Title: Lila’s Music Video
Tagline: Lila’s going to be a star!
Summary: Lila’s in way over her head…
The Unicorns are making a music video! Lila Fowler insists on being the singer, since it’s her video camera. But there’s one catch: Lila has a terrible voice, and she’ll be humiliated if anyone finds out.
As hard as Johanna Porter tries to coach her, Lila is hopeless. Johanna is shy, but she has a fabulous voice—which gives Lila a great idea: Johanna will do the real singing from backstage, while Lila lip-synchs on camera!
Their plan works perfectly. The video is so fantastic that the Unicorns submit it to a competition on RockTV, and Lila wins the chance to perform—live! Lila is terrified.
How will she ever get away with this one? [Raven: Is this summary just 75% of the damn book?!] [Wing: That means for once the summary isn’t a lie, though!]
This book bugs me. It’s available in two covers, as you can see. I ordered it multiple times, deliberately seeking out the pink badge cover, and always ended up with the ugly “it’s the 90s, this is our version of grown up” cover. Raven sensed my frustration (read: came home to find me raging about how it was unfair that people didn’t check their listings on eBay/didn’t clarify that the cover may be different to the image shown), and bought me a copy. It only took him one attempt to get the pink badge cover.
Or there are 73 of the 90s covers hidden somewhere in our house. Failing to spark joy. [Raven: Don’t look under the bed.]
After much seeking of this cover, I do love it. Lila looks fabulous and sparkly, she even has a smug little smirk, because she knows she’s better than… well, everyone. Jessica is displaying her double-jointed abilities/overlarge hand. And there are two other girls even I don’t recognise. One looks like bad fanart of Willow from Buffy (and either doesn’t have a left arm or is lightly caressing Lila’s buttocks). The other looks like Ruby from Supernatural. (The Ruby that married Sam in real life, not the other one.)
Maybe they’re Tamara Chase and Kimberley Haver, and that’s why I have no idea who they are. If so, Raven hates one of them with the fire of a thousand suns.
We open with the Unicorns watching RockTV, which is not TV hosted by The Rock, but an MTV rip-off. They’re watching a Melody Powers music video, which apparently is in the “rock and roll” genre. For me, whenever you add “and roll” to the word “rock” that changes the genre from Axl Rose to Buddy Holly. The “and roll” takes it to the 50s.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran, The Del Vikings and the Everly Brothers as much as the next person, but I can’t see the Unicorns getting into it. They would definitely brand Buddy Holly a nerd. Suits and horn rimmed glasses? KILL IT WITH FIRE.
Jessica is feeling jealous that Lila has everything. Her TV is awesome, she has something called SonicSurround, which is mentioned a couple of times in this book, as this Jamie desperately tries to make Fetch happen.
The Unicorns try to copy the dance moves in the music video.
Raven uses any opportunity to link to Robin Sparkles’ Let’s Go To The Mall. Today I outwit him. I’m embedding it, because I feel like this is exactly what the Unicorns are watching:
[Raven: Beautiful. I guess I should retire this now?]
Their attempts to dance quickly turn into carnage, so Lila takes charge. She teaches them the steps, feet first, then hands, then the complicated bits. Damn, Lila can teach? I’d have thought it would be more her style not to, and just show them up. The dance ends with a double-spin that ends in a semi-spit, which sounds either pornographic or painful. According to the book, it’s the latter, as everyone but Lila tanks the move, and they land in a heap of broken hips.
Lila rounds them up and takes them through the move again then they dance in a conga-line through the house, while Melody Power sings “love you, baby” over and over. Clearly a lyricist that can speak from the heart.
As they dance past a mirror, Jessica gets the brilliant idea that they should make a music video.
Then we jump to them eating ice cream and discussing the idea, because writing a transition was too tough for this Jamie.
The girls were all tired, sweaty, and out of breath after dancing and lip-syncing to four Melody Power videos in a row. Now they were sitting in the Fowlers’ large kitchen, eating pints of Ken and Harry’s chocolate-chip brownie peanut-butter marshmallow ice cream.
Ken and Harry’s. Apparently Lila buys knock-off brand ice cream. She drinks Dr Pop and Popsi Cola. And if we believe that…
[Wing: I can’t stop laughing at Ken and Harry’s. I don’t know why this particular brand name change strikes me as funny, but every time I think about it, I laugh.]
Tamara asks what everyone’s talking about, because she doesn’t have cable. And maybe because she wanted to know what happened in the scene between them dancing and them eating ice cream. So, Janet recaps. RockTV is having a competition called School Days. Entrants make music videos, which must be all their own work, and the winner’s school receives an audio/video system. [Raven: Why the hell isn’t this the SOLE TOPIC OF UNICORN CONVERSATION?! Seriously, they’d be on this like cheese on toast. Considering the fatuous guff that routinely captures their imagination in these books, I’m surprised the Ghostie chose to have Jessica pluck this idea from the aether.] [Dove: That’s a very good point. Remember the time they lost their minds trying to get a picture of themselves into a time capsule?]
Jessica adds that the science VCR broke recently, so the school really needs the equipment. Isn’t this like the third time the students have had to raise funds for a VCR? Just get Nydick to stop watching porn on it. Or at least point away from the VCR when he finishes. It would save a lot of $activity-a-thons. [Raven: Or they could just finally arrest Tony Rizzo.] [Wing: THIS SCHOOL SHOULD HAVE ENOUGH MONEY FOR A HUNDRED DAMN VCRS. Look at the tax bracket funding them!] [Dove: Awesome. Not only are they terrible teachers, but they’re fiscally irresponsible. Ofsted would have a field day.]
Betsy asks how they’d shoot a video, and Lila says that they could ask Randy to shoot it on her video camera. This turns off a few Unicorns because he’s a nerd. Also, why Randy? When they made The Slime that Ate Sweet Valley, he was the male lead, Peter DeHaven (Rockin’ Peter?) was the camera operator, as well as Lila. Well, apparently Randy because he short a short film for Social Studies, but whatevs, would continuity kill you ghosties? [Wing: That would make the lack of continuity more interesting. You only get three points of continuity in your ghost-writing stint or they feed you to ravenous Unicorns.]
