Title: Steven’s Enemy
Tagline: Ben likes Jessica, Steven hates Ben…
Summary: Family feud…
Steven Wakefield can’t stand Ben Oliver. First Ben stole Steven’s starting position on the basketball team, then he beat Steven in the election for class treasurer. Now Ben has developed a crush on Jessica, Steven’s own sister. Worst of all, Jessica is falling for Ben!
When Steven sees Ben at his house, he’s furious. He forbids Jessica ever to go out with Ben. But Jessica says no way. She’s not taking any orders from her big brother.
Steven’s determined to get back at Jessica. And he’s already thought of the perfect plan for revenge!
I hate Steven. I really hate Steven.
I have never read this one. As has been long established, I read these back in the day, but began to taper off at the end of the Grapplegate run. I started to buy the missing books from eBay once I got it in my head that owning the whole collection was a life goal, and I started reading them in order as they arrived, starting from Poor Lila, because it’s the most awesome Lila book. (And I stopped around chapter 2 of Cammi’s Crush.)
This one I skipped. I hate Steven, so I put it at the bottom of my list, and it was one of the last cheap ones I bought. Some of this series, believe it or not, is very expensive. The Haunted Mansion quadrology set me back more money that I want to think about.
So, I’m dragging my feet. Also, we took a lot of months off, so I hope I still remember how to recap!
Warning from the future: I drop the c-bomb. Once censored, used in retelling a story. Once with venomous hatred towards a fictional character. [Raven: Wait, we’re warning for that?! Jees, best go hit the back catalogue.] [Wing: I think she’s giving the warning for me, because I hate it used as a pejorative but love it as a body part description.] [Dove: Correct.]
We open with the Unicorns having lunch. For some reason, they bring up Veronica Brooks, whom we haven’t heard about for… *counts* fifteen books. [Wing: We heard about her last book! And Raven even called her a cunt!] I mean, I love a bit of continuity, but you’d have thought they’d have had more to say about her in the book after she framed Jessica for stealing. I guess she’s going to be important in this book.
And since we took a year off, and therefore so did our readers, Veronica Brooks lives next door to Lila, stole Todd from Elizabeth in The Great Boyfriend Switch (and I know a partner can’t be “stolen”, but I’m summarising here), tried to become a Unicorn by framing Jessica as a thief, then was Todd’s “wife” in The Middle School Gets Married, then we never heard from her again.
Then we move on to Janet, who is staring dreamily at nothing. Jessica uses this opportunity to eat Janet’s lunch. It appears that Janet is over Denny, who won’t stop playing a video game long enough to listen to her woes about a Boosters routine. She’s now in love with Doug, a high schooler who she met yesterday when he came home with her brother Joe.
Jessica suggests they go watch the JV basketball practice tomorrow. It won’t look suspicious because Steven and Joe are on the team, so everyone will assume they’re just watching their brothers. Like they’ve never done before. Sorry, ladies, but nobody’s buying that excuse. You lot love to flirt and everyone will see through your “clever” ruse.
Lila says just imagine if a Unicorn starts dating a high school boy, everyone would be so jealous. I guess Jessica and Josh Angler doesn’t count any more. Or, more interestingly, the fact that they threw Roberta Manning out of the club for dating a high school boy (Steven, actually). I can’t keep track of whether dating older boys is cool or not in this club.
Jessica agrees everyone will be jealous, but one will be most jealous of all. Together they chorus the name: Veronica Brooks.
(I don’t know why. I guess because the plot says so.)
We cut to Steven, who has just been moved from his position as centre (the star) on the basketball court to guard, so that Ben Oliver can take his place. Steven hates Ben because he’s: 1) skipped a grade, so he’s super smart and always knows the answers; and 2) is really nice to Steven, which makes it super frustrating when he’s so busy hating him. They’re both up for class treasurer (why is this only coming up now, they sorted this in middle school about 70 books ago), and Steven is sure he’s going to win. [Raven: I’m sure that they have regular re-elections, it’s not Position for Life.] [Wing: Once per school year, generally.] [Dove: See! It should’ve been sorted out ages ago then.]
