Title: Jessica and the Earthquake
Tagline: A nightmare? Or an earthquake…
Summary: Jessica’s waiting for the big one…
When Jessica Wakefield wakes up in the middle of the night, her whole room is shaking. The next day at school, Jessica is a celebrity: she’s the only one who witnessed Sweet Valley’s own earthquake! [Wing: How is it even a little possible that no one else in the middle school woke up?]
When Jessica hears reports that another, bigger earthquake may hit, she quickly spreads the news. After all, Jessica is Sweet Valley’s earthquake expert! The more people she tells, the bigger and more dramatic the story becomes. Soon Jessica has everybody preparing for a real catastrophe!
As I’ve said previously, this is around the time when I stopped reading the books as they came out. I did read this one back in the day, but it was towards the end of the run, so it didn’t get a re-read back then. I remember that I enjoyed it then. I don’t know if that’s true now.
Also, this book becomes hilarious in hindsight (or maybe harsher), when you realise that the last two books of Sweet Valley High are called Earthquake and Aftershock, and do not have the happy-go-lucky vibe of this book.
We open with Jessica waking up in the night to a rattling sound. For once, it’s not Steven fapping against the wall between their two bedrooms, but the rattle is loud enough to make her bedside table lamp shake. She checks the time, it’s 3:42am, and then the rattling stops. She decides it was probably just a garbage truck, and goes back to sleep. [Raven: Collecting the bins at 3:42am?! Is that a thing in America?] [Wing: Not where I live, but there are places that pick it up early. I’m torn on whether it would in Sweet Valley; on the one hand, that’s really early to wake people up, but on the other hand, god forbid Sweet Valley families ever have to see something like the garbage collectors.]
The next morning, the Wakefield are having breakfast when Jessica walks in. Steven immediately comments that there are dark circles under Jessica’s eyes. Really? From waking up for a minute or so in the middle of the night? Most humans do wake up in the middle of the night without such a dramatic physical response. Imagine if that was actually the case. Every time you get up in the night to pee, the next morning everyone stares at you and comments that you look like an extra from the Walking Dead.
While Steven beats this dead horse of a topic, Ned tells them all to hush, and listen to the news on the radio, where it is announced that there was a small earthquake registering 3.2 on the Richter scale at approximately 3:40 this morning. This is their first earthquake since 1972. This book was published in 1993. So in 21 years, there have only been two earthquakes? And they’re just outside LA? I googled “how many earthquakes in la” and the first result reported there are approximately 10,000 a year, though only a few hundred are above 3.0.
I’ll admit, I know next to nothing about earthquakes, but I do remember learning that loads of them happen along fault lines, but they’re so small they’re not really noticed. (Although, admittedly, I learned this at the same school that told me that red, green and yellow peppers are all the same thing, just in different stages of life.) So based on a very light googling and some potentially incorrect information from my fucking useless and overrated school, I feel that two earthquakes in 21 years is unlikely. Especially given that the one that happens in the Sweet Valley High two-part finale fucking levels the town.
[Wing: Two earthquakes in 21 years is highly unlikely in that part of the USA. Hell, we’ve had more than two earthquakes in 21 years in the Midwest, which doesn’t have nearly as many as California.]
Steven grumbles that it’s not fair, if the quake had been bigger, they could have gotten a day off school. Also, the devastation would have been “cool”. Just give it time, Steven. And I really hope the entire family remembers this conversation at the end of the twins’ high school years.
Alice is sober enough to chide him for his outlook, pointing out there could have been damage to their house and people could get hurt.
Elizabeth is just bitter nobody woke up. At this point, Jessica realises that she was awake, and the quake was actually at 3:42. Steven doesn’t believe her because she’s a heavy sleeper. Everyone, feel free to make your own observations and jokes here as to how he knows this. Alice wonders if they should get an earthquake alarm. That’s another thing I hope everyone remembers several years from now. Jessica says why bother when they have her.
On the way to school, Jessica manages to convince herself that she can predict earthquakes because she felt “funny” before bed. Elizabeth tries to reasonably point out that actually, she had a stomach ache because she ate a gigantic slice of chocolate cake.
Elizabeth can also sense danger. She senses that this is going to be another one of Jessica’s idiotic lies that snowballs. She isn’t quite as blunt as that, because her other superpower is denial. [Wing: Psychic twins strike again.]
Back at home, Steven is waiting for his girlfriend, Cathy, to arrive so they can bike to school together. However, he’s sidetracked by the world premiere of the Katybugs’ new music video, “Does This Make Sense?”
Again, what the actual fuck? Who keeps arranging the TV schedule here? During Lila’s Music Video, every TV show aired while their target audience was at school, and now we have a world premiere of a music video. It’s being treated as a big deal, so why is it happening at what, 8am? [Raven: I also HATE the band name “Katybugs”. I like Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant’s litmus test for whether a band name is cool. Just run through their opening introduction from a fictitious sell-out Wembley gig, and if it sounds ridiculous, the name is terrible. “Aaaand now, live from Wembley Arena… it’s the Katybugs!” … yup, super-fail.]
I remember when Michael Jackson’s Black or White aired. There were TV spots for days in advance. Every few minutes you were reminded to tune into Top of the Pops where it would be shown in full. (That lasted for all of one showing, before the Michael/panther attack against a car was deemed too offensive for England. Some of us have cars too, and we were very upset that someone heartlessly attacked a car with a crowbar. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CARS?????????? Actually, that bit is really boring, so I prefer the cut version. 7 minutes of Michael moseying around howling at the sky, rubbing his junk and smashing a car. Fuck off. Do the moonwalk or something.)
