but for the sake of my job I’ll report it objectively,” or vice-versa. Todd isn’t sure what side he’s on, he’s got friends on both sides, and doesn’t want to upset anyone. God forbid either of these muppets listen to both sides and make a decision for themselves about what they believe. Which, to be fair, is what Elizabeth says, adding that that’s where she comes in. What? Elizabeth, you are completely useless at the moment. I wouldn’t trust you to report the opening of a paper bag accurately, let alone objectively.
Over with Jessica, she’s come down from her activism high and is now sick with shame over how she yelled at Mr Clark. Aaron approaches and says he knows he was being a jerk about the soccer field. He got all giddy as the only sixth-grader on the team, then there wasn’t a team, then there was.
Jessica melts a little, and notices that he’s still as cute as ever – no, he’s not! Rick Hunter’s a seventh grader and he’s funny – and then Aaron adds that he was hoping that if he apologised she’d call off the SAVE THE TREES thing.
When she says no, he tells her that she’s just jealous and angry at him and Lila, and damn, Jessica, run away fast. That’s a big red flag right there. Charming until you say no, then he lashes out? Tell him to strongly do one, and go ask Rick Hunter what he thinks of the soccer field/tree situation.
And I’m proud of her. She does the first part of my suggestion. She tells him that she’s not doing it for any other reason than to save the trees, and he can get fucked.
Over with Elizabeth, she’s interviewing students to ask what they think. Randy is pro-tree, and gives a few quotes about how he feels. Then he asks Elizabeth which side she’s on. She says she’s objective, and Randy says surely it’s her duty to side with them. Not really sure on that logic, other than they print on paper, so they shouldn’t cut down more trees than necessary?
Elizabeth spots Rick Hunter and makes her excuses to leave. Sadly, Rick’s on the opposite side to Jessica – but Elizabeth isn’t surprised by that. She acknowledges his crush on Jessica, but apparently that’s all it is. So I guess we’re ignoring the fact that Jessica was chasing him down to ask him to dance during Won’t Someone Help Anna?
Rick’s point of view is that the soccer field will entertain people, and they’re not talking about cutting down all the trees, just some of them. And while 400 years is ages to a human, in the context of the age of the world, it’s nothing.
Once again, Elizabeth has to say that she’s objective, and bystanders start the tree hugger/killer feud again. It’s broken up by Ms Wyler before it can get going, but at this rate, the Mercandy yard will be overflowing with dead kids.
Elizabeth asks Ms Wyler for a quote.
“I’m a member of several nature clubs,” Ms. Wyler answered thoughtfully, “and right or wrong, my tendency is to side with the pro-nature side of an argument.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth said, scribbling quickly so that she could get Ms. Wyler’s quote down word for word. But when she read it over and thought about it, she realized that Ms. Wyler’s way of forming an opinion was just like Todd’s. She wasn’t thinking about the question—she was just siding with her friends.
Um, no, she’s not, Elizabeth. She says she’s a member of several nature clubs. Do you know why people join clubs? Because they like the thing they’re focussed on. So, parsing this out: Ms Wyler likes nature. She joins nature clubs. She takes a pro-nature stance. Friendship, while magic, has bugger all to do with it.
She asks Mr Clark for a quote, and he says fuck the trees, there are plenty of trees but not enough soccer fields, so the bulldozers will be here bright and breezy on Friday morning. [Raven: What happened to listening to both sides of the argument, Clark? You’re a disgrace.]
She asks Mr Sweeney, who doesn’t really answer the question. He basically tells her it’s all down to what you value the most. This baffles Elizabeth. Because… I’m past caring.
Elizabeth realized as she walked into the crowded, noisy cafeteria that the room seemed to have split up into two camps: the pro-soccer field side and the pro-tree side. And politics sure had formed some strange friendships.
The Unicorner was full of non-Unicorns. Grace Oliver seemed to have split off from the pro-soccer side and joined the pro-tree side of the cafeteria.
Jessica sat at a long table with Amy, Maria, Mandy, Grace, Lloyd, Sophia, Anna Reynolds, and Randy. Since Jessica, Mandy, and Grace were Unicorns, they normally wouldn’t be caught dead sitting with Randy or Lloyd. But they were all talking excitedly. The tree issue seemed to have brought them all together.