I’m not. Because I loathe Steven and I can’t be the only one.
At home he attempts to write his speech but can’t concentrate because Jessica is holding a Unicorn meeting next door. He thinks the Unicorns are silly gossips, and the only thing worse than their gossiping is their giggling. He’s probably not wrong, but Steven is hardly captivating either. He bangs on the wall and tells them to shut up. They do fall silent, and he starts reading his speech again, then he hears a giggle at his door and he chases them off.
Over dinner, Steven says that he couldn’t concentrate on his work because of the noise from Jessica’s room. Elizabeth chimes in that she couldn’t either. Alice says that Jessica needs to be mindful of everyone else and respect that she’s not the only one in the house. [Raven: Also, I bet Steven has kept the girls awake at night by standing outside their bedroom door and wanking like a gibbon.]
“Yeah, Mom’s right,” Steven said hotly. “I say that from here on out, Jessica and her stupid, gossiping, loser friends are banned from ever meeting in this house again.”
Dude. Take the fucking win. You were in the right. You had the moral high ground. You should have just smiled smugly at her. As it stands, he ends up having to apologise for what he said. Steven, you’re a dick.
His family notice that Steven is down because he’s barely eating dinner. He tells them that he’s lost his position. They’re duly sympathetic. Except Jessica, because she’s evil and awesome. Steven says he’s going to win the position of class treasurer and all will be fine.
The next day at school, Steven is putting up posters for his campaign (“BE A WINNER WITH WAKEFIELD… OR A LOSER WITH OLIVER!”) [Wing: Yeah, the school should shut that down immediately. Generally no slamming your opponent would be allowed.] with his girlfriend, Cathy, who we have already established is too good for him. She says his poster is a bit mean, and Steven throws a tantrum, saying that Ben is “an ugly, wimpy, conniving punk”. Cathy, because she’s in Sweet Valley, feels the need to defend Ben’s looks before his personality, and Steven tells her to go be his campaign manager instead if she feels that way. Cathy laughs at him and says he’s being jealous. She is completely unphased by his bullshit and says she actually likes seeing him jealous. He says he is not jealous of Ben.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Cathy, walk away! He’s throwing a toddler tantrum because you don’t hate the same guy he hates. He’s being pathetic because you defended a guy’s looks after he said he was ugly, and you’re turned on by him being jealous. Sweet Valley means even the characters you like have toxic aspects.
Over in the middle school, we have Team Boring, comprising of Amy and Elizabeth, but no Julie. Oh god, please don’t say I’m dealing with a book that is about Steven and Elizabeth.
This is my punishment for taking so many months off, isn’t it?
Anyway, Amy talks to Elizabeth in a low tone to say that something’s up with her parents. She doesn’t really know what, but every time she walks into a room, they stop talking and stare at her.
Aliens. Or ghosts. That’s my theory. [Raven: Magnets. It’s always magnets.]
Or they’re sending her off to wherever she goes to between the end of middle school and the start of Sweet Valley High.
Amy’s worried that her parents are getting a divorce, and bursts into tears. She’s so upset that she can barely be in the same room as them, and she’s losing weight because she can’t eat. Elizabeth thinks “divorce” is an ugly word. Because her life is perfect. Then – and you know I hate to give Elizabeth any credit – she has a delightful hope that in an Amanda Howard book a couple pretended to get divorced to catch a thief. She concludes that it’s unlikely, but it is adorable. Fuck you, Elizabeth, for making me write that sentence. [Raven: I found this section pretty shitty, as Elizabeth’s assumption that Divorce is a Four-Letter Word is ridiculous. I feel sorry for anyone with divorced parents reading it.] [Wing: I can’t believe I’m about to defend Elizabeth, but in the early 90s, divorce was still kind of a shocking thing where I grew up. I’d expect different near LA, but Sweet Valley is basically a bubble of small town ridiculousness until they need a trip outside of it.]