Lila, by the way, is wearing brown leather pants. For hanging around the house with her friends. #NeverChangeLila
Janet informs them she’ll be the director, and then they decide to get Bruce Patman to play guitar, Betsy will play bass, Maria Slater can play keyboards (keyboards! So 80s) and Scott Joslin will play drums. It would have been really nice if Jessica could have remembered she was in a band with Bruce and Scott, as Gem, the lead singer of NRG, but Jessica has completely forgotten that.
Lila says she’ll look great on camera – uh, they all will look great on camera. The causes an awkward segue into Lila saying that none of them have braces or anything, which causes Janet to choke on her ice cream. I’m certain that’s not significant.
Over with Elizabeth, she’s got a cold, and Amy Sutton is with her. Amy has apparently been reading about an investigative journalist, which has inspired her to be one too. (I guess her mother reading the news on TV isn’t that inspiring?) Amy can’t wait to uncover corruption and go wikileaks on Sweet Valley. Elizabeth points out there’s not much corruption to be had. Amy tries to convince Elizabeth she’s found a story, saying that Randy stole money from the government. Well, actually he bought a bulletin board for the school, which cost $7.25, but only gave $2 change. Amy asked him about it, and Randy explained that he spent the other 75c on pushpins, but Amy is furious he did it without permission.
Elizabeth shoots this down with a lot more aggression than you’d imagine for the usually-spineless Elizabeth, especially when she’s got a cold. Amy sighs and agrees, she really wants to find a scandal.
After several sneezes from Elizabeth, Alice and Ned both arrive at her bedroom to check up on her. [Raven: “That’s a lot of snot on your face, Elizabeth. And is that Steven climbing out of the window?”]
One thing that always bugs me is that Ned is home when the kids get home from school. I mean, in this case it might be a weekend, it’s not really clear. But usually he’s there not long after they get home, which means he’s not even working until 5pm. Wing and I have talked endlessly about the difference in UK and USA law firms. One of the big ones is timekeeping. 9am-5pm is a “minimum effort suggestion”, as far as I can tell in the USA. Ned leads a charmed life, he’s taken seriously at work, but he’s home for dinner with the fam every night. [Wing: Hahahaha. Big law, that would be failing miserably. I was 9 to 6 bare minimum and often 9 to 9. Plus I was usually the last lawyer to arrive in the morning (I am shit at mornings and tend to set my own arrival time wherever I work. I’m just lucky the last couple places have been okay with that). A lawyer at a smaller firm or a lawyer with their own practice (is this what Ned does? I’ve never been clear on that — though the ghosties aren’t clear on what type of law he practices, so) could probably be home for dinner but maybe do more work after.]
Anyway, Ned decrees that Elizabeth is still sick, and will probably miss more school.
The parents leave and Jessica arrives, still dancing. She explains the new project, which is called “Unicorn Rock”. Elizabeth baulks because she and Amy aren’t Unicorns, but Jessica explains that they’re opening it up to non-Unicorns. Amy says no, she gets too much Unicorn nonsense as it is by being in the Boosters. [Wing: In this moment, I love Amy.] Elizabeth says no because she’s sick. She missed three days of school, and Amy is covering the Sixers while she gets back on top of her homework.
This is one of the dullest openings to these books I’ve read for awhile. I don’t know who this Jamie is, but she’s not engaging me.
Amy asks if there’s a scandal brewing, and Jessica says only that Lila wants to be the star, but the music video was Jessica’s idea.
We cut to Monday afternoon where everyone is gathering in Lila’s garage. She’s had the housekeeper (Mrs Pervis) and chauffeur (I assume this is still David’s Lowell’s dad) set up food and drink there. She’s also had Mrs Pervis set up a clothes rack so everyone on camera could look great.
Lila doesn’t like to share her things, but she’s determined to keep Jessica from taking over the project. Objectively, that’s a little harsh. It was Jessica’s idea, and Janet’s the director and they’re practicing at Lila’s house, so she’s entirely lost control of her idea. However, we’re all #TeamLila on the recap site, so we want her to win. And that’s before Lila expands that it might have been Jessica’s idea, but it was Lila teaching them the moves that gave her the idea. [Wing: I think both Jess and Lila are being selfish and needless obnoxious with each other, but that’s actually part of what I like about their friendship.]
Janet announces today they will assign roles. The musicians are assigned with no problem, [Wing: That’s what happens when you conveniently know exactly one person who plays each instrument you want. Damn it, ghostie.] and they move on to the lead singer. Jessica and Lila both say they’ll be the lead. Bruce asks if they’ll ever stop competing. Lila asks for one good reason why Jessica should be lead singer. I’ve got three (in chronological order): Centre of Attention, Jessica the Rock Star, and Holiday Mischief.
Jessica remembers only one of these and weakly points out that she’s sung with a band before. If this ghostie had read the series, she could have added that she’s sung with this guitarist and drummer before, and was the reason for their success. But this Jamie hasn’t read that book. [Raven: Actually, I back Lila here. So what if Jessica has sung in a choir, or a band, or whatever. That doesn’t give her a Wakefield-given right to be front and fucking centre.] [Dove: *blinks* It’s like he’s never read the other 80+ books that came before this.]
As Jessica and Lila glare at each other, Janet takes charge and asks why Lila should be the singer. She says she has the best stage presence. Grace adds she has the best wardrobe, Tamara says she dances as well as Melody Power, and Mary says she even looks like Melody Power.
Jessica points out that singing is kind of a key trait of a lead singer. Lila says she has a “beautiful singing voice”. Several Unicorns are surprised, but everyone just takes her word for it. In my social group when I was their age, I knew exactly who could sing and who could not. We all sung along to music all the time. Surely someone would be able to verify or disprove Lila’s claim.
Randy Mason, king of the nerds, suggests they audition for the role. [Wing: I like how Lila can destroy the most logical idea.] Lila shoots this down by saying someone as good as her doesn’t audition, and then she reminds everyone that it’s her video camera. Internally she wonders if she can sing. How hard can it be? Melody Powers makes it look pretty easy.
Lila gets her way and they move on to discussing what song to do. I’m pretty sure Jessica is mentally picking out a plot for Lila in the Mercandy backyard. Betsy suggests they do an original song. Gosh, this book is just full of non-speaking Unicorns speaking up, isn’t it? I don’t think Betsy’s said a word since book #1.