Anyway, Top of the Pops was an evening show, I think on Thursday nights. Everyone tween and teen tuned in to watch the chart countdown and see some music videos. We didn’t have MTV. Even the rich people I knew didn’t have MTV. I really can’t see anyone tuning in to watch a world premier before school. And I know the Sweet Valley people are blessed, and can walk to school in three minutes, but a lot of kids – the target audience – have to get buses or driven to school, so they would miss the music video.
But all that matters is that Steven sees it, which is great, because they’re his favourite group. Cathy arrives and he invites her in to watch the music video.
The video opened with a shot of a field of cattle, then the camera zoomed in on one cow. Then one of the band members was standing beside it, and a diagram was superimposed on the cow. The lead singer started pointing out different sections of the animal. “Prime rib, filet mignon, shank,” he sang. “Delmonico, T-bone, flank.”
The video went on, and the band switched to different animals as they sang the lyrics, “Does this make sense to you?” Along the bottom of the screen, printed lines appeared explaining how the different animals were treated as they were being raised for food.
Steven watched as the lead singer walked into a pigsty and petted a large hog. “That’s so sad!” Steven exclaimed. “Pigs have to stay in those tiny, dark stalls for almost their entire lives!”
The video ended with the four band members standing in the middle of a chicken coop with thousands of chickens in tiny boxes.
Thanks to the first paragraph, I’m thinking the song is like that “the knee bone is connected to the leg bone” song. But it connects with Steven, who says he’ll never look at a hamburger the same way again. Cathy points out the doesn’t look at them, he just inhales them. I love you, Cathy. She says she learned some of this stuff in biology last month, but didn’t realise it was such a huge business. Steven says the idea of eating meat makes him sick. Cathy says he’ll probably die of starvation if he doesn’t eat burgers twice a day. Being a vegetarian is a cool thing to do, but she doubts he could do it.
[Raven: Gotta leave this here…
] [Dove: Sold. That’s exactly what Steven’s listening to. He has the poster of the dancing guy on his wall.]
Over with Team Boring, Elizabeth is shocked that neither she nor Amy woke up for the quake. Amy suggests they do an article on the quake. Elizabeth says that’s a great idea, they’ll do profiles on everyone’s reactions. Honestly, I’m not even sure why Amy had to bring that up. News is what they do, the earthquake was news. They question Ken, Aaron, Todd and Winston, who all slept through it. They then ask fifteen more unnamed people, and they all slept through it too. Amy says maybe Jessica does have special powers, but Elizabeth says “I’m not falling for that one again. We’ll find someone else who woke up last night.” I really hope she sticks to no-selling her sister’s magic powers. It’s nice to see Elizabeth refuse to indulge Jessica’s nonsense.
We cut to Jessica telling – as expected – a far more exciting version of the earthquake than the truth. She says that a book fell off her shelf, and she had to run to catch a glass unicorn before it smashed. It turns out she’s telling the story during science class, and Mr Siegel isn’t impressed. Jessica tries to excuse it by saying that earthquakes are “y’know… scientific.” But it doesn’t work.
Over at the high school, Steven drops by his science teacher’s room to ask about the treatment of animals. To his dismay, Mr Wheaton hands over a load of books and brochures over, which seem to confirm his worst fears. He was hoping for a “No, it’s a lie, eat whatever you want” and now he’s stuck with reading and research. Sucks to be Steven today.
Back with Team Boring (gosh, this hops around), Team Boring have proposed to write an article about the earthquake, but Mr Bowman says that a real reporter would have experienced the earthquake. Yes, because no reporter in the history of the world has ever reported a story they did not personally experience. Amy says there might be an aftershock, so could they write an article about it then? He says only if they’re awake for it.
What. The. Actual. Fuck?
So Team Boring are not allowed to write about the earthquake because they didn’t experience it? In that case, why was she allowed to write about Anna and Cammi’s American Sign Language tag team, because she’s not hearing impaired and she does not understand ASL? Could it be because she was (one would hope) reporting facts and the stories of the people who experienced them?
[Wing: I don’t hate the staff the way Raven does, but god, I hate Bowman right now.]
Also. Super also.
Who the fuck dares a twelve year old to stay awake for days? What the fuck is wrong with Mr Bowman. Even if it was a joke, he has power, and they are two tweens. And to argue on whether it was a joke or not: he was using a “teasing” tone but he also vetoed the earthquake article. So I’m going with, he was serious (but when Ofsted bring it up, he’ll claim it was a joke). [Raven: This FUCKING school. Mr Bowman is meant to be one of the good ones. I don’t care if it’s meant to be a joke, it’s just appalling. Jokes have punchlines, you cleft. Also, the earthquake is news. How do I know this? BECAUSE IT WAS ON THE FUCKING NEWS. I’m pretty sure the people reporting it on TELEVISION that morning weren’t all awake when the quake struck, you badly-dressed gusset-monkey.]
By the next telling of the earthquake, Jessica’s glass unicorn shattered while she was saving a photo collage. Grace says it’s weird that nobody but Jessica woke up for it. Jessica says she thinks she has a sensitivity to natural disasters. She saw a talk show about people who could predict natural disasters, but nobody listened, and lots of people got hurt. Uh-huh.
She later gets stopped by Peter Jeffries (which Peter is this? Fuck knows.) and her story gets more dramatic still, with her feeling strange before bed, and having a vision of a loud rumble and her house crumbling to the ground.
Holy shit. I’ve just realised. Maybe Jessica really is sensitive to natural disasters. Maybe she is psychic. She’s just four years early.
No, she’s not. She internally thinks that the only rumble was from her stomach. The earthquake is much bigger in this telling, with the room shaking and pictures and books falling, and she was very scared.
Lila has been present for every single iteration of this story, and is big with the sighing and eye-rolls. [Raven: I feel for Lila, to be fair.] [Wing: I am delighted that Lila is exasperated but still sticks around for all the versions. I love her.]