This delights me. We never had a controversy like this at my school, but one day the two most popular girls in school fell out, and all day instead of sitting together, they sat with complete randoms in class, and we all watched with glee to see who they would pick. They made up during lunch though, so it was over quite quickly. And we never found out why they argued.
When Elizabeth sits down, Jessica immediately passes her the petition and tells her she must print it in the paper. While Elizabeth is the editor, it’s not her paper, and she needs to print it. Elizabeth says she’s objective, and Jessica should give the petition to Mr Clark. She appeals to Amy to back her up on how both sides of the story need to be told.
Amy – holy shit, you guys – Amy tells her that a newspaper shouldn’t be afraid to take a stand when it comes to right and wrong, and she’s disappointed in Elizabeth. Holy shit. Amy has literally never had so much character. I still hate her, but this may be the book I hate her the least.
[Wing: #bestamy] [Raven: … Isn’t that marrying animals? “I practice bestamy. I’ve married a puffin.”]
Elizabeth looks around and sees that everyone is glaring at her. She offers to sit somewhere else, and nobody argues. She gets up and realises that she has no appetite now she has no friends, and as she’s about to leave, Aaron approaches, also with a petition, also saying it should be front page news. And he also takes the “if you’re not for us, you’re against us!” stance.
She goes to Mr Bowman and complains that it’s hard to be objective when really there aren’t many facts, just opinions, and they’re all different. She feels like something important is missing from the whole story. My gosh, if only someone approached an expert and asked their opinion (based on facts and analysis), rather than pissed-off kids and bemused teachers.
Mr Bowman displays a shocking lack of awareness and tells her this is just like the Vietnam war, where facts don’t matter, and what she’s lacking is passionate opinion.
Uh… I guess… um, well… *thinks* Way to be an American stereotype there, Mr Bowman. FUCK FACTS! ‘MURICA!
No. What it’s lacking is an opinion. Go to the Nature Society or your Environmental Agency, or the American Equivalent of Historic England (the people who rate Grade I/II/III listed buildings) and find someone to give a definitive answer on whether those trees can be chopped down. FFS. Why has nobody bothered to do this? This must be a weird USA/UK thing. Because nothing fucking happens over here without the say so of about a billion agencies who carefully appraise whether a new building/amendment/etc., will fit in with the surroundings.
[Wing: Eh, yes and no. There are certainly restrictions around historical buildings and what can be built where based on other things, so there really should be some discussion going on within the city, too, not just SVMS, especially because this is school and therefore government property, but that might be taking place at a level that the kids aren’t hearing about.]
My home town, a tiny town in the green belt (the nearest bit of countryside to London, very popular with commuters and B-list celebrities), took nearly a decade to expand one of the two car parks in the centre of town, to ensure that it didn’t fuck with the historic setting of the town. (And boy was it worth it. Six extra parking spaces, bitches.) Having spoken to Wing and Ostrich, I know that the USA doesn’t have any such limitations (lucky them), but surely there must be a governing body or agency somewhere that keeps track of historic stuff? [Wing: We have some limitations, but we have so much more space (and so much less history, really) that it’s not the same level of concern most of the time. Though, random Wing fact, work just got dinged for a proposal to change a thing on a historic building for safety and accessibility purposes, but we can’t because it would change the facade too much. Screw safety and accessibility.]
Mr Bowman suggests she gets an editorial from each side, and Elizabeth thinks that will make everyone happy. Mr Bowman laughs in her face.
We cut to after the paper has come out (Thursday afternoon, ice cream at Casey’s), and Jessica is furious that her editorial is on the front page, right next to Aaron’s. They cancel each other out, what’s the point?
Side note: I bet Jessica’s is much better. We’ve had plenty of evidence that when she cares about something, she can write something that’s witty and engaging. And I know who Aaron’s future spouse is. It makes me judge him very hard, so I can’t imagine he has an ounce of wit or imagination.
Also, there’s no word on whose article is “first”. If this was real, there would be bloodshed over whose article got to be on the left of the page. And Elizabeth really should’ve agonised over that, because whoever’s editorial went first would be perceived as the side she was on. [Wing: Also, editorials don’t belong on the first page!]