Everyone’s enthusiastic about this, it’ll double their chances of winning, but nobody really wants to write a song. Jessica reluctantly offers to write the words, unless Lila wants to do that. The bitchiness is strong in this one. And I don’t mean that in a good way. If it was a compliment, I’d use the word “sass”.
They try to think of a composer – everyone here is a musician, not a composer – and finally realise that Julie Porter’s sister, Johanna, writes songs. I just want to point out that we’re on book #73, recap #84, and we’re about to get some details on Julie Porter’s sister. Julie Porter is still fucking irrelevant. [Wing: I legitimately forgot Julie had a sister, if I ever realised it in the first place.] Which makes the following line rather funny.
“You mean that redheaded girl in the seventh grade who never opens her mouth?” Tamara asked.
Johanna is written off as a nobody, and she’s getting more page time than her “nearly somebody” sister.
The Unicorns have a quick confab and after a few moments of dithering over how dorky Johanna is, they decide they may as well involve her, because they need her talent. And of course she’d be delighted to do it, because they’re fucking Unicorns, and who wouldn’t want to work with them?
Johanna, apparently. It’s a smash-cut to the next day, and she turns Lila down politely. Lila asks why, all the cool people are involved. Johanna says that’s the point, she wouldn’t be comfortable around them. Lila doesn’t get that. Who’d turn down the A-listers? (Pretty much anyone whose met them. I haven’t forgotten that Bruce called out everything on Lois Waller’s lunch tray every day for a week. Assholes.) Lila has to invoke the “it’s for the school/good cause” and fake an interest in music in general and Johanna in particular to get her to agree.
Then we get a tiny scene where Elizabeth is walking out of school and tells Jessica that she’s going home because she feels ill. The nurse took her temperature and called Alice. She doesn’t have a cold, she has the flu.
Um. Bullshit. If Elizabeth had the flu, she wouldn’t have managed to walk to school. She wouldn’t even be upright. I’ve had the flu once in my life – during my week off work, which was a kicker. It lasted 10 days. I remember… maybe three hours of it. I remember being put in the car to go to the doctor, which was literally a 2 minute walk, so a very tiny drive, but I just couldn’t manage that far, and I fell asleep in the car. I’m a lifelong insomniac. If I can go from standing upright to fast asleep in under a minute, I’m fucking ill. I don’t even remember seeing the doctor. My next memory is being at home in bed and mum telling me – and by the look on her face, it was about the hundredth time – that the doctor said I had the flu. Next memory? My flatmate waking me up to tell me to call in sick on Monday morning. I had a whole week off work and my only memory of it was falling asleep in mum’s car and later being told I had the flu.
Anyone who thinks the flu is a bad cold, is the same kind of moron who thinks a migraine is a headache. So basically, anyone who mans the number you call when you phone work to say you’re sick.
So, tl;dr: creative has nothing for Elizabeth. Rather delightful.
Another cut to Lila’s garage for the first rehearsal. It’s not going well. The dancers keep treading on each other. The musicians sound horrible. The Unicorns are sniping at each other. Janet is trying to keep control, but overall it’s chaos, and Johanna tries to make a quick exit.
Instead Maria Slater introduces herself, and starts to make small talk. Johanna is incapable of doing anything other than replying with yes or no, and hates herself for being so unimaginative. Maria says everything looks to be right on schedule. Every production she’s been involved in was a mess to begin with. Johanna then recognises her as the kid from Mansion of Blood. This gets them talking about their experience, and Johanna tells all about her family.
“My dad is a violinist and conductor. My mom is a concert pianist. And my sister plays the flute,” Johanna said in a soft voice. “But I’m more a behind-the-scenes kind of person.” Her eyes dropped to her feet. Maria was getting into a sore subject. Everybody in Johanna’s whole family was good at performing. Her mom got up and played the piano in front of thousands of people. Her dad never missed an opportunity to perform—professionally or at parties. Even her own little sister, Julie, played the flute in the California Gifted Students’ Orchestra. In fact, she was rehearsing every afternoon and evening these days for an upcoming performance.
Everybody in her family was always urging her to perform the songs she wrote. But just the thought of it made Johanna sick to her stomach. She wished with all her might that she could somehow work up the nerve to get up in front of people and sing her songs. Every night when Johanna sat down at her piano to work on her songs, she fantasized about being a professional singer and songwriter. She loved to sing and play the piano, pretending that people were watching her.
But pretending was one thing. Actually performing was something else. Shy people weren’t good performers. Good performers were extroverted, outgoing, and always at ease, like Maria or like Julie. Just thinking about actually singing on a stage made Johanna feel queasy and kind of dizzy.
So, that’s the Porter family for you. We know more about Johanna than Julie. Which, actually I’m fine with. Johanna’s a pretty standard trope of a character, Julie’s a total non-entity, but Johanna has a prettier name, so… win?
At this point, Jessica interrupts with her lyrics and asks for Johanna’s feedback. Johanna makes a few amendments, but it’s a pretty good effort. I’m not surprised, we keep seeing evidence that Jessica is far more creative than her twin. [Raven: Sorry, not feeling Jessica’s lyrics. All very “baby I love you, baby ooooh.” Obviously, we don’t get the full song, it’s not bloody Tolkien, although that’d be quite a crossover. The SVMS Sixth Grade tasked with taking the ring of power to Mount Doom… Jessica and Elizabeth as Frodo and Sam, with Steven as a wank-withered Gollum trying to regain the invisibility ring in order to watch his sisters in the shower again.] [Wing: If Jessica and Elizabeth are Frodo and Sam, that ring is never getting to Mount Doom. Jessica will be hanging onto it forever.] [Dove: As if Jessica’s going to walk all the way to Mount Doom. She would feign a sprained ankle, get Elizabeth to go in her place, and keep the ring to make up for all the drama she’s had to put herself through over the whole situation.]
People stop to watch Johanna work, [Wing: I call bullshit on this. If she’s too nervous to play or sing in front of people, I zero percent believe she’d be willing to do this sort of creative work in front of them, either.] and she starts to feel included. Lila comes over and tells Johanna that she’s the singer. Johanna asks Lila what key she wants her to compose in. Lila has no idea and says whatever Johanna wants is fine.