Jessica adds that a mirror fell off the wall and smashed, and that a crack in her wall has gotten much bigger, and she was scared the house would fall down. Peter says maybe the quake happened right under her house, and Jessica says it must have happened right under her bedroom.
At lunch – jesus, we’re only at lunch of day one? – Joe Howell asks Steven if that’s all he’s eating. He just has butterscotch pudding, a brownie and a salad, and usually he has “about twelve tacos” when they’re serving Mexican food. I’m hoping that Steven’s body goes into such shock that it’s not constantly receiving food that he turns to dust and we never see him again.
Steven explains that since he saw the Katybugs’ video, he’s given up red meat. Joe nearly dies of shock, and Steven gets offended. They’re acting like he lives for eating. (Dude, that’s your defining trait. You eat and you like basketball. That’s all you’ve been given in the past 80+ books.) [Raven: Well, that and the incest.] And for Joe’s information, he hasn’t eaten meat all day. Joe dryly observes that it’s 11:30am. Wow. First of all, this will be the second book where Joe’s been sassy (remember, he hid in a tooth when Janet was being toxic); and gosh, 11:30am is very early for a lunch, even for school… right? [Wing: Not so much. Especially in a school big enough to have multiple lunch periods, lunch could be anywhere between 11 and 1, really.]
Joe says he guesses that Steven won’t be coming to the Dairi Burger after school. Steven says he will, he’ll just have fries. He’s going to stick to this.
Over with Jessica, she’s now learned the word “epicentre” (or as one YA novel blurb on Amazon has it, the “epic-center” – no, they really do mean epicentre, context explains that), and is convinced it was under her house. Lila tells her it’s time to shut up about it, but Lloyd Benson rocks up and says the whole story is remarkable. He’s a science nerd, so Jessica feels validated. For about three seconds, before it becomes apparent that Lloyd is fascinated by her in a scientific way, and announces that he plans to follow her for a week, since scientists have been trying to predict earthquakes for years, and now she can do it on pure instinct. She is his new science project.
The Unicorns find this hysterical. Jessica does not.
When Jessica goes to the lunch line, Lila comments that it serves Jessica right after all the bragging. The Unicorns agree that Jessica’s a heavy sleeper, so it’s odd that she woke up. They decide something must be done. Ellen says maybe everyone will get bored with the story, but Lila knows that Jessica will milk this for all it’s worth, and vows to come up with a plan.
After school, Steven heads to the library, which astounds Cathy – that on top of giving up meat, who is this person? Once he gets there, he asks the librarian about it, and they respond that he needs the animal rights section. Steven feels very proud that he’s got a cause. [Wing: Considering how many causes Elizabeth and even Jessica have had, I guess this was inevitable.]
Jessica gets followed home by Lloyd, who tells her he plans to write a paper on her and send it to the Centre for Earthquake Research. Jessica tries to get away, but he has a few questions first. Does she sense that another earthquake is coming? No. Can they watch the weather channel together? No, that would be cheating. (Good lie, Jessica.) And then she bolts before he can ask more. [Raven: Is Lloyd an idiot? He’s supposed to be a mulit-time winner of science fairs, but he’s chosen Jessica Wakefield as his next project? Ludicrous. This is not a science project. He just fancies her.] [Dove: One thing I like about the nerds of Sweet Valley: they’re not afraid of the popular kids. Often we’ll see the Unicorns have a conversation about how impressive they are for being popular, but so far Winston (moldy bread project), Randy (psychic twins) and now Lloyd don’t care. They just do their thing and assume the Unicorns care. (Sadly, the same is not true for some of the non-popular girls.)]
At home, Elizabeth and Amy decide to stay awake for the rest of the week. Elizabeth says that Mr Bowman “just about challenged” them to do it. Responsible adults, y’all. Amy says what if there’s no earthquake for two weeks. Elizabeth says no, it’ll be fine, she’s a Wakefield. The fucking universe will bend to her crappy newspaper’s requirements. Well, no, she says they’ll try three days.
This is just terrible. Raven and I have been functioning on very little sleep of late, thanks to our asshat neighbour, who insists on playing his TV at 3 billion volume all night. We’ve been getting some sleep, but it’s less than usual. (Note: I have insomnia, so I function on less sleep than a non-insomniac, but this is even less than that.) I can’t speak for Raven, but I massively cocked up several times at work because I was exhausted. I work from home and have very little contact with other humans, and I still managed to upset one. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you miss sleep for several days, things get really fucking bad.
But sure. These two twelve year olds should totally stay up for three days straight.
Jessica walks in and starts telling them about her magical powers. Amy teases her saying they want to know when the next one is. Amy also reminds her of the time Jessica tried to convince everyone that she and Elizabeth were psychic, which is a nice touch of continuity. Elizabeth offers Jessica the books, saying that there might be stories of other earthquake predictors. Amy adds that there definitely is: dogs bark and roaches run around a lot, which is nice and sassy. Elizabeth kills the joke dead by adding that Jessica always reminded her of a roach.
Over with Lila and Janet, Janet says that the newspaper reported that a 3.2 earthquake would barely be felt by anyone indoors, especially those upstairs. It would have to be at least 4 or higher to generate the damage that Jessica’s been describing. Lila says she knew it, Jessica’s just attention-seeking. I love the way they’re acting as if this is a new thing. Almost every book has Jessica pulling some kind of stunt like this. Janet says the best play is to push Jessica into predicting another earthquake and making sure she looks a fool when it doesn’t happen. [Wing: But if Jessica looks like a fool, doesn’t that make the Unicorns look like fools, too? Pretty sure “what happens to one of them happens to all of them” has been an ongoing theme.]