Over with Steven, he’s concluding his speech by saying that they’ve all worked hard to raise the money, so the treasurer should be someone you’ve known since elementary school and can trust, rather than some dude who just got here. Uh, didn’t he just skip a grade? So he’s been in Sweet Valley the whole time, but until recently was in Janet’s grade at middle school?
He goes over to talk to Cathy after the speech, but she’s a bit off with him. He says that Ben’s speech was boring and everyone dozed off, and she defends him again. Steven goes on about how boring Ben was again, and Cathy makes an excuse to leave. Steven thinks it’ll all be fine when she’s the girlfriend of a class treasurer. Uh-huh. Because that’s what cements a relationship. When Raven and I row (about once every three years), I do find myself thinking, “Well, he is the fire marshall for the third floor at work. He has a hi-viz jacket. That’s hot!” [Raven: Sorry to break it to you via the medium of Teen Fiction Recap, but my power (and hi-viz jacket) has been stripped.] [Wing: SCANDAL! And better than whatever the actual plot is in this book.] [Dove: No, I’m most interested in knowing if Raven dreams of punching the new fire marshall in the stomach every time he sees him.]
At practice, Steven’s doing so well he starts imagining Ben’s face when the coach puts Steven back into the centre spot. And he’s hit on the head by a basketball. Ben says he was sure Steven saw him passing the ball. Coach tells him to stop daydreaming, and Steven, of course, seethes, convinced the Ben set him up deliberately. And then he hears the giggles of Unicorns. BEN MUST DIE FOR EMBARRASSING STEVEN IN FRONT OF A BUNCH OF GIRLS HE COULDN’T CARE LESS ABOUT. INCLUDING ONE HE HAS ACTIVELY ROMANTICALLY REJECTED (Janet).
I hope this all ends with Ben murdering Steven in self-defence.
Over with the Unicorns, Janet is deeply in love with Doug and Jessica has fallen for a boy with dark blond hair and blue eyes (their children would be so white). Mandy says that Jessica’s new boytoy keeps smiling at her. This causes Janet to pout because nobody has noticed that Doug has smiled at her too. Lila says no, he hasn’t, and Janet gets in a right huff.
Jessica is just dreamily staring at her new crush.
I never realized how interesting basketball is, she thought. I’ll have to start coming to more games and find out who that boy is!
Just how many times is Jessica going to discover the appeal of basketball? I mean, it’s well established that she plays. And she went to the Lakers game with Aaron – specifically because he liked that she knew about basketball. But sure, let’s just pretend that she’s never had an interest in it before. And remember to pretend that again when we get to #95 Battle of the Cheerleaders.
After the game, Janet approaches Doug with instructions to give the Unicorns a thumbs up if he asks her out. Against all the odds, she gives the sign moments later. Since it happened off screen, I can only speculate that he said something like, “I’m ravenous, I’m hitting the Dairi Burger,” and Janet batted her lashes and invited herself. [Raven: I’m beginning to feel sorry for Janet. Does she not have any eighth-grade friends? Or have all the eighth-graders just ditched her as she’s the “creepy kid”, so she formed a group of purple sycophants with the kids a few grades below her?]
Jessica’s crush approaches and asks if the girls enjoyed the game. They all gush over him, and he asks if Jessica is Steven’s sister. She says yes, then claims to be a freshman at Sweet Valley High. Dude. No. Remember how badly that backfired last time? Lila clearly remembers, because she immediately says that actually they’re in middle school, then clarifies further that they’re in sixth grade.
Cute boy says that they all look old enough to be in high school, and Jessica gleefully says that she’s always been told that she looks old for her age. I bet she gets no older than 26 before she starts cutting bitches who say that.
Oh, and when he introduces himself, guess who cute boy is! [Raven: A naked Mr Nydick?] IT’S BEN! OMG! SO CONFLICT. MANY PLOT. [Wing: Is there maybe some connection between Ben and Glory?]