We skip to Wednesday afternoon, where the musicians are running through the song for the first time. The backup singers say they can’t read music, but Maria says just repeat what Lila does. Is that a good idea? Ah, I know nothing about music, maybe that’s how it works. Randy says they’re going to film the first run through of the song with Lila singing.
They start up again, and apparently everyone has got this song down after only playing it (flawlessly) once. They do try and explain this perfection by having Johanna be pleased she wrote out the music so clearly that “even on the first try, the band sounded almost professional” but I’m raising a disbelieving eyebrow. [Raven: Yeah, I call bullshit on Bruce knowing how to read music. I’ve known a great many amateur guitarists, and it’s Give Me Tablature or Give Me Death for that crowd. Pretty sure you also need the little pictures of where the fingers need to go…] [Wing: Agreed. I don’t think it’s too much of a surprise that the backup singers can’t read music, though; a lot of the musicians I know play and sing by ear. Which I cannot do because, like Lila, I can’t generally tell if a note is correct or not, especially when it involves singing. I can read music, though, quite well.]
Johanna’s pleased by how the music sounds, and can’t wait to hear Lila sing. But she doesn’t. Lila complains that her music sheet is too light to read. Johanna clearly has anxiety, because she immediately beats herself up for not seeing that coming. Next up, Lila complains about the cold. After that, it’s a headache.
Is anyone else getting flashbacks to The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley? Is Jessica?
Maybe, because Jessica offers to sing.
Lila throws a diva fit, saying Jessica’s put her off, and she can’t deal with the hostility. Maria steps in and suggests that Johanna and Lila practice indoors with the piano.
Inside, Lila tells Johanna that she can’t read music. She hates admitting she doesn’t know how to do something, because it makes her feel small. Her first instinct is to make Johanna feel small, but then she realises that Johanna looks like someone who feels small all the time. And she’s nice. It would be a dick move to be spiteful to her. So instead she just admits she was embarrassed and didn’t want to admit she couldn’t read music in front of everyone.
Johanna says no problem, she’ll teach her the song. And she says she has problems too, she gets embarrassed just talking to people, making friends, and performing is her absolute nightmare. Lila is surprised, she says if she had Johanna’s talent, she’d be delighted to show everyone. Johanna says she wishes she was more like Lila.
“It’s all attitude,” Lila explained. “You’ve just got to take the attitude that you’re really great. When you walk into a room, hold your head up and say hi, like you know how much everybody wants to see you. You can put on a really great outfit, but if you don’t wear it with an attitude, nobody will notice. My attitude is, I’m Lila Fowler—the fabulous Lila Fowler. I’m great-looking, I’ve got tons of money, loads of talent, and I’m fabulous. Sometimes I really feel that way, and sometimes I’m just acting like I do.” Lila tossed her head around in an exaggerated parody of a glamorous movie star. Then she giggled. “The only trouble is, sometimes I get a little carried away with my own attitude—like, I wind up pretending to be able to read music when I can’t.”
Lila, you are fabulous. [Raven: Loved this section.] [Wing: Me, too. I really love Lila and Johanna together throughout this book, even when Lila is SPOILER shunning her friendship later.]
And we cut to a bit later, where Johanna is frustrated because Lila cannot sing to save her life. She keeps hitting the wrong notes. Not even consistently, it’s a different note each time. Johanna offers to play the whole song to Lila so she knows what it sounds like from beginning to end. I’m not sure why they didn’t do this to begin with – for everyone – but sure, let’s go along with it. Johanna smashes it. Lila thinks she’s got the best singing voice she’s ever heard – including famous singers.
This gives Lila renewed enthusiasm.
But not talent.
She is still awful two hours later. Johanna wonders whether Lila is tone-deaf, but Lila thinks she’s made progress.
Johanna gets home and is hoping to talk to her sister, Julie, who is an integral part of Team Boring, and is often there having lunch with Amy and Elizabeth, saying nothing, occasionally agreeing with one of them. But she is described thusly: “Julie Porter was as outgoing and extroverted as Johanna was shy and introverted.” I interpret that as “both sisters were bland and forgettable, with no discernible tracking towards introversion or extroversion.” Julie Porter has done fuck all in the past 83 books we’ve recapped. Being friends with the dullest Wakefield doesn’t make you vivacious. It makes you word soup. And Julie’s not actually there, so it’s all pointless anyway.
Over dinner, her mom asks whether she’ll be singing and starts putting pressure on her to perform.
“But you have so much talent, Johanna. And people who have talent have a responsibility to share it. People who won’t share their talent are like misers who won’t share their money.”
Die in a fire, Mrs Porter. If Johanna doesn’t want to sing in public, then don’t shame her for it. This is not like Leslie Forsythe who desperately wanted to act, but was too nervous to audition, this is a kid who has repeatedly said, “I think it’s great you all love to perform, but I don’t want to.” #DoveHasMotherIssues
Johanna changes the subject and says Lila is the lead singer. Mrs Porter asks if she’s any good. Johanna replies that she’s really nice and she thinks Lila wants to be friends with her. [Wing: I love how Johanna both doesn’t want to lie and doesn’t want to give away Lila’s secret. Johanna is surprisingly great, and I wish we’d have seen more of her in all the previous books.] [Dove: Another good point. Can we swap her for Julie? It’s not as if she’s contributed anything so far.]
Over at Fowler Crest, Lila is practicing along with the tape that Johanna recorded for her. She is so bad that the local dogs are howling along with her.
The next morning she sings in the shower, and this causes her dad to nearly break down the door thinking she was in pain.
What she really rocks at is lip-synching along with Johanna’s voice. She realises that she’s going to have to drop out. She starts planning a very magnanimous speech where she hands the lead over to Jessica.
At school, Johanna and Julie catch up and Julie asks about the music video. Johanna confides that Lila may not be ready to sing for the filming, which is the day after tomorrow, because she’s not a good singer. Julie has no tact whatsoever and repeats everything Johanna says loudly, despite Johanna’s furtive manner, hushed tone, and the fact there are Unicorns as far as the eye can see. (… because extrovert? That means “loud” right?)
Jessica overhears. Of course she does. Then Amy thinks she’s spying on someone, so there must be a scandal she can uncover. I don’t care. I really don’t like this book. I have a Lila book, and I don’t like it. Bad Jamie, you broke the best character. [Raven: I don’t agree. I think Lila is really well done in this book. She’s awesome, and horrible, and has sassy lines and a great redemptive arc. Two thumbs up from me.] [Wing: Hard same. I love Lila in this book and find the entire story charming and fun.]