Over dinner, Steven charmingly responds to dinner by saying, “You don’t actually expect me to eat this, do you?” Alice is understandably confused, since pot roast is his favourite meal, and usually he loves it so much he will snatch the food out of the mouths of the rest of the family. He adds that meat is full of pesticides and antibiotics (is it? Raven works in milk, and if it’s positive for antibiotics, it has to be destroyed). [Wing: We have similar requirements for milk, but antibiotics are used hardcore in food animal production here, though there’s a push, including by McDonald’s, of all things, to reduce the use of them in order to slow antibiotic-resistant strains which are a global threat.] Alice says cutting down is healthy, but you don’t have to ban it from your diet. Steven announces he’s a vegetarian. He then starts to ruin dinner by informing everyone of his brand new knowledge. Jessica objects saying she doesn’t want to hear this over the dinner table. Steven smugly announces he hasn’t had meat all day and he feels fantastic.
He then asks if they have any tofu. He has to eat a peanut butter sandwich, since the veg were cooked with the meat. Alice says she’ll have to do some shopping. [Raven: Such a fucking bellend.]
By 2am, Amy and Elizabeth are exhausted and running out of ways to stay up. Elizabeth realises that they could sleep in shifts, so that they can get a bit of a sleep. I don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to either of them. When it becomes apparent that Amy will not be volunteering for the first shift, Elizabeth grudgingly does so. She tries a math problem to stay awake, and then closes her eyes.
Over breakfast, Steven’s smug is getting bigger. He complains that he can’t eat a single thing on offer. While only bacon has meat, everything else has animal fat or chemicals. He can’t have the scrambled eggs Alice offers because eggs come from chickens – Steven is very much enjoying his role as martyr here. Ned actually snaps at him to shut up, because he’s ruining food for everyone. Steven storms off in a huff. Alice, Jessica and Elizabeth wonder what’s so bad and evil about cereal and orange juice.
Before school, the Unicorns are sitting on the steps, talking about a horror movie called Dead Times Two, when Lloyd appears to tell Jessica that he’s been researching the fault lines and thinks they should have lunch together to discuss their strategy to figure out when the next earthquake will occur. Lila and Janet take this opportunity to express disbelief in Jessica’s ability. The Unicorns may be dim at times, but they do understand Jessica, who feels very defensive.
At lunch, Steven has an unsatisfying time finding something to eat that is in line with his newfound smugness. The only options are broccoli and spaghetti with meatless sauce, but he doesn’t trust that the sauce is meatless, so it’s just broccoli. And some crackers. He then starts judging Joe on eating meat, to the point where Joe gets up and leaves to eat his meal in peace.
Steven sat alone in the crowded lunchroom, staring down into his bowl of cold, smelly broccoli. Being a vegetarian was turning out to be tougher than he’d thought. But he was going to stick with it, even if it meant eating cold broccoli by himself. That’s what it’s like, being a crusader for animal rights, he thought proudly.
It’s ok, Steven. Your smug will keep you company. [Raven: While I agree with Dove here, I do feel a little for Steven. When I’m trying to be “good” and eat a healthy lunch at the canteen at work, there are loads of options that could be fine for me to eat on whatever diet I’m following, but having not made them myself I can never be sure. Mushrooms are free on Slimming World, but what have they been cooked in? That tomato sauce, has it been made from fresh ingredients or is it a pre-made jar that’s likely got sugar and preservatives and whatever that makes it Bad instead of Good? There’s only so many times I can go “fuck it, I’ll have a jacket potato and beans” before I flip a table, and being the guy who’s forever turning his nose up at stuff or questioning the way things are made isn’t fun.] [Wing: Him questioning things is fine, it’s the smug that goes along with it that grates. Though this is cracking me up some, because it sounds exactly like how some vegetarians and vegans act now in certain spaces. Everyone talks like that smugness is new, but clearly not.]
By the way, eat meat, don’t, whatever. I don’t care if you only a fruit salad drizzled with BBQ sauce for every meal (as long as that’s healthy for you), just don’t be Steven.
After school, the Unicorns – sans Lloyd – hit Caseys, and Lila and Janet start to push Jessica into predicting another earthquake. This part should have paid more attention to Jessica’s point of view, because everyone just says it’d be cool to know when the next one is, and after a mild push, Jessica says Thursday. Lila pounces on this and announces they’ll have an earthquake party and invite everyone in the whole world. Jessica, obviously, bricks it and tries to backtrack. This would be a great moment for her to acknowledge her bullshit, and just go, “Don’t be daft, of course I can’t predict earthquakes. I had everyone going for a while though, didn’t I?” But of course, she doesn’t.
And then Lloyd arrives, and Lila gleefully confirms there will be a guaranteed earthquake on Thursday.
After school, the parents decide to have a word with Steven about his vegetarianism. He quickly corrects them. He’s a vegan now. Alice dryly notes he ought to throw out his new leather basketball sneakers then. It’s fine. She’ll take them to Goodwill, and they can get him canvas ones. [Wing: I love you, Alice.]
Now, about the food. They are going to support him. Elizabeth comments the he’s inspiring – and for once, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, she’s being sassy. Alice lists all the things she’s bought to ensure that he’s not hurting animals with his diet.
At this point, Jessica walks in, saying she was at Caseys. Steven asks what she had, and when she answers, they expect a detailed rant on how bad it was for her, but instead he just looks sad.
Before bed, Jessica catches a few minutes of news, where an expert opines that there won’t be another earthquake in Sweet Valley. Jessica panics initially, then reassures herself that the expert didn’t wake up for the earthquake, unlike Jessica, so what does she know?
She goes into Elizabeth’s room, where Amy is staying over again, and they explain what’s going on to her. Jessica asks if they think another earthquake will happen, and they say hopefully, because their article needs it. Once again, they tease Jessica, saying her special powers will wake her up for the next one, so she doesn’t need to stay awake. Jessica gets defensive and sticks with her Thursday prediction.
That night, Steven can’t sleep. He’s ravenous. He starts picturing meaty yumminess (fairly sure Raven will call me on that phrasing there) [Raven: *blinks*] [Wing: Dirty.], and he wishes he hadn’t been so noisy and preachy about it, because now he can’t go back on his vegan stance. Yep. Serves you right, you absolute dick.
The next morning, Ellen is excited because the earthquake is tomorrow. Ellen is fucking adorable. Janet and Lila explain that they’re just trying to prove that Jessica’s lying, but Ellen thinks she has some kind of ability. They’re finalising invitations, and Lila says to make 150 copies. When Jessica walks in and hears this, she panics big time. She thought it was just a Unicorn party, not a whole school party. She tries to get Lila to call off the party in the name of health and safety, but obviously gets nowhere.
“Anyway, if it was going to be a severe earthquake, you’d probably be having some strong feelings already, instead of the kind of uncertain ones you’ve been experiencing,” Lila pointed out.
Lila, stay fabulous.
Later, Lloyd informs Jessica that he has borrowed his dad’s beeper (remember them? The only reason I do is because of Buffy’s, “If the apocalypse comes, beep me.” line.), so they can stay in touch at all times.
Jessica spends the rest of the day trying to convince everyone to no-show Lila’s party for their own safety. Everyone says that Lila has told them that her big expensive basement is earthquake-proofed. Which is probably true.
Bruce has decided to cash in on the quake, and is making t-shirts and will be selling them at Lila’s party. Bruce, by the way, is old money, and his family despises the Fowlers for their gauche behaviour. Just thought I’d mention that. [Raven: This is not Bruce’s style at all.]
After school, Steven goes to the Dairi Burger with Joe. Joe orders a jumbo bacon burger, onion rings and a milkshake, and adds that he doesn’t want Steven to say a word. Steven asks for fries, and Joe tells him he can’t have them because the oil is unhealthy. (I kind of like Joe. He won me over when he hid in a tooth. Now he’s sassing Steven as much as he can. And that’s always a win for me.) Steven asks for a salad with vinegar and oil dressing. Joe says just the vinegar, since he’s so concerned about health. [Wing: (a) The oil and vinegar would be fine, hush Joe. (b) He shouldn’t eat the french fries because there’s a good chance that oil has been cross-contaminated with oil used to cook meat.]
When they sit down, Joe talks about basketball, but Steven doesn’t have the energy. Ever since he gave up meat, he’s exhausted. Probably because he’s been too busy bitching about what he can’t eat, rather than finding out what he can.
The food arrives and the Dairi Burger’s “salad” is just burger toppings thrown together. Joe’s meal looks epic. Joe has to go talk to Chuck Harmon (possibly Colin’s brother?), and Steven is very tempted to eat Joe’s food while he’s gone. As he reaches for the burger, Joe appears and yells “Caught you!” Steven makes a weak excuse about the burger bun, but Joe knows the truth. [Raven: I like the fact that the salad at the Dairi Burger is terrible. I’m totally of the opinion that you should never order the non-speciality dish from a speciality restaurant, as no one would ever think of going to the Steakhouse if they wanted a Nut Cutlet, which means the ingredients for the Nut Cutlet are probably out of date and minging.] [Wing: …do I dare Google Nut Cutlet?]
Over with the Unicorns, they’re prepping the basement for the party, with pictures of the San Andreas fault.
“What did you finally decide to serve for food, anyway?” Mary asked Lila.
“Milk shakes and rock candy,” Lila said, tacking the poster to the wall in her basement. It wasn’t a normal basement, because Lila’s house was huge—more like a mansion than a house. The basement was as large as the entire first floor, and it was almost as nice. Lila used it frequently for parties.
“And we’re making a huge sheet cake tonight at my house,” Janet said, hanging some inflatable globes from the ceiling. “We’re frosting it to look like Sweet Valley, and then we’re going to cut it in half with a jagged knife, so it splits.”
Say what you want about the Unicorns, but those purple idiots can theme. [Wing: Okay, this is fucking amazing. I want them to plan my parties.]
Lila takes the opportunity to remind Jessica how disappointed everyone will be if they rock up to an earthquake party and there is no earthquake. This is delightful.
Back at the Wakefield Compound, Steven is grumpy and ravenous, and not particularly impressed when Ned announces that he’s cooking a mushroom-tofu-pecan stuffed squash, with a side of taboule and Middle Eastern carrot salad. [Wing: Goddamn, Steven, your family is going out of their way to make sure you can eat, stop being such a bag of dicks.] Jessica comes in and tries to talk to him, and he snaps at her. She comments that he’s become a real grouch since he gave up meat. He calls her stupid.
Over dinner, Elizabeth gushes over the delicious flavours. Steven decides the food tastes like cardboard. Even Amy compliments the food. (Jessica is oddly silent.) It’s never confirmed, but his family is clearly fucking with him, and I find that delightful. [Raven: I too enjoyed their mind games, although I don’t think it had a sufficient payoff. Ned and Alice needed to do the whole “gotcha” thing.] [Wing: Aww, I took it at face value (in part because that sounds delicious).] Alice and Ned thank him for making them rethink their diet choices, and Elizabeth says she’s so impressed that he’s stuck to his resolution for three days. Even Jessica chimes in. Steven hates his life and wishes everyone would talk him out of his veganism. [Wing: Just change your damn mind, dude.]
That night, Amy falls asleep which peeves Elizabeth. I thought they were sleeping in shifts. I thought that was the whole point. She goes to the kitchen and gets some coffee, and sees Jessica, who can’t sleep for worry that the earthquake won’t happen.
Jessica shook her head. “I don’t know when it’ll come. I don’t know if it will come.” She buried her head in her arms and groaned. “I only predicted it because Lila said I couldn’t.”