Oh, hey, me ranting about Jessica having knowledge about basketball actually comes back again, because when she gets home, Steven and Jessica are watching basketball on TV, and Elizabeth walks in and says that she’s never watched a basketball game before in her life.
Jessica points out that she bloody cheerleads at the game, and Elizabeth says she just assumed the Boosters gossiped and giggled through the games. Jessica admits that’s largely the case, but now she’s getting into it.
NO. JUST NO. She already likes it. I know she goes through phases, but this would be like Jessica trying ballet and everyone saying, “Oh, but you never liked ballet, you said it was all snobs prancing around,” despite all the books to the contrary. [Raven: “I don’t believe in ghosts,” said Elizabeth, “even though I’ve interacted with many ghosts in the past.”]
Elizabeth correctly deduces that Jessica’s new hobby is bound to be tied up to a cute boy. Jessica says yes, and Elizabeth asks what about Aaron – oh, we care about continuity again, do we? – and Jessica shrugs it off, saying that Aaron’s only in sixth grade, and she’s looking for a man.
Then the phone rings. Is it him? YOU BET YOUR BIPPY IT’S HIM!
(What on earth is a bippy?) [Raven: According to Google, it’s a person’s buttocks.] [Wing: So this is a weird way of saying you bet your ass it’s him?]
While Ben talks, rather extensively, about his class treasurer acceptance speech (if he needs it), Jessica does not listen. She instead can’t wait to tell all her friends about how a high school boy called her and they talked. In fact, she can’t wait for him to shut up and get off the phone so she can tell everyone she knows all they talked about. I’ll admit, aside from the basketball thing, this ghostie knows Jessica.
He then asks her out – she actually misses the first ask, because she’s too busy figuring out who to call first – and she agrees. He says they can go for a sundae at Casey’s, and he’ll collect her from her house. He asked someone on the team where she lives and gives a giggle that Jessica considers goofy. I find the fact he investigated where a twelve year old girl lives a bit creepy.
We cut to Steven’s dream which, for once, is not an inappropriate one about his favourite sister. He dreams of winning the position of class treasurer, not just by a landslide, but by a complete lockout. Girls throw roses at his feet and wave posters of him, Cathy is super affectionate, and Ben Oliver starts crying. The coach throws him off the team, and sends him back to seventh grade.
Basically, it’s a standard day for Elizabeth Wakefield – getting what she wants and being loved for it.
Speaking of, we cut over to Elizabeth, who overhears Ken and Todd saying Ms Arnette will have a conniption fit when… and they see her they break off abruptly. Elizabeth thinks she needs to know this information as a reporter and someone who looks out for the inept teachers at this terrible school. Good god, is she back to being a model student? She spots Veronica Brooks and hates her for a moment, noting that she doesn’t usually hate people, but even saints like Elizabeth Wakefield have their limits. Veronica moves on and the boys eventually concede that there will be a four-legged surprise in Arnette’s classroom next week.
How many fucking plot threads to we have to deal with in this book? [Wing: Too many. Already too many.]
Back to Steven. Yay. In class, Steven waits anxiously to be crowned class treasurer and indulge in all that bling and bouncing boobs that accompanies such an impressive credential. He thinks it’s a slam dunk, but Cathy isn’t so sure. Steven decides she’s just anxious on his behalf.
Actually, she was right. Apparently it was an even split, so they’re going to have another vote this afternoon and the results will be announced at 3pm by Mr Cooper (their headmaster). Honestly, does the entire school need to be disturbed for this nonsense? Why can’t it just be printed on a newsletter that nobody will read like a normal school? Put it on the noticeboard. Does it really matter?
Steven again tantrums out. He says he’s going to speak to Mr Cooper right now because he’s certain he won by a landslide.
Stevie, you know what works really well with adults? Telling them they can’t count because your gigantic ego cannot comprehend that not everyone loves you as much as you do.
Cathy sides with me, but not as brutally. She also tells him that he doesn’t win, it’s fine. He’ll have far more free time, after all, it’s a big responsibility. Steven is aghast. Cathy points out if it was 50-50 on the first vote, it could easily go either way. Steven tells her she’s talking scribble and stomps off in a huff.
And over to Elizabeth, who tells Amy that she has a terrific idea for a story. There’s rumours of a prank in Arnette’s classroom and they should break the story before it happens.
Elizabeth clearly doesn’t understand pranks.
That’s not a story. That’s publicly tattling on someone before they’ve even done something wrong. [Raven: Agreed. Sorry Liz, but that’s just bullshit. Todd should leave you for Jessica, at least she knows how to have a fucking laugh.]
Elizabeth blathers on about how she thinks Bruce Patman is involved, and every time she pauses for breath, Amy repeats her last few words by rote. It takes Elizabeth half a page to realise that this is an excessive level of obedience, even for Amy. She asks if something else has happened with Amy’s parents, and Amy says that last night she heard her mom crying in the bedroom with the door shut. Her dad wasn’t there, he was “working late at the office”. Over dinner, when Amy tried to make conversation, her mom was distant and didn’t even get excited over the A Amy got on her social studies paper. That’s fair, I get the feeling Amy gets a lot of As. [Wing: Every A is exciting, damn it.] [Dove: I really wouldn’t know.]
Elizabeth says that they need to get to the bottom of this, so she’ll sleep over on Friday night and see what her “detective instincts” say, because it might not be their marriage that’s in trouble. Amy’s parents are going out that night, so it’s a great time to snoop.
Back to Steven, the results are announced and Ben won. Steven is epically disappointed. Ben attempts to shake his hand but Steven throws an arm around Cathy and stomps off, grumbling to himself that Ben is ruining his life and if Cathy wasn’t here, he’d punch Ben’s lights out.
- Why was the announcement broken up like that? Word count padding? Because it added nothing to the story at all.
- Behold a grand example of privilege. Steven wasn’t good enough to retain his position (he’s still on the team – just not the position he wants) and very nearly won the treasurer position, but was beaten by a better campaign (since there’s no mention of which boy is more popular). And his reaction is to throw an internal tantrum and want to beat up the boy who won. He cannot comprehend that he’s second best, and violence is his first port of call.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
And if this story later proves that Ben is actually a nefarious bastard who is out to destroy Steven’s life, I will fucking flip tables.
We cut back to the Unicorns – hey, remember them? They’re also in this story – and Jessica is excitedly bragging that she needs to leave Booster practice soon so she can wash and blow dry her hair and decide what to wear for her date. Lila points out that she’s going for ice cream, not to a ball, and Jessica revels in Lila’s jealousy.
Tamara tells Jessica that Aaron is bummed out that Jessica’s going out with someone else. Jessica has a tiny pang of conscience, but brushes it off, because dating a high schooler is far cooler than a sixth grader. Especially when Janet suggests that, if she and Doug become a thing, they double-date. [Raven: To be honest, I’m getting a bit fucking sick of all this adolescent “bed”-hopping. Literally every book has chat about “Elizabeth’s sort-of boyfriend” or “Jessica’s on-off relationship”. There was nothing like this in my primary school (middle-school ages, I guess), and my secondary school (high school) was single sex, so maybe I just missed out? Everyone seems more than happy to switch partners every five minutes, and there’s pretty much no consequences for doing so.] [ Wing: Based on my school experience, very realistic.]
Back with Steven, he’s nearly dying of humiliation from losing to Ben. Because I’m sure everyone’s takeaway from the announcement was “OMG, SOMEONE LOST! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WE SHOULD KILL HIM!” and not, “Thanks. I don’t care.”
The humiliation is feeding into Steven’s need to punch Ben. He’s now wishing that he’d punched him in the stomach after the result.
Again. Be afraid. When someone magnifies emotion over something that doesn’t matter and then uses that magnified emotