Sweet Valley Twins #8: First Place

Sweet Valley Twins 8: First Place by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 8: First Place

Title: First Place

Tagline: Will Elizabeth risk everything for a horse?

Summary: Lila Fowler, the snobbiest girl in Sweet Valley Middle School, has gotten her own beautiful horse – and she doesn’t seem to care.

Elizabeth Wakefield thinks it’s not fair.

Elizabeth absolutely adores horses, so much that she’ll go as far as pretending to be friends with snotty Lila. She’ll even do all of Thunder’s grooming – just for the chance to ride him every day.

Elizabeth’s behaviour makes her own twin sister Jessica furious. Jessica accuses Elizabeth of trying to steal her best friend away. And that’s not all Elizabeth is doing. She’s deceiving everyone at the stable and is making trouble for her closest friend, Amy. Just how far will Elizabeth go before she loses everything – all for the love of a horse?

Initial Thoughts:

I GET THE HORSEY BOOK! This is awesome, because I’m actually a horsey girl. I have all the Jill books by Ruby Ferguson (and I converted them to eBook format); the Eventing Trilogy by Caroline Akrill; The Fly-By-Night books by K M Peyton; not to mention pretty much everything written by the Pullein-Thompson sisters. My friends and I even dubbed ourselves the “Saddle Cover Club” (ribbing on the “Saddle Club”, if that never got a big release abroad). I am horsey girl.

[Wing: … The Saddle Club, both the junior high and high school versions, definitely had a release over here.]

This also has the added bonus of me knowing my shit when it comes to horses. And I will enjoy ripping Liz to pieces.

[Wing: I am also a horse person, but we were a Western riding family, so this is not in my wheelhouse. Letting Dove have the reins on this one.]

[Wing: Why yes, I am just evil enough to go for the easy pun there.]

[Raven: I am not a horse person. I have been bitten by a horse. Horses are rubbish.]

Front Cover:

Liz: Lila, assume the position, and remember, the safe word is “Thunder”.


We open with Mr Nydick taking a history class. Jessica makes the fabulously witty observation that Nydick knows all about it because he was there, which is a fun play on how old he is. Naturally, such wit reduces our identical morons to hysterics, which they have to smother.

And here is some space for Raven to say something funny, since he is adorably devoted to charting Nydick’s career.

[Wing: If Raven doesn’t come in with a comment about where Nydick has been dipping his wick, I will be super disappointed.]


[Raven: *taptaptap* Is this thing on? … *clears throat* … Mister Nydick is teaching history … and once the allegations are proven, his CAREER will be history! … Get it? Ha! … It’s funny because he’s a pervert.]

Liz has been drawing horses on her notebook and she can’t wait to get to her riding lesson after school. On their way out of school, they notice that Lila is surrounded by people, and Liz asks, “So why is she so popular all of a sudden?” BECAUSE. YOU FUCKING MUPPET. SHE’S A UNICORN. And by muppet, I mean both Liz and the ghostwriter. If you’re going to tell us in every book how pretty and popular and special the Unicorns are, you can’t then be surprised if they’re actually fucking popular.

[Wing: In further lack of continuity, Elizabeth acts like she never believed Lila actually asked for a horse, but multiple people confirmed it for her in the last book. Which I assume the ghost writer didn’t read. Not that I blame them. It was terrible.]

But for the sake of the plot, Lila is “suddenly” popular because she’s got a horse, and everyone wants to ride it. And yes, this absolutely happens. It’s funny how girls would go from ripping my hair out in the afternoon class to sticking to me like glue when my mother rocked up with my pony in tow, so I could ride her home from school.

[Wing: Maybe it’s different when you have a horse in small farm town USA, but no one really cared whether anyone had one or not. I think most people assumed everyone did.]

Elizabeth is “subdued” that Lila has a horse when she wants one so bad. Oh, Lizzie, did someone finally tell you no? Poor baby.

Cut to Jess, and she and Lila have a giggle about how Lila will never have to do homework again, as long as she’s got a horse to trade out. Jess says it’s nice that Lila has a horse, but Lila changes the subject, because she’s already over owning a horse.

We don’t see Liz’s riding lesson, because that would mean the writer would have to look up shit about horses, and ain’t nobody got time for that, so we just skip to her arriving home, skipping through the daisies and thinking how fucking perfect Sweet Valley is. Not kidding, she’s actually thinking like a real estate agent.

Elizabeth smiled when she saw them. This was one of the best things about living in Sweet Valley, California. Throughout the year, the air was filled with the wonderful scent of flowers. She couldn’t imagine a more perfect place in the world. Just about every day had bright sun and blue skies, and the beach was only a bike ride away.

This is one of the many reasons I just want to stab Elizabeth.

Amy’s also there so they can work on their book reports together. Liz is doing hers on National Velvet BECAUSE HORSEYS. Jess claims she’s doing her report on the same book, and can she see what Liz has so far? In a shocking turn of non-dormatting, Liz puts her off. Jess says that she’s going to see Lila’s horse on Saturday.

This makes Liz really gloomy.

But underneath it all, Elizabeth couldn’t get one thought out of her head: Why, of all people, does Lila get a horse when I’m the one who really deserves one?

Excuse me? You deserve a horse? Exactly what makes you deserving of a horse, Liz? We’ve had eight books, and you’ve only been interested in them for less than one (the last few pages of book #7, and a single chapter of this one). If that’s the only requirement for deserving a horse, then Lila does deserve one, that’s probably how long she liked the idea for. This is why I hate you, you entitled fucking brat. I hope you get trampled at the stables. [Raven: Gotta say, I’m with you on this. No one deserves a horse, with maybe the exception of King Richard the Third, and even then he had to offer his kingdom to get one. BOOM! History headshot! Take THAT, Mr Nydick!]

The next day at lunch, Lila sucks up to Liz, trying to get an article about her and Thunder (that’s the horse) into The Sixers, the class newspaper Liz works on. Liz shuts this down, despite Lila offering to let Liz ride him. I guess it’s too hurtful to see a horse she doesn’t own. #FirstWorldProblems.

[Wing: Doesn’t Lila usually mock Elizabeth et al for working on the Sixers? Why is she suddenly all about seeing her name in it? Isn’t there a much more prestigious newspaper she can target? Like the one for the older grades. That sounds far more like Lila.]

While walking through the halls, she bumps into Jess – literally – and snaps at her, then gives her a “tortured” glance. Because nothing is more terrible in Sweet Valley than not getting what you want. Ever.

The next day, Liz sulks in the backyard on her thinking seat, and finally decides that it’s not the end of the world that Lila wanted an article about her horse. Then Jess comes home and says now that she’s seen Thunder, she gets why everyone is so excited about it. I guess this must be the Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp of horses or something? In my experience, what’s appealing in horses is subjective. When I used to help at a riding stable (“help” at a riding stable involves getting there at 6am, working straight through until 2pm, no break, no pay, all for the love of being around horses), nobody used to clamour for the same horse, we all had our own favourite. My type is a fat dapple grey, preferably with an attitude problem, so best friend status is earned and respected.

On Monday, Liz asks Lila about her horse, and is incredulous that Lila doesn’t know the breed. And I have to side with Liz. Given Lila’s money, she’s bound to have a horse of good breeding, and she should be bragging about that, if that’s what she’s into. Liz agrees to write the article, and Lila offers to show her Thunder after school.

While Liz is waiting for Lila after school, a new girl called Sophia Rizzo asks if she’s got change for a dollar, then says she’d love to work on the Sixers. Liz tells her to come to the next meeting and then basically shoves her away, because HORSE > manners. Even though Lila’s not there, so Sophia isn’t holding her up in the slightest.

Lila finally shows up late, and they walk to the stables, which are far bigger and better than the stables Liz takes lessons at. Lila is then rude to the stablehand, and finally we meet Thunder, the superhorse.