“And she’s right—you can’t,” Elizabeth said.
“I know, but Lila didn’t have to say that,” Jessica said, pouting.
#JessLogic is awesome.
Elizabeth asks if Jessica wants to stay awake with her. Jessica storms off in a huff because Elizabeth isn’t taking her pain seriously. Elizabeth tells her that an earthquake will come or it won’t, there’s nothing she can do about it. She thinks to herself that life with her twin is never dull, but it’s irritating.
I kind of like no-bullshit Elizabeth. She’s doing everything right this book: she’s not got a cause, she’s not pushing her nose into anyone’s business, she’s no-selling Jessica’s “ability”, and she’s gleefully trolling her brother about his veganism. If Elizabeth was like this all the time, I’d have a much higher opinion of her.
The next morning, Jessica feels terrible because she’s barely slept for worrying. Though she had a nightmare about a quake felling the school, but reflects that was a good dream, because at least there was an earthquake. A+. Also, premonitions for the Sweet Valley High finale?
As she enters the kitchen, she sees Steven pick up the regular (non-soy) milk. As he’s just about to drink it, his father comes in and Steven quickly swaps it for his soy milk.
Upstairs, Team Boring become Team Mildly Interesting. Amy wakes Elizabeth up, where she’s fallen asleep at her desk, and chides her for doing so, they might have missed the earthquake. Elizabeth retorts that at least she stayed up to 3am, Amy zonked out at midnight, and she slept all of last night too, and when Elizabeth tried to wake her, Amy wouldn’t budge. Elizabeth is fucking sick of this shit. And Amy’s not even her twin, so she is not handing her spine over on this occasion.
Alice interrupts this argument, and tells them that they’re just tired. She’ll make them breakfast and drive them to school.
Again, no adult is going to point out that sleep deprivation is nothing to fool around with? No? Ok. Fine.
“Mr. Bowman, can I make an announcement?” Jessica stood nervously at her English teacher’s desk.
“What kind of announcement?” Mr. Bowman asked, straightening his orange striped tie.
“A really important one. You know, kind of like that Emergency Broadcast Signal thing.” Jessica smiled her most charming smile.
“All right, but like the Emergency Broadcast Signal test, it should last only sixty seconds,” Mr. Bowman said.
Even Mr Bowman gets in on the sass. Although he can die in a fire for suggesting that Elizabeth and Amy should forego sleep until another earthquake hits. What if there isn’t one? These two are going to be awake until the end of their junior year of high school.
Anyway, Jessica reiterates her suggestion that everyone stay home for their own safety. Nobody takes her particularly seriously. Winston says he’s not missing the earthcake. That’s a thing. It’s the cake with the fault line in it. [Raven: Earthcake! Also, there’s actually something called Earthquake Cake that looks AMAZING. I will bake it!] [Dove: I want that.]
Over with Elizabeth, she’s asleep in class and dreaming of a Pulitzer. Ah, Elizabeth, I’ve read Sweet Valley Confidential. No sign of a Pulitzer in there. I figure that’s not spoilers. Or maybe it is. Raven, Wing, did you think it was likely she’d win it? [Raven: Why not? The Wakefields win everything else.] [Wing: I wouldn’t be surprised if they won every award ever. Nobel Peace prize has her name on it, right?]
Elizabeth wakes up, is humiliated, and pretty much drifts off to sleep again almost immediately.
At lunch, Mandy brings up the fact that the Valentine’s dance is looming – how? It was Valentine’s day 11 books ago? Then again, it was Christmas in the previous book, so… I guess? Also, it’s going to be Valentine’s day again 13 books, then again in 24 books after that. (Also between this book and the final Valentine’s I mentioned, the holidays go: Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Spring Break.)
Mandy wants to go with Peter Jeffries. Oh good. Another Peter. It says that she and Peter went out once, but nothing came of it. Would that be to the Valentine’s dance in The Great Boyfriend Switch? I don’t expect much in the way of continuity, but this feels like open mockery.
The rest of the Unicorns appear, and then Lloyd shortly after. Lloyd has a fisherman’s vest laden down with dials and science thingies. He wants Jessica to wear it. The Unicorns mock, Jessica refuses to wear it, and finally storms off in a huff. He follows her and asks if this means they’re not going to the seismic research conference next month.
Over at the high school, Steven begs Cathy for a bite of her sandwich. She tells him no, because chicken is full of antibiotics unless it’s free range. So… is she not eating free range? I remember there being a major push for chickens to be free range in my child/tween-hood (80s-90s). Is this book written using old logic (like Twilight, where Bella drives to another town to buy a book, instead of googling it), or did I lead a charmed young life, or were things dramatically different in the USA in the early 90s? [Wing: Dear, dear Dove, we still don’t have majority free-range chickens in food production and especially not if that sandwich comes from the school cafeteria.]
Anyway, Cathy gives him a hard no, despite his protests that you get antibiotics from the doctor and it makes you better, etc. Steven asks how she can live with eating meat if she’s so set on him staying vegan, and she says that they get free range at home, and they don’t always eat meat, and if everyone makes a few little changes it can have a big difference. (Translation: meat tastes nicer than smugness. Live with it, Steven.) [Wing: I love Cathy hardcore. You deserve so much better than a Wakefield, Cathy.]
We swap over to Jessica an hour before the party, and this Jamie is aware of Jessica’s kill count, because we have a delightful part where Jessica comes up with various plans and discards them: flood the basement (probably have to pay for damages); shut off the power (damn, it would add to atmosphere); rent a bulldozer to smash Fowler Crest to pieces drive past (with what money?); steal a bulldozer (probably get caught).
Finally she settles on a non-illegal idea: praying. Then she does an earthquake dance, which is adorable. She sings a little ditty along with her dance, and at this point Elizabeth walks in and gives her a very strong side-eye.
Jessica begs Elizabeth not to write about her in her Sixers article and, when Elizabeth says the article is not about her anyway, is immediately offended. This book may not be fantastic, but this Jamie is writing the twins well. Elizabeth says who knows, Jessica might get lucky (we all know she will, given that Quakefield-Wakefield lie that turned out to be true), and Jessica tries to say it wasn’t luck, then sees the look on her twin’s face and admits it was.
Then we cut to the party, where the Unicorns are finalising the room.
Lila turned on the punch bowl her father had bought especially for the party that night. It had two levels. “The top bowl has a crack in it, like an earthquake hit it,” Lila explained. “So the punch falls through to the bottom level, where you can get some to drink. Then these two tubes take what’s in the bottom and put it back in the top, and it drips down again.”
Again, the Unicorns are fucking awesome when given a theme. [Wing: That sounds like the best punch bowl in the world and I want one. Then I’m going to fill it with something red-black.]
Also, Ellen’s glad the earthquake didn’t happen while they were at school. Ellen is still adorable.
Then we move over to Elizabeth, who collects Amy for the party. Things are still tense between them since their argument this morning. Thankfully, some really shit jokes about Ned being their chauffeur smooth that right over. Only Jessica isn’t having fun.
Amy says something they both should have said earlier: “And no matter what Mr. Bowman says, we should still write our article, Elizabeth. We can interview people tonight and take pictures of that cake Janet’s been bragging about.” Now I don’t blame the kids here. An adult told them no, they can only do that if they damage their health according to his frankly ludicrous rules. But I’m pleased that Amy’s decided to say fuck that. [Raven: She should have added, “… and of course we’ll report Mr Bowman to the school board for being a mahoosive jeb-end.”]
Amy and Elizabeth make up, and Elizabeth finds the silver lining of Amy’s sleep: Amy’s rested enough to remember her camera, Elizabeth completely forgot hers.
Jessica just whines that she’s about to be humiliated.
At the party, Lloyd attempts to follow Jessica everywhere, telling her that she can use her special powers to alert everyone so that they can be safe for the earthquake, and that she could be a local hero.
Todd and Aaron have set up a stall where you can guess the time the earthquake hits. Whoever wins get a $10 gift certificate that Mr Fowler bought. Love that Lila’s foisted this task off on Aaron and Todd, and they seem pleased by it! Jessica refuses to try, and excuses herself to talk to Elizabeth.
She finds a place on the couch by herself to sit, and almost immediately Lila follows to needle at her, asking why she hasn’t put a bet on when the quake will hit. It goes on for a bit until Jessica decides she may as well put a bet on. She says it will happen within the hour (by 8:30pm). Lila sneers that everyone picked exact times, but Jessica says it’s hard to be that precise.
Todd turns the music off and loudly announces Jessica’s prediction. Everyone cheers. Bruce calls out that everyone should buy a t-shirt.
Over with Team Boring, Elizabeth says they only have to stay awake for another hour. Amy asks if she believes Jessica now. Elizabeth says she’ll believe anything that will let her sleep. Amy moves off to take photos, and Elizabeth dozes on the couch.
Over with the evil twin, Lloyd is boring her to death with the technicalities of earthquakes. Jessica moves to speak to Bruce who complains that he’s only sold 20 of his 100 t-shirts. Well, that’s what happens when bogart someone else’s shindig to pad your pocket, jackass. He’s charging $10 for them. What kid wants to waste $10 (which is probably their whole allowance) on a t-shirt for a party? A concert, sure, but not a middle-school party. At least the Unicorns gave theirs away free at the Founding Fling. Bruce says Jessica will owe him the money for anything he doesn’t sell. No, Bruce, no. Just fuck off. [Raven: Yeah, that’s just weird. Is this actually Tony Rizzo in a Bruce costume?]
Still, the idea of owing Bruce $500 (he’ll only charge her cost, that’s sweet of him, isn’t it?) sends her dashing to the bathroom to do her earthquake dance again.
When she’s done, Aaron tells her they took bets on who thinks Jessica’s prediction is correct, and 77 people think she’s wrong, and one thinks she’s right. (I fucking love you, Ellen.) Though Jessica says it’ll be Lloyd who thinks she’s right, and Aaron doesn’t say otherwise. Maybe Ellen didn’t vote?
At home, Steven thinks the coast is clear to ransack the kitchen for MEAT! Unfortunately, his dad catches him and he’s stuck with rice cakes.
8:30pm rolls around, everyone has a countdown and… of course, nothing happens. Jessica tries to say it could be another hour or two, the vibrations aren’t precise. Lila turns sinister as she says:
“Nobody’s leaving,” Lila said. “Not until we find out if there really is an earthquake coming today.” She stared at Jessica. “Whatever time it is.”
I’m imagining Fowler Crest going into lockdown like it’s the Purge. Window shutters come down. Bulletproof doors are engaged. Backup generators are put on standby. NOBODY COMES IN. NOBODY GOES OUT.
As the room turns on Jessica, she thinks to herself she should have exploded dynamite outsides.
She knows she’d probably go to jail, but it would be worth it.
This Jamie is as scared of Jessica as we are.
[Wing: Ghostwriters knows #bestjess.]
At 9:15pm, Todd tells Elizabeth that he’s leaving, the party is pretty done. Either Lila’s parties aren’t as great as we think, or Todd is massively boring. Elizabeth feels bad for her sister, and wonders where she is.
Over with Jessica, she finds a nook in the basement with a beanbag chair, some skis and a hot water heater. She will not be found by anyone, so she thinks it’s a great place to hide. She sits down and closes her eyes.
And over with Lila, she is delighted that it’s all gone wrong. She never thought she’d be happy about one of her parties bombing, but this has worked out perfectly. Ok, sure the earthquake didn’t happen, but if you need an earthquake to make your party enjoyable, you are inviting the wrong guests.
Lila turns off the music and makes an announcement. She’s very sorry, she’s just as disappointed as the rest of them, they’ll bring out the cake and try to make the best of it, but if you’re really upset, tell Jessica. Ouch.
Amy suggests they use up the last of the pictures on her camera roll on the cake as Lila carries it down the stairs. The lights are dimmed (why? Are there candles?) and they bring out the cake, which has Monopoly houses on it and looks like a mini Sweet Valley – ok, that’s adorable.
Elizabeth is about to say something when she feels a rumbling. She sees the cups quivering on the table, and one falls off.
“Earthquake!” at least twenty other voices screamed. [Raven: “T-Rex!” screamed Dove.]
All of a sudden, the entire basement full of people burst into chaos.
But there was one bloodcurdling shriek that Elizabeth heard clearly over all the others. It was the sound of Lila tumbling headfirst into the earthcake.
[Wing: OH MY GOD YES.]
Back at the Wakefield Compound, Steven has a moment alone with the kitchen when both parents leave to pick up the twins. He immediately grabs some spaghetti sauce with meatballs… to put on an English muffin? Steven, what the fuck, dude? – with melted cheese and all sorts of other things.
He hesitates for a second, but decides one little snack couldn’t hurt. Then the quake hits. He drops the jar of spaghetti sauce and realises that he’ll have to spend his pig-out (his words) time cleaning up instead of eating.
Back at the party, the rumbling stops and everyone giggles and high-fives. Amy gets a picture of Lila covered in cake frosting and Monopoly hotels.
They decide to hunt for Jessica, to see how she’s taking the news that her bullshit prediction actually came true. They finally find her asleep in the nook, and Amy can’t help but take a photo of her.
Back at home, Jessica is raiding the fridge. She had been too nervous to eat earlier, and now she’s starving. Jessica says that Steven’s veganism will be coming to an end soon, she nearly caught him drinking real milk. As Elizabeth tosses something in the trash, she sees the broken spaghetti jar, and meatballs, and calls Jessica over. They quickly figure out that he was about to eat them when the quake hit. Jessica says she has a perfect plan to catch him the next time he tries this.
At school, Jessica is furious that Elizabeth has used the picture of her sleeping in the nook as the front page picture. She is very mildly placated when she sees the other picture is Lila covered in frosting. This is a bit mean for Team Boring. I thought they were supposed to be the nice ones. [Raven: To be fair, they’re probably over-tired and bitchy.] [Wing: Thirty seconds ago, you were micromanaging the hell out of the Sixers, Bowman, but when something happens that could be considered bullying, where the fuck are you?]
After school, they follow Steven to Hughie’s Burger Shack. He orders meat, meat and a side of meat, with a chocolate shake. The twins walk in and catch him, but Steven tries to say he’s not eating the burger, he’s just waiting for his onion rings. The twins lament that there’s almost nothing on the menu they can eat, escalating to the point where they feel sorry for the poor mustard seeds that give their lives so they can enjoy mustard.
Steven admits defeat and admits that’s his burger. They tell him that’s fine, but the next time he gets a bee in his bonnet, fine, act on it, just don’t ram it down their throats too. All is well. Elizabeth even orders a tempeh burger, which is made out of soybeans. Steven nearly makes a face, then tells her to enjoy it instead.
And then finally we have the lead-in to the next book. Mandy says that the Children’s Hospital is having a charity drive, and she has a great idea to raise money. Since she had cancer and was treated there, everyone respects her need to give back.
Her idea is that the Unicorns donate their time, and people bid on them, to order them around all day. Oddly, Jessica thinks being a servant for a day sounds awesome. Which is incredibly un-Jessica. [Wing: Of course Steven’s back to eating meat, he has to keep his strength up for buying Jessica.]
This book was more fun to read than recap. The scenes were really short and felt a bit repetitive when sitting down to analyse them, but I didn’t feel that way when I read it.
The writing wasn’t perfect, there were lots of scenes that would have benefitted from having a more thoughts and reactions from the POV character, such as each time Jessica was needled into doubling down on her ridiculous prediction. It assumes that you’ve read all the other books and are well-versed in Jessica’s schemes. Which, admittedly, I am.
Mr Bowman challenging the girls to stay awake for the next earthquake is just fucking terrible. As is the fact that there really is a second earthquake as per Jessica’s prediction.
But the relationships between the twins was pretty good. It was really nice to see Elizabeth refuse to get swept up in Jessica’s nonsense, and quite gratifying when Elizabeth thought to herself how irritating the whole thing was.
Oh, and the whole Steven subplot? Well, we all know I hate Steven, so I wasn’t really going to like it. The only one I’ve really enjoyed was Big Brother’s In Love, and that was more about Cathy herself, and the twins’ plans, than Steven, who generally acted like an entitled ass. Much like the book, it was fine, nothing special.
Overall, pretty good, not outstanding, not terrible. Definitely more fun to read than recap.
[Raven: Like Dove, I thought this book was alright, I guess. I liked the Unicorns, and the earthquake-themed party seemed fun. It just didn’t seem very “big” as a story, if you get me. There was just a lot of pointless waiting around for the inevitable second earthquake.
Also, Mr Bowman can fuck off, and the whole Steven sub plot was pretty weak. There was no real payoff to the family’s trolling other than “we have caught you eating a burger.” I think I’d have enjoyed it more had there been no second earthquake, and Jessica instead managed to weasel out of it using her gumption instead of blind luck. Maybe she could have invited Quakefield Wakefield to the party instead? Or embraced the Lloyd science plot and revisited her old SOAR! persona? The possibilities were endless.]
[Wing: Inviting Quakefield Wakefield would have been amazing.]
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.