At lunch, just as Lila is preparing to resign graciously and allow Jessica to be the singer because she wrote the lyrics, Jessica starts needling her. She says in theatre, if someone was awful, they would be pelted with rotten fruit. (“What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you throw a tomato at me?” – actual original lyric.) Jessica keeps on in this vein, adding that the audience might riot, and Mr Clark would be furious about it.
This obviously causes Lila to double-down, say she knows Jessica’s trying to freak her out and tells her to fuck off. I do like how Jessica’s own conniving nature can screw up her goals. But I’m just not that into this book overall.
As Lila walks out, she hears a song she loves to lip-synch to, and this gives her a great idea.
We cut to Lila and Johanna talking. Lila admits she can’t sing the song, but Jessica will sing it over her dead body. Nobody likes Jessica, they just pretend because she’s blackmailing them. She breaks out the tears and implies that Jessica is hitting her up for money because the Fowlers are so wealthy.
Johanna is clearly buying it and says she will somehow teach Lila the song. Lila says no, Johanna must sing it. Then she basically tears her to pieces over how important it is, how people will be judging her, and really taps into the ocean of anxieties Johanna has, using Jessica’s earlier comments about a potential riot to really terrify Johanna. Then we get some outstandingly bad writing.
Lila snapped her fingers, as if she had just had a great idea. “Listen,” she said. “I may have a way out of this problem that would work for us both.” She took Johanna’s arm. “Come on and sit down.”
When they were seated on the couch in the den and Johanna had calmed down a little, Lila confided to Johanna what she had been planning since lunchtime. But she acted as if she had just thought of it.
Really, Jamie, you couldn’t do a second pass on those paragraphs to make them less terrible? This is the point where I went from “meh” to “I don’t wanna!” about this recap.
Johanna agrees, because it makes them friends.
So, we flash to rehearsal at Lila’s. Johanna overhears Jessica whispering to Mandy that Lila can’t sing. This reaffirms Johanna’s decision to help Lila.
It goes awesomely. Apparently they only need the one take because it goes that well.
Mandy chides Jessica for the competition between her and Lila getting out of hand, and Jessica needs to admit that Lila’s got a great voice.
Lila says she’s holding a screening party tonight. [Wing: Not only did they get it in one take, but there’s very little editing, apparently, if she can screen it that night. Damn.] When she gets a moment alone with Johanna, she’s taken aback that Johanna’s coming to the party.
At the party, Johanna is completely uncomfortable. Everyone is fawning all over Lila, who hasn’t said a word to her all evening. Moments before the video plays, Johanna gets a moment of panic, and tries to talk to Lila. Lila cuts her down, saying her friends are waiting. Johanna asks if she’s Lila’s friend. She doesn’t get a response. The Unicorns flock up and start being pointlessly bitchy towards her.
Johanna bolts, hating herself for getting sucked in and used by Lila.
Lila feels guilty after the video has played. She tells herself that only an idiot would expect them to be friends after the music video was made.
This doesn’t really work for me. Lila had no problem being secret friends with Melissa. She liked her, and didn’t use her. She said the most awful things to her (which Melissa had the confidence to laugh off, admittedly), but she didn’t just pick her up and discard her. Lila has hints of having depths in other books, and this one she’s just a callous bitch (I keep using that word, I know) who uses people with no thought about them. I know she’s not the deepest, kindest most loving human on the planet, but she’s better than this. [Raven: Gotta have the fall before you can get up though, right? I thought this was well done. I get that Lila and Melissa are friends, but Melissa’s not a dork, is she? Only poor. And I’m sure Lila flunks a few friendship lessons in that book too.] [Wing: I love this part of the story, because it’s been clear from the beginning that Lila set out to use Johanna and ended up liking her despite herself, which is something she’s not even ready to admit to herself, not really. Her reaching peak terrible (for the book) works for me here, because it is a strong character growth arc. (Whether or not she should be having this specific character growth arc now and not earlier in the series, or having it again now, is something else, but we already have such a lack of continuity I can roll with it. Though I can roll with it a lot easier when I’m not the one recapping, to be fair.]
Over with Jessica, she’s been shrewdly watching the video and thinks something is off. She asks Randy for a copy, so she can rewatch it and get to the bottom of it.
Then we abruptly cut to Saturday and the announcement, with no build-up at all because this plot’s gotta roll, that their music video won the contest. The girls are squeeing as their video plays, and then there is a follow-up announcement that the video has been entered into their New Voices competition, which means the contestants get to perform live on the show next Saturday.
Naturally this reflects very well on the Unicorns, but this ghostie hasn’t read any of the other books and doesn’t know that’s precisely what Janet would say. She instead goes for pure honesty:
“This is so totally awesome, I can’t even think of anything to say,” Janet cried.
[Raven: Swing and a miss, Janet… unless this is a joke from the Ghostie about Janet’s customary phrase.]
Lila, of course, is bricking it.
Over with Jessica, she’s watching the tape for the hundredth time, and finally sees what’s off: Lila’s lip synching. She bounds upstairs to tell Elizabeth.
Who promptly tells her to fuck off. Not because she’s “got the flu”, but because she can’t deal with Jessica questing for scandal as well as Amy. Amy’s questing has netted the following stories thus far: garbage cans are dirty; and Mr Clark would look like an escaped convict… if he looked a bit more like the escaped convict (that… actually, is plausible, I’m sure Raven has a comment) [Raven: All the SVMS staff should be arrested for crimes against education, and sentenced to life in prison.].
Jessica, being very Jessica, tries to drag Elizabeth out of bed to come downstairs and watch the tape, but Alice sees and tells her off. Alice tells Jessica to strongly do one, and if Amy calls, she can fuck off too. Elizabeth is too sick to deal with this bullshit.
Jessica suddenly cheers up. If Elizabeth isn’t in charge of the paper, and Amy is questing for scandal, Jessica is going to put aside her hatred of the stringy-haired tomboy and they are going to bring Lila down!