At that moment, an older stablehand brought in a horse that made Elizabeth’s jaw drop. She had never seen anything like it in her life. His sorrel coat glowed like the embers of a waning fire, and his broad chest heaved evenly with his footsteps. With one glance of his steady brown eyes, he seemed to peer into Elizabeth’s soul.

Why on earth is his chest heaving after a simple walk? That is not a healthy or fit horse. And don’t lie, Elizabeth. YOU HAVE NO FUCKING SOUL.

In the silence of her first glance, she felt she could barely breathe. His eyes looked almost human, with a deep, calm intelligence. And when he stared at her, he seemed to be saying, “Yes. You’re the one.”

What’s that thing in Twilight where wolf boy marries a baby? Imprinting. That’s what’s going on here. Liz has just imprinted on a non-consenting being.

[Wing: I’ve just realised this reading your recap, but I bet this was inspired by those Mercedes Lackey books, the Valdemar books, where the super special magical white horses that aren’t really horses choose a person pretty much exactly like that. I see you, ghost writer.

Also, I need to go reread those damn books. I’ve only read a handful, but my favourite is By the Sword, which is all badass women with swords having adventures.]

[Raven: I am right in thinking that horses are actually stupid, yes? Like, they have the mental capacity of a stunned goldfish? I’m pretty sure Thunder’s “deep, calm intelligence” was basically the four-legged idiot being confused by a leaf.]

[Wing: Never, ever have you been so deeply wrong before, Raven. Also, a legion of horse lovers are coming for you now.]

Lila offers to let Liz ride him, and lends Liz her spare set of riding clothes – which are western, chaps, Stetson, hay in the mouth, and a strong urge to hunt varmints – which is weird, because everyone rides European style in this book. I would have honestly thought Lila would prefer European garb, cream jodhpurs, neat shirt, black jacket and a skull cap with a silk (you can get them in different colours, she could get them in purple). And, I’ve just checked, Liz is wearing the European garb on the front cover. And while we’re at it, why is she wearing a shirt and jacket for lessons? That’s purely for shows – jumping, riding, dressage contests.

[Wing: I don’t understand this either. Lila says it’s more fashionable, but based on everything else they love, I would absolutely expect them to wear (purple) clothes for English style. Which is what we called it where I grew up. Don’t let it go to your head, Brits.]

She walks him, then trots, then canters. She “knows” it’s easier to go from a walk to a canter. NOPE. SO MUCH NOPE. She’s never cantered before, but she’s a natural. After one lesson.

George, the stablehand, is absolutely flabbergasted by her talent, he calls her “a real pro”. He says that Thunder goes well for her and must really like her. I hate this. I really hate this. This is like one of those soulmate stories that I loathe entirely. It removes any work anyone does, because everyone just sits around telling us how brilliant the pair is when they’re together.

Lila invites her over for dinner to discuss the article, and while she’s at it, she slags off Cammi Adams (she barely exists in this universe), Grace Oliver (future Unicorn – great continuity), Lois Waller (obv, gotta get our fat hate on) and Amy Sutton. Liz half-heartedly stands up for Amy (fuck the rest of those bitches, right, Liz?), but decides it’s easier to change the subject, because otherwise Lila might never let her see Thunder again.


[Wing: I am naming literally every fictional horse I write after weather from now on. Lightning. Tornado. Rolling Thunder. Florida Rain.]

[Raven: “… and as we reach the final furlong, it’s Stiff Breeze. Stiff Breeze, followed by Industrial Smog, with Scattered Showers on the inside. Stiff Breeze by a nose, Smog, Showers, followed by Freezing Mist, then the trailing pack behind, and at the very rear Sharknado. Turning onto the last straight it’s Stiff Breeze, Industrial Smog, with Scattered Showers now fading, but coming up fast on the outside it’s Drizzle, Drizzle is flying, Stiff Breeze is stiffening up, Smog has gone… and it’s Drizzle who takes the tape! Great work by Drizzle there, perfect preparation for next week’s Michael Foot Ledger Classic, where Drizzle will face tough competition from Everything’s Just Grey and the crowd favourite Absolutely Pissing Down.”]