Jessica throws down the Sixers and storms back outside to her picket line, and “her picket line” is one of the cutest things I’ve written about Jessica. (Aside from Whiskers. He wins everything.) They’re outside Casey’s with signs and anger. Inside are the Tree Killers, and Bruce Patman knocks on the glass to get their attention and calls them “tree huggers”.
Jessica and Winston run back inside. Bruce says they’re all going to look stupid tomorrow when the bulldozer arrives at 10am.
Jessica snaps back that she’s got a plan.
Elizabeth worries. She hates it when Jessica has a plan.
The two warring factions stand on chairs – because, passion, I guess? – and yell insults at each other until Mr Casey comes out and throws out all the kids. Including Todd and Elizabeth, even though they were being “objective”. [Raven: Go Mr Casey! Those asshats spend too much time in your shop, taking up valuable real estate that could be used for paying customers.] This is enough for Todd to finally make a decision. His decision is neither side is right. Sadly he does not punch everyone, which is what he will do when he gets to high school. [Wing: Oh god.]
Over with the Tree Huggers, Winston compliments Jessica on not being as shallow as he initially thought, and Amy agrees that she’s a really strong leader. She asks where Jessica came up with her brilliant plan they’re going to put into motion tomorrow, and Jessica says she saw it on the news.
*blinks* Jessica not taking credit for something considered brilliant? Jessica has watched the news? Who are you and what have you done with the real Jessica?
She worries that the plan may go too far and asks what they think. They’re all for it, and Jessica feels very proud of herself.
That afternoon, Elizabeth asks her dad for advice about conflicting sides, since he’s a lawyer. Ned says that it’s not down to her to negotiate a settlement, she just has to stay neutral and report the facts.
(Uh, is it fair to assume that Ned’s a litigation lawyer in this book then? Probably not. He could conceivably be any discipline other than probate, and even that could require negotiation, though that’s very rare, it never happened in my three years in probate. I’ll go with litigation, because that’s the most likely. Unless Wing objects, because she knows more about American lawyering than I do.)
[Wing: Litigation is fine, though that’s pretty broad itself. I do negotiations often, and I am a business transactional lawyer, but litigants also often settle via negotiations. AND FINALLY MY TIME HAS COME. I’ve been sitting on this since I first learned what this book was going to be about, and I’m thrilled to share it: TREE LAW IS SERIOUS BUSINESS WITH SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES. Here is my favourite story on r/legaladvice, where a neighbour cut down a bunch of old growth trees that were determined to be worth at least $650,000 US. I KNOW, RIGHT? Apparently trees can be worth a ton of money and cutting them down without permission can lead to a ton of work and cost, either flat out reimbursing the landowner for them or doing the work of replacing them with new trees that actually survive for a certain amount of time after transplanting them. Not planting new trees; transplanting trees of similar growth. Ever since I saw this, I have gone down a rabbit hole of reading about old growth trees and tree law. Also, random fact that sort of ties into all of this, in Arizona it is illegal to harm a saguaro cactus, and in order to build where one is growing, there has to be all sorts of reviews and approvals. PLANT LAW. SERIOUS BUSINESS.] [Dove: Welp. I’ll be on that subredit for the next couple of weeks. Also, “Litigation” is one of our blanket practice groups where I work (with loads of specialist teams under it), so I thought I’d stick to the big-picture discipline, unless we get proper details on which case he’s working on each book.]
Ned says that sometimes emotions cloud everyone’s ability to come to an agreement, so sometimes he investigates the subject of the dispute – only sometimes, Ned? What the fuck? – and that can sometimes give an answer. What the fuck? No. That’s not how lawyering works. You have to work with the facts first and foremost. Why are facts the last fucking resort in this book?
(In case anyone’s wondering: I’m an analyst. For a law firm. Facts and maths are my thing. That’s why I’m taking this so personally.)
[Wing: No wonder Ned is such a shit lawyer.]
Elizabeth finally decides to go back to the Nature Society, where she speaks to Bill again, and starts her research. She stays up very late. At midnight she has an “ah-ha!” moment. But we don’t know what it is.