It’s dinner time at Fowler Crest, and Lila is trying to convince her father to drop everything and take her to Europe. Right now. Ok, that actually sounds more like the Lila I know and love. Unfortunately, George isn’t able to do that. He’s just had to fire someone for plagiarism. Lila asks what that is, and once she’s been fully schooled on the Cassie Clare/Pamela Dean debacle, she feels sick. George adds that it’s exactly like stealing. Lila is not happy.
Over with Johanna, she’s lying in bed and hating herself after the Unicorns sneered at her. I will admit, I like Johanna. As someone with horrible anxiety, I replay scenes where I feel mortified until it feels like the entire world knows how worthless I am. Kind of like this:
Julie comes in and congratulates her on the success of the music video. She adds that she hasn’t seen the video – and for a moment, my present-day brain couldn’t process that, surely she’d have seen it on YouTube – but she can’t believe that Lila has a better voice than Johanna.
Johanna is too upset to respond, so Julie says she’ll stop bugging her about it. They say goodnight and Fluttershy (genuine typo) Johanna thinks about how thrilling it had been to sing for an audience. Then she goes back to hating herself for being used. She misses Lila’s friendship, and wishes they were still a team and could think their way out of this situation.
Lila has nightmares all night. They centre around being chased through school while all of her friends shout that she’s stolen Johanna’s voice and she’s a thief. She ducks into a music store and runs into Robert Rowdy, the announcer of the contest, who says he saw her picture on a wanted poster. It fades to a court scene, where they accuse her of tricking Johanna into believing they were friends so she could steal her voice. Her father is also there and is disgusted with her (damn, Lila’s psyche is spiteful). Eventually she runs into Johanna, who not only refuses to help, but alerts everyone to Lila’s location.
She falls out of bed and wakes up. Then she evaluates her behaviour. She thought she had the right to claim Johanna’s talent as her own because she was a Unicorn and Johanna was a dork. As excuses go, it’s fucking feeble.
The next day at school, Lila cannot deal with everyone congratulating her – especially when Maria points out it’s a big break that people dream of. She sees Johanna in the halls, and she looks sad. Lila doesn’t have the nerve to look her in the eye.
Oh. Ok, this is weird. The next tiny scene explains that the New Voices competition is going to be announced today at 12:30, and the winner gets to perform live on RockTV. I can’t really get invested in the competition part of this, because it’s just “competition exists, we win, new competition, we win”, etc. This structure would have worked better with only one competition, and the winner having to perform live. I really don’t think the second one adds much. I don’t even know what the winner gets, beyond a live performance, which could have been part of the prize (as a surprise announcement) of the first competition.
Apparently Ms Laster (whoever that is) will have the TV on in the library so they can check the results as soon as they’re announced.
Let’s talk about this too. If this is a competition to engage school kids, why are the announcements taking place during school time? Wouldn’t it be better for the ratings if it was on at dinner time, before or after the news? I just… everything about the structure of this book pisses me off. This Jamie really should have bounced a few ideas off her friends. Wing would have picked holes in this pitch in seconds. Wing does not approve of “because the plot says so…” even for inconsequential details.
[Raven: Honestly? I liked this book. But Dove makes a great point here. Upon reflection, the whole contest is a massive pile of shit. Alongside Dove’s excellent issues, entering the winning video into a new hope-you’re-free-on-Saturday-to-perform-the-song-live contest without any prior warning probably breaks a whole pile of contest laws.]
[Wing: I enjoyed the hell out of this book, but Dove is right. The second contest is completely unnecessary and fucks up the pacing of the book. If nothing else, we should have known earlier that people call in to vote for their favourite performance, because throwing it in at this point is trite as hell. (RE the contest laws, not that I think the ghostwriter actually thought about this OR that the Unicorns would have read the official rules, but it’s likely that the official rules contain language that by submitting an entry, you waive your right to control what is done with it after.) Finally, Dove says that I like to pick holes and won’t let things happen because the plot says so, which is true, but she’s selling herself short, because she is great at putting together a strong plot that makes sense as a story and for what characters would actually do.] [Dove: It’s very handy when there’s a glaring plot hole and I’m like, “Oh yes that. Yes, that thing the entire story hinges on? Oops.”]
In the lunchroom, Lila is praying that she doesn’t win. So seconds later, Tamara Chase bursts through the doors and gleefully yells that Lila won. (I guess, FUCK YOU, TAMARA CHASE!)
Hot on her heels are Amy and Jessica, with a handful of Sixers articles with the title “Lila Fowler Involved in Lip-Syncing Scandal!” Nobody really takes it seriously. They are quick to announce that they’d have realised if she was lip-synching, and that Jessica has a case of the green-eyed monster. Janet announces loudly that everyone needs to shut up, a Unicorn would never stoop so low, and that Jessica is a “rejected wannabe lead singer”. I guess Unicorns can stoop low enough to “spread lies” but not lip synch.
Jessica says they need to ask Johanna.
Everyone turns to face her, and she calmly announces that of course it’s Lila, she knows, she taught her the song.
Over with Jessica and Amy, Amy is furious with Jessica for leading her down this path. She’s blown her chance and destroyed the integrity of the Sixers. *bashes head against wall* How on earth could you do that, when Elizabeth so thoroughly destroyed any “integrity” it had by constantly failing to report the facts in Jessica Saves the Trees? Or, how could Amy be so stupid, when Elizabeth got told off so many times for failing to check facts?
Also, how is this all Jessica’s fault? Everyone knows she’s a pathological liar and doesn’t really think things through. There are two of you. One of you should be bright enough to say, “Gosh, after all those retractions a few weeks ago, I guess we’d better check the facts before we print rumours.”
As Amy storms off, Jessica overhears Kimberley and Janet talking. Kimberley says that something is terrible, and does anyone else know. Janet says no, and her life will be over if anyone finds out. She needs Kimberley to cover for her on Saturday, stop people asking questions when she slips away from Lila’s house.
Jessica takes this as proof she was right and takes off after Amy again. [Raven: You know what? I wish Jessica and Lila were better friends in this book. I know it’s canon that Jess is jealous of Lila’s lifestyle, but I don’t think it’s canon that Jess would team wih anyone to expose her supposed best friend in a massively embarrassing lie and scandal. I think she’d have reservations at least, and even have a touch of compassion for her friend. For some reason, I keep thinking of their closeness in The Older Boy, were Jessica is nervously embarking on her clandestine first date with a sixteen-year-old, and Lila hands her something purple as a good luck charm. “The Unicorns’ colour,” she reminds her. I remember those tiny acts of friendship, then I think to Jessica in this book and it makes me feel a bit sad.]
[Wing: At this point, agreed. Even #worstjess would have lorded it over Lila rather than teaming up with someone she often can’t stand to expose her to the entire school. Now Amy overhearing things and chasing a story fits with what else she’s been doing in this book (though not with what she should be doing in this book after the last Sixers debacle).]
Lila has tracked down Johanna and asks why she covered for her. Johanna says that she didn’t want to let her down. This makes Lila feel awful, because she did let Johanna down. She apologises for how she behaved, and offers to buy her something nice to make it up to her. Ok, that’s also pretty good Lila. Johanna can’t think of anything she needs, but appreciates the offer.
Johanna says she wants them to fool RockTV, just like they did in the music video. She loved the feeling of performing, but feels that she’s not pretty or cool enough to be the person as well as the voice. Lila says how are they going to do that? Johanna tells her Lila will figure it out. That’s what she can do to make it up to Johanna.
Smash cut to Johanna reacting to being referred to as Lila’s hairdresser. Johanna asks who’s going to buy that. Lila points out that most twelve year olds don’t arrive in a Rolls Royce with their own driver. She takes Johanna to Cut and Snip (not Sweet Valley Salon?) for a makeover, so she looks the part.
Gladys frowned at her appointment book. “I don’t see your names down here. Did you have an appointment?”
Johanna immediately began to feel shy and embarrassed. “We can come back later,” she said in barely a whisper.
“Appointment?” Lila laughed breezily. “How could I make an appointment when I didn’t know I was going to be in the mood for a haircut today?”
Ok, I’m warming up to this Lila, she’s getting back to the Lila that I adore.
Johanna gets a fabulous hair cut and style, which includes crimping. Then they hit up Lila’s closet for some fabulous clothes to go with the fabulous hair. Johanna’s not sure the look is her, she looks kind of like Lila. Lila tells her it’s a start, but she needs Lila’s attitude as well. She gives her a tutorial on how to swagger like Lila, and they try it to music, and Lila uses that to give Johanna some dance lessons as well.
On Saturday morning, the Unicorns wave Lila off and wish her luck. As they set off, Lila tells the driver to stop at Johanna’s house to pick her up.
Cut to Amy and Jessica hiding in the hedge watching Lila drive off, but their attention is really on Janet. When she leaves, they follow her.
Halfway to LA, the Rolls Royce keels over. Richard, the driver, assures them he can fix it in a jiffy.
Back with Amy and Jessica, they’re watching Janet check her teeth in a shop window. They then follow her into a building. They see that she gets off at the tenth floor, and check out what’s on that floor. The options are GP, dentist and a satellite technology firm. If you think they decided it was anything but the latter, you must be new.
Amy recalls a movie where you could transmit all sorts of things all over the world using satellite technology, and decides that Janet must be singing for Lila using this tech. Even Jessica gives her the side-eye and thinks that’s a bit far-fetched. Then Amy notices the building is owned and operated by Fowler Properties Inc. (I thought it was Fowler Technology, but I could be wrong. Or he has multiple firms.) Either way, this makes the story a bit more plausible for them. [Raven: Loved this bit, especially the “Fowler Properties” clincher.] [Wing: Not that I hope for a lot of reality in these books, but it is a good idea to split property ownership off into a separate company for a variety of legal and tax reasons, so you’ll often see Company A and then Company B: Property (real estate) and even Company C: Property (intellectual property).]
Over with Lila and Johanna, it’s going to be three hours before they get moving again. Johanna thinks it’s all over, but Lila spots a bus stop. Even better, there’s a bus approaching that’s going to LA.
Lila grabs a load of bags and takes off running, announcing that they’re getting the bus. Richard, the driver, does try to make an attempt to stop them, but have you met Lila? Lila trips over and gets her skirt caught on something, and tells Johanna that she has to force the bus driver to wait for Lila.
Johanna gets on the bus and tries to reason with the driver, who points out he’s not a taxi, he’s a bus service. If the laws are anything like the English ones, he’s not wrong. Buses can be no more than one minute early or three minutes late, otherwise they can be taken to tribunal. I’m looking at you, First buses. [Wing: Oh, god, I am envious of that. Where you are lucky enough to have public transit, busses are often extremely late. I’ve had to wait more than 10 minutes in terrible, cold weather before, and that was still better than a lot. We have shit public transit in most places in the USA.] [Dove: Oh, you sweet summer child. That’s just the law. The reality isn’t quite the same.]
Johanna realises she’s getting nowhere with her own personality, so borrows Lila’s. She announces that she and her friend are the hottest new singing act in LA, and if the driver leaves, he’ll have to live with the fact that he drove away from Lila Fowler and the fabulous Johanna Porter.
It’s kind of awesome. It even amuses the bus driver, who agrees to wait.
Once they’re in LA, they have an hour before they need to be at the studio and they’re both hungry. Lila suggests somewhere ridiculously expensive, before realising that she must have left her wallet in the car.
She glances around, trying to come up with an idea, and spots a male busker with a guitar.
Lila and Johanna looked at each other. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Lila asked.
Johanna turned pale. “Oh, no.”
Ok, this book is getting much better. [Raven: From the moment they arrive at the hairdressers to the final sentence of the foreshadowing, I loved every word.]
Obviously, Johanna’s singing with the guy’s guitar is a rousing success, and between them they make a pretty decent amount of money. The guy is called Phil, Lila attempts to flirt with him, but he only has eyes for Johanna.
We cut to them getting out of a cab at RockTV studios. They had a great lunch, and Johanna can’t believe they got free dessert for being on RockTV. Lila counters that she can’t believe Johanna asked them for free dessert because of their impending fame.
Can I just say, I love Lila being friends with anyone but the Unicorns. I want to read more about her getting her own group of fabulous but weird people, and just having a great time, trying to Lila at them, only to be shot down by Melissa, and out-Lila’d by Johanna. It could be epic. [Wing: Someone please write this fic, because I need it.]
They both pale a little when they realise this is the point of no return. Before they go in, Johanna says this is the most fun she’s ever had. That’s adorable. A little sad, because I’m pretty sure we never see her again after this book, but adorable for right now.
Inside the building, security won’t let them both through. He only has Lila Fowler’s name down on his list. And he doesn’t buy that she’s Lila’s hairdresser. The lack of Rolls Royce doesn’t really help the lie. He says he can only let one of them through.
This book does lots of cutting between scenes because this Jamie can’t do transitions. It’s not even to swap POV, because sometimes it’s the same POV, or no POV. This is one such cut, we jump straight to Johanna refusing to go in as Lila, rather than a few sentences showing Lila guiding her away from security and saying “You’re going to have to pretend to be me.” It’s so weird.
When pleading and reasoning doesn’t work, Lila moves on to shaming. She sneers at Johanna and calls her a dork.
Back to Amy and Jessica (I had forgotten about them), Janet steps out of a room with metal head gear. Apparently the girls have literally never seen head gear for braces before, because they think she has transmitters in her teeth. They follow her.
Then we smash cut to Amy calling Janet’s name. See? What is the point of using a break there? A simple sentence along the lines of “They followed her silently for a few blocks (for whatever fucking reason) before Amy called out Janet’s name.” I mean, that’s terrible, but it’s better than breaking a scene for no reason at all.
Janet sees them and starts running, so they chase her. After a short while, Janet gives up running and tells them that if they print a word of this in the paper, she’ll kill them and bury them in the Mercandy backyard.
Amy says of course they’ll print it, she’s probably broken dozens of laws, including space programme laws. Then she shouts “How do you like that, Ms. Lila Fowler?” into Janet’s mouth. I’m find this completely un-engaging. Though Raven enjoyed it enough to text me about it. [Raven: So good! I love it when it becomes ludicrous.] [Wing: It was at this point I disengaged from the b-plot, because it is too ludicrous for me.]
Janet asks them to explain themselves, then scornfully schools them on her night gear for her brace. She’s wearing it now to try it out, so it can be adjusted before she sleeps in it tonight. [Wing: And Jessica realises she’s seen her cousin (Robin, I assume) wearing night gear exactly like it. Come the fuck on, ghostwriter.]
Naturally, Amy loses her shit at Jessica for this. Jessica snaps that she knows Lila didn’t sing the song. Janet tells her to get over her jealousy.
Over with Johanna, she’s having last-minute nerves with a side order of self-hatred. She wishes Lila hadn’t manipulated her. She knows she’s not cool enough. What the fuck is she doing? And then the music kicks in.
Amy and Jessica are at the Wakefields’ home now, and they get the answer as to who was Lila’s voice.
Over at the Porters’ Julie and her mom are delighted she’s performing.
The Unicorns can’t believe they ever thought she was a dork.
After the song is done, Robert Rowdy (which I keep reading as “Rowdy Robert… wait, where’s his surname?”) asks if she’s got anything to say. She gives her real name, and Robert says he thought she looked different, but sounded the same. Johanna says there’s a story of friendship and learning to take risks behind it, and all the applause belongs to Lila. (Uh, no, some of it belongs to you, you have a great voice.) [Raven: To be fair, the actual line is “Thank you, Lila. A lot of the applause belongs to you.” She doesn’t give it all to Lila, showing she has learned a little swagger after all.]
In the car on the way home, Lila says she got there just in time to see Johanna perform (the Rolls was fixed and it sold her story). She says she’s sorry about calling Johanna a dork. Then adds she hopes that Johanna will be her friend even if she doesn’t have any others on Monday after this stunt. (You’ll always have Melissa.)
Johanna says that won’t be a problem. Pretty much everyone in Sweet Valley is there to celebrate, they even have signs that congratulate them on being a great team.
We cut to Elizabeth, who is swooning over Amy’s article about the whole debacle. She praises Amy for interviewing everyone and making sure nobody came across as a villain. She says that she can’t wait to get back to school, after missing a week and a half.
Amy can’t wait to hand the Sixers back to Elizabeth. Also, there’s a life-saving course coming up, they should do the course and do an article on it. The next book is called “Elizabeth the Hero”, so I’m betting it comes in handy.
This book was a bit “meh” for me. It had some great Lila moments that were just awesome. It also had some moments where Lila was a standard alpha bitch, which isn’t the same as being Lila.
But for the most part, the structure of this book was awful. There were smash cuts every few paragraphs, regardless of whether they were necessary. They were between scenes that should’ve flowed naturally together with a transition sentence. As I mentioned, the breaks weren’t there to swap POV, so they were there for…? I guess the same reason every R. L. Stine chapter ends on a cliffhanger, whether necessary or not.
The competition was pointless fluff. Which is really bad, since it was the driving force behind the whole plot. It should’ve been cleaned up and walked through logically. There was no sense that anyone else even entered any of the competitions, since they weren’t mentioned. It was so lazily and clumsily written I just hated most of the book.
And I didn’t care for the b-plot with Jessica and Amy. It irritated me. Perhaps if the other flaws in this book hadn’t been so obvious, I might’ve enjoyed it a bit more, but as it stands, overall, I’m unlikely to come back to this book.
[Raven: I really enjoyed this one. I though that Johanna was charming, and her development was lovely. I thought Lila was the monstrous magnificence we all love so much. A laughed a lot at the Jessica and Amy sub plot, once they were chasing Janet rather than exposing Lila. I thought the end built well, and the fact that Elizabeth did the square root of fuck all was refreshing. But after reading Dove’s recap, I do think a little less of the whole thing. The contest stuff was very poorly realised, and while the constant jump-cuts didn’t annoy me in at first read, they did grate a lot when highlighted. Overall, though, it’s a positive review from me, and I’d happily read this one again. A solid 5/7.]
[Wing: I love the hell out of this book and found it charming and fun even though it was also deeply flawed (mostly down to structure and pacing). I adore Johanna, I thought the friendship between her and Lila was well done and delightful, and I adored Lila’s character arc. The b-plot was okay until it suddenly jumped the shark into ludicrous, and I loved the lack of Elizabeth. Definitely could have used a good edit and some more continuity, but overall, I was delighted by this entry.
I think I’ve drunk the Sweet Valley kool-aid. Oh god.] [Dove: Do we need to buy you another shirt to mark this occasion?]
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.