By Tuesday (so, the next day, right? [Wing: I thought they meant a week later, even though that sounds like too long; one day doesn’t seem long enough, though.]), the entire school has noticed Lila and Liz are now BFFs, and they’re quizzing Jessica about it. Because changes to the school social hierarchy need to be discussed and voted on.

The next day, Lila and Liz do homework together after school, and Liz invites Jess along. Lila says she has a surprise for them both. The surprise turns out to be Thunder. She’s had someone put him in a horsebox and bring him over to the house.

They’ve also brought over grooming tools, and Liz starts grooming him, saying it’s so much fun and she’d do it every day if she had her own horse. Yes, Liz, you would. Because you’d have to. It’s not a hobby, it’s a necessity. Lila’s all, oh, gosh if I only have someone to groom him and exercise him… Dude. You fucking do. They work at the stable where you pay top dollar to have your horse looked after. These lowly stablehands might be plebeian enough to have to work for a living, but here’s something to consider: they’re working for terrible wages (horse jobs do not pay well at the bottom end) to be around horses because they love them. They will have been riding for years, and have plenty of talent. But by all means, save a few dollars and let your middle class friend who’s had ONE FUCKING LESSON be responsible for your horse.

[Wing: The other thing is, generally that is covered in the price of the stable when they are that fancy, so her dad is paying for the stablehands to take care of Thunder even as an inexperienced preteen does it instead.]

Liz then does her homework with Lila and Jess, and towards the end Ellen shows up. Liz figures out that she’s here for the answers, assuming Liz would have left by now. She goes outside to get some air and believes she sees someone stealing Thunder.

It’s actually a new stablehand, Ted Rogers. He’s a freshman at Sweet Valley High, and vaguely knows Steven Wakefield’s name. He says please don’t fire him, he’s saving for college. Again I say: he’s doing this for love. Horse jobs pay less than retail or fast food.

[Raven: Ted Rogers!]

It appears he thinks Liz is Thunder’s owner. Jessica thinks he’s cute. Daddy and Steven Wakefield show up to drive the girls home, and they make introductions – Ted fawns of Steven’s basketball prowess but can’t play himself because he limps – and agree to drive to the stable.

At the stable, Jess follows Ted into the tack room to flirt with him. Ted admits he’s not saving for college, he actually wants to be a horse trainer when he’s older.

Liz spends the next few weeks acting like she owns Thunder and working on the article. And this plot device fails on a number of levels, namely:

  • Lila was really enjoying using her horse to get people to do what she wanted.
  • It feels like so far, newspaper assignments are given out and completed within the same week.
  • The next few weeks are literally covered by the phrase “the next few weeks“. One sentence tells, instead of shows, us what’s going on.

She sees a sign for an “Owners’ Event” in showing and jumping. She thinks she should tell Lila about it because Thunder is sure to win. And bollocks. It doesn’t matter how great the horse is, if the rider is rubbish, the horse won’t win. Unless literally everyone else is worse.

The stablehands, who are setting up jumps, ask if she’s going to enter, because they assume she’s the owner, and Liz just says she’s busy that day. She sees Ted galloping around at a “breakneck” speed, and this is supposed to imply that he’s a good rider. It doesn’t. It makes it sound like he’s wildly out of control on a horse that’s too pushy for him. Speed != Ability.

Liz tries the jumps, but we don’t get to see that. It’s the first time she ever jumps, and they put it off screen. Just like her first lesson. I know this isn’t a horse series, but if we’re supposed to buy into the idea that Horses = Life for Liz, I need to see her try something for the first time. It would be even more gratifying to see her try it, flub it, and resolve to get better. [Wing: Or the more likely thing where she breaks her neck and/or the horse because she is nowhere near ready to jump and isn’t actually taking a class, just going over jumps with no supervision.] Instead, we just skip to this sickening fucking paragraph:

In less than a month, Elizabeth and Thunder became stars at Carson Stable. They cantered with such agility that some of the stable workers took breaks to watch them. They switched gaits with ease and grace. They did effortless figure eights, changing leads from one side to the other with just the briefest trot in between. Elizabeth’s seat had become picture perfect, and Thunder seemed happy to obey her every cue.

I can see that if I was working and due on a break, my eye would naturally drift to whoever was exercising at the time. But I would not take time out to watch a twelve year old do some very basic exercises. This is just basic writing fail. I guarantee that everyone who works there is a hundred times better than Liz at everything horse-related, and her doing a figure of eight (something I could do when I was half Liz’s age), is not that fucking special at all. I like to believe they’re all watching and thinking, “God, if only that horse had a real rider…” because he allegedly is a horse – they never say pony. That means he’s at least 14.3hh (hands high, each hand is 4 inches), and apparently he has a good jump. With his breeding, Thunder is destined for a lot bigger scope than doing some a couple of cavaletti.

[Wing: Riding ponies isn’t such a big thing over here as it seems to be in the UK. By the time serious riding lessons start, kids are usually on actual horses.]

Ted also showers her with compliments and she asks about his limp. He was in a car wreck – drunk driver, obv, because Sweet Valley people don’t aquaplane, lose control, have mechanical issues, etc. there has to be a bad guy. He and his father were injured, his mother died. Liz realizes she’s heard of Anita Rogers, and says no wonder Ted’s so good. Because ability is fucking genetic. Let’s just write off all of Ted’s hard work to become good, because his mum was good, so he just caught the horse riding gene. They had to sell mum’s horses to pay the hospital bills, but Ted’s been saving and he’s nearly got enough for a down payment.

[Raven: Every non-Wakefield non-Unigibbon person in Sweet Valley is completely fucked.]

Ted encourages her to enter the beginners’ competition, because he’d hate to see the blue ribbon and $75 prize go to anyone else. Liz says no, but inside she thinks to herself that nobody would even know if she entered.

The next morning, Lila calls before school. Jess picks up the phone, and Lila asks for Liz. Jess feels slighted, so informs Liz of the call by whispering at Liz’s sleeping body. Which, even though Jess is pure evil, I think is quite funny. She avoids Liz at school, and then has a half-hearted passive-aggressive conversation with Lila about how she and Liz are now BFFs.

Lila invites her to an exclusive slumber party, and Jess cheers up.

After school, Liz brings Ted home with her for dinner. Ted goes outside and plays basketball with Steven – this makes Liz proud of him because he’s trying, despite his limp. Just die, you patronizing fuckwit. Jess flirts with Ted. Liz mentions she’s going to Lila’s sleepover, and Jess runs out of the room to cry on her bed.

Alice is on top parenting form as usual. When Jess tells her that Liz is only sucking up to Lila to ride the horse, Alice just breezes right past that, and says that Lila and Liz should be friends because they have a common interest. Jess agrees to get over it. You know Jessica’s pattern of not accepting the word “no”? Well, I think we are starting to see a pattern of Jessica’s upsets being ignored by her parents. I mean, I’m fairly certain that Jess was always destined to be evil, since she has no soul at all, but Alice and Ned haven’t helped.

[Wing: Based on what little parenting we’ve seen so far, I’m pretty sure their style is telling their kids to suck it up and wait it out. Which sometimes is the answer, yes, but maybe throw in a little sympathy for your kids, damn.]

At the sleepover, they spend the evening of watching music videos (band names are: Frontal Lobe; Zeke Paranoia; and Hyper Ventilation [Wing: My god, I love those names.] [Raven: … Whereas I hate them. They were made up by someone who’s never had to name a real band.] [Wing: How do you name your bands, then? You can’t just put that out there and not follow up!]), during which Liz can’t think of a single intelligent thing to say (this is covered by one sentence). Then they get in their sleeping bags in Lila’s room, and Liz perks up because she hopes they’re going to talk about something interesting. They joke about Lloyd Benson and Amy Sutton, and how they should date because they’re both losers and nobody would ever like either of them. Liz tries to stand up for Amy, saying Ken likes her, because he kissed Amy at Julie’s party last week. The Unicorns find this gossip fascinating, and Liz can’t sleep for feeling that she’s betrayed Amy (again, one sentence). Basically, the entire sleepover was maybe a paragraph long.

The next morning, everyone – including Jess – leave while Liz sleeps. When she wakes up, Lila wants to change the article. Liz doesn’t want to, but Lila reminds her that if she wants to see Thunder, that article better hold up to Lila’s exacting standards. (And that’s a single sentence too. We don’t find out what Lila wants to change, or how Liz deals with it, it just conveniently ends the chapter and moves the fuck on.)

At school, Amy asks Liz what she should do about Ken after the kiss, but Liz feels guilty about blabbing to the Unicorns, so tells her just to wait and see what Ken does.

Again, Liz brings Ted home after exercising Thunder. You know, for a book about Liz riding horses, there has only been approximately four paragraphs where Liz is actually on a fucking horse. Over dinner, Ted asks Ned and Alice why Liz isn’t entering the owners’ competition. Jess gleefully informs Ted that the reason is because Liz isn’t Thunder’s owner.

And then instead of dealing with that, we just cut to the next day where Liz is feeling embarrassed. This book is the ultimate blue-balls experience. It will spend several paragraphs detailing how important $thing is, and then it cuts away just as $thing happens.

And do you know what happens to Elizabeth’s humiliation? Absolutely nothing. The next day she goes to the stable, and guess what? Ted doesn’t care. He reminds her that he lied about saving up for college, instead of wanting to be a horse trainer. And Liz is like, “Yeah, I totes remember that.” Except this should be brand new information to her. Ted told Jessica that, not Elizabeth. Twin magic?

[Wing: Maybe, though there was a weird sentence during that scene where it seemed like both Elizabeth and Jessica were there. I think the ghost writer lost track of what they were doing.]

Also, the show is taking place on a Friday and Lila never comes to the stables on a Friday, so why doesn’t Liz enter anyway? She will, if Ted trains her. A single sentence covers the training session, followed by Ted showering her with compliments on how she’s certain to win.

This is the least horsey horse book I have ever read in my life. [Wing: And yet you wanted it because it was the horsey book.]

At school, Liz is near bursting with joy at the idea she’s going to enter a competition on Thunder, so she takes Amy to a side and confides in her. Amy’s like, “Totes awesome, but you should keep the prize, instead of giving it to Lila.” [Raven: I agree with Amy. Keep the money, Lila would only buy something purple with it anyway.]

That feels shady to me. Also, I don’t know how it is in the USA, but even in competitions run by small private stables, there’s an entrance fee. So generally, good form would be to take the entrance cost from the winnings, and then split the prize between owner and rider. Also, Liz just assumes she’s going to win. Stay humble, Liz.

On Friday, Liz leaves for the stables after a supportive pep-talk and hug from Amy. Then Amy finds herself being taunted by the Unicorns for kissing Ken. She lashes out and tells Lila that she’s so stupid she doesn’t even know that Liz is riding her horse in a competition.


Liz is just about to mount Thunder when Amy rocks up, and about a minute behind her are the Unicorns. Liz fesses up and tells Lila she can fuck the fuck off, because Liz is through walking on eggshells to appease her. Lila changes her tune when she finds out that Thunder could win, and she begs Liz to ride him for her, but Liz nopes out of that, because she’s got pride now, and Lila only wants the ribbon.

But it’s ok, because Ted can ride him in the advanced classes and win anyway. (Thank god Ted’s been exercising Thunder without permission.)

Ok, what the fuck? Liz, you’ve been dying to ride Thunder without having to suck up to Lila. You gave her what for, and now she knows you don’t like her. What the fuck does it matter if she wants her horse to win? Also, how on earth does this “pride” thing you’re rocking actually work out, if you give the horse to someone else who can also win Lila a prize? What the fuck? None of this makes sense. It’s the daubings of an idiot.

You know how I complained there’s no horses in this horse book? There’s an entire chapter devoted to other horses in this competition. And three paragraphs about Ted riding Thunder. He wins. I’m shocked. Are you shocked? I’m flabbergasted. My ghast is well and truly flabbered.

Then Ted buys Thunder from Lila and says that Liz can ride him any time she wants. I personally would not go that route. If I was Ted, a serious advanced rider, and I had a well-bred competition horse like Thunder, I would only want me riding him. I would imagine that even non-horsey people (aside from this ghostwriter) can understand that horse health and competitions are serious business, so you really don’t want your one and only horse, that you’ve just forked over your life savings for (especially when your daddy isn’t a lawyer and your mommy isn’t a part-time interior designer), being used by a twelve year old beginner. If your horse gets injured, you really don’t want to have yourself thinking, “If only I hadn’t let the novice ride him around,” or “I really should murder that annoying child who lamed my horse.” Accidents happen. In Caroline Akrill’s eventing trilogy, Elaine, the lead, is on the eventing circuit and someone takes out her horse, and he’s hit by a car, putting her in debt to the vet a lot, and putting her out of competition – and contention for a scholarship. (That’s a great series of books, I can’t say enough nice things about them. They’re really well written and so funny.)

[Raven: I take your point about Ted not really wanting anyone else riding Thunder, but I’m pretty sure he’s an astute guy who realises that, once the Horsey Book is over, Elizabeth won’t give a pimply shit about horses and we’ll never see her in Jod-hoppers ever again.]

[Wing: Oh my god, I hate you both so damn much.]

The next chapter is a lead in to the next book. At school, Sophia Rizzo (hello, awesome girl, keep being awesome), joins the writing staff of the Sixers, she’s collected by her brother Tony (this never happens again ever, and I’m now up to book #93). But this furthers the plot, because Tony dresses shabby and gives off a bad attitude. When Sophia leaves, Caroline Pearce can’t believe that Liz would let her on the staff because her brother is both “ugly” and “dangerous” because he tried to steal a VCR.

Liz, champion of the little guy, says absolutely fuck all about this, and merely worries that trouble is brewing. Because poor people. Italian poor people at that.

[Wing: Super looking forward to all the class issues that are sure to come up next book. Absolutely. 100%.]

Final Thoughts:

Why is there a horse on the front cover? This book was barely about horses. It wasn’t even about Liz sucking up to Lila. What it was was a book entirely comprised of sentences about shit that happened off screen. “Liz really enjoyed her riding lesson”, “Liz felt shady for having to suck up to Lila”, “Liz felt guilty about pretending she was Thunder’s owner”.


Also, the article that Lila was so picky about? Lila never expanded on the focus – that could’ve even been amusing, with her trying to dictate the contents, “Liz, I think you should say something like, ‘Thunder’s attractive, and very popular, owner, Lila Fowler…’” but no. It was just implied.

This is the most off-screen book I’ve read in a very long time.

[Wing: While this did not make me go boom the way the last book did, it is boring as hell, despite my love of both horses and Ted. So I bring gossip. Recently, I heard that K. A. Applegate was a ghostwriter on this series, and is the one who gave Jessica her first period in the books. Dove, can you confirm any of this?]

[Raven: Meh. This was okay. The horse stuff was pretty bland, and the peripheral characters uninspiring. I did enjoy that this was Elizabeth doing something wrong rather than Jessica, for once. Even if she DID martyr herself needlessly at the end by refusing to ride in the contest. Hey, at least no one got bitten, right?]

[Wing: For more stories about horses biting people (and people biting horses), listen to this month’s podcast, which will be up in a couple weeks.]