The next morning, Elizabeth arrives at school early and starts poking the trees and looking at them with her magnifying glass. They have yellow spongy patches. Jessica arrives as Elizabeth tries to tell her what she’s found, but Jessica is on an activism high again and can’t hear anything she says. The school bell rings and cuts their conversation short.
She worries that Jessica is going to take part in an audacious plan all for nothing. She decides to call Bill at the Nature Society.
During Ms Wyler’s class, Jessica and the Tree Huggers (great band name) are very agitated. They keep reaching for their bags, making sure they’re easy to grasp. As they hear the rumble of the bulldozers, Jessica yells “It’s zero hour!” and they all jump out of their seats. [Raven: First album by Jessica and the Tree Huggers? It’s Zero Hour!]
They run down the halls yelling “Zero hour!” and kids come flooding out of the classrooms to join them, followed by the teachers (trying to keep order) and the Tree Killers (who want to know what’s going on). They dash out of school, across the field and each Tree Hugger chains themselves to a tree. [Wing: YES! \o/]
There’s a lot of name calling as the bulldozers idle, unable to knock down the trees. The bulldozer operators ask Mr Clark to take control. He shouts a bit and flails ineffectually, and it’s a stalemate until Saint Elizabeth steps forward.
Jessica thinks that Elizabeth is joining her, and she’s brought Bill too, oh, isn’t life marvellous?
And of course, Bill examines the trees and announces that they’ll have to be knocked down. The trees are diseased and full of bugs. They’re going to have to knock down the entire woods.
This upsets even Aaron.
Winston asks if they’re 400 years old, and Bill says no, around 60. Jessica flushes with embarrassment, and says he told her they were 400. He says no, some trees in Sweet Valley are that old, but not these ones. These aren’t all that special at all.
Of course, Bruce Patman is the first to speak up and mock the hell out of the Tree Huggers. The Tree Huggers are furious with Jessica for making fools of them.
Jessica sees Lila and Janet laughing at her. They say something to Aaron and laugh again, but Aaron doesn’t laugh.
Everyone else goes back to class, but Jessica’s too humiliated. Elizabeth stays behind to say she’s sorry Jessica’s upset. Jessica admits that Elizabeth did try to tell her this morning but she was too het up. Elizabeth wants to go back to class, but Jessica’s going home. She’s mortified and can’t face anyone. [Raven: So no one else givesa shit about Jessica just running away from school, embarrassed and mortified? This FUCKING school. She could turn up swinging from a branch of one of her trees, you clefts.]
That evening, Jessica is home watching TV. Her parents have gone straight from work to the PTA meeting and Jessica is still mortified. Steven comes home and lightly teases her, saying she wanted to be famous and now even the high school students are talking about her. Then he adds that if she hadn’t pulled that stunt, the disease could have spread to more trees in Sweet Valley.
Alice and Ned get home with Elizabeth in tow. I guess Elizabeth went to the PTA meeting. That’s weird, but of course she did. [Raven: She broke the news about the dying trees, and Bill, to be fair. Vested interest and pertinent info for the meeting.] They want to yell at Jessica, but Steven asks about what happened at the meeting. The outcome is that all the trees will come down and there won’t be any money left over for the school field expansion. Oh, and Jessica’s grounded. (I bet that won’t stick.)
[Wing: WHY? You were fucking activists in your youth, Wakefields, you should be encouraging her passion and teaching her how to do it “right,” whatever right means to her.]
Later Elizabeth tells Jessica that she got in trouble too. Mr Bowman is furious that she didn’t check the facts. FFS, Elizabeth, you need to be told three times? I don’t blame him for being angry. Well, actually I do, because he’s vague and unhelpful.
The twins feel blue because nobody is talking to them.
That night, Jessica thinks that she must remember to tell Elizabeth what Steven said – without Jessica’s stunt, they would have never realise that all the trees were infected. She wakes up with a brilliant idea. Naturally, the rest of the family are a bit worried about where this brilliant idea is going.
Jessica announces that if the trees stay up, they’re a threat to all trees in Sweet Valley, which will upset the whole community. So why doesn’t the whole community pitch in for the cost. Ned heads to the phone to call Mr Clark at home.
We cut to the assembly on Monday morning, where Mr Clark recaps the situation again – just in case we’d forgotten – and then says that a student had a brilliant idea. He called the council, and they agreed, so they’ve pledged to cover a percentage of the cost, so they can have the soccer field after all. BTW, the student is Jessica.
There is applause, but a lot of people are still glaring at her. She and Elizabeth agree to go to lunch together, because they’re still not sure they have any other friends.
At lunch, the canteen is pretty much empty. The twins hear some chanting and find out that the Tree Huggers and Killers have united to form another SAVE THE TREES faction. They’re all upset that all the trees are going, so they’re going to plant more to replace them. Again, I ask, where are the SOAR trees planted? They plan to fundraise to cover the cost of the new trees, but they need a leader. So, will Jessica do it? Of course she will, on the condition that Elizabeth covers it for the Sixers.
(That was never in question, Jessica. As if they’re going to take the paper off Elizabeth, no matter how awful she is.)
[Wing: This … is an unearned ending.] [Raven: Agreed. It should have ended with a bunch of dead trees, no soccer field, and grounded twins.]
We move on to the wrap-up chapter, where everyone is planting new saplings (including Lila, which she clearly hates), and Jessica is smug because she got a letter from Lois Lattimer, her hero.
The Unicorns note that the boys are kind of over their girlfriends in favour of soccer, which is annoying. But hey, the annual charity carnival is coming up, so that’ll be something to look forward to.
And once again, the teaser for the next book answers its own question:
Overall, I loved Jessica in this and, by extension, her followers. Especially Winston who gave her the backhanded compliment of her not being as shallow as he originally thought.
Literally everyone else was completely hopeless. I ragged on Elizabeth hard, though she probably didn’t deserve it quite as much as I gave. She had to be told three times to check facts, and still didn’t bother. On the other side of that, Mr Bowman was hopeless. There comes a point where an adult needs to step in, such as, y’know, when a twelve year old ignores the advice you’ve given her three times. But then again, Mr Bowman thinks this field/tree thing is just like ‘Nam, so maybe not Mr Bowman.
Jessica was brilliant though. #BestJess all over the shop. She was passionate, she was bratty, she was audacious and she fucking won. And not because Wakefields always win, and everyone went along with it, but because she came up with an idea to save the day.
I think this is probably why I liked this book as a tween. Even though Jess is amazeballs, I get sick of her doing terrible things and still winning (Mrs Bramble’s dog, Quakefield Wakefield, etc). But this time her win was genuine. She came up with the answer. I loved it for that.
[Wing: This book is kind of a rollercoaster for me. Some parts are wonderful! #bestjess and #teamactivism, mostly. Some parts are terrible! WTF is wrong with SVMS staff? I know this is nothing new, but WTF! And the Wakefield parents there at the end annoyed the hell out of me. Jessica’s solution is great! But the kids all coming around is unearned! Up and down, up and down. BUT I GOT TO TALK ABOUT TREE LAW, SO THERE’S THAT.] [Dove: That’s another check off the bucket list. 🙂]
[Raven: I’m with Wing, I think. Some good stuff, but the FUCKING school pissed me off something royal. And I really hated the soccer stuff, as it was clearly by someone with little or no knowledge of the subject. Although one theory is that the ghostie wrote the soccer parts and soccer players as almost wilfully childish and without soccer knowledge themselves. At one point while practicing, Aaron or someone scores a goal and says “another point fore me!”, as if it’s a single player game and not a team sport. No one can be THAT clueless, surely? Meh, I’m overthinking it. Overall: *unengaged shrug*] [Dove: Don’t you play boardgames with someone who will wilfully lose a team game because he doesn’t want to hand over one of his items to a player who desperately needs it, just on the off chance he needs it later? Maybe Aaron’s that guy.]
I am Dove (she/her). I am: Team Jessica (Sweet Valley); Team Bad Guy (Point Horror); Team Geiger (Making Out); Team Nina/Lucas (Making Out); and I am the voice of a claymation cow named Daisy, and I was in an advert for Fairy Liquid in the 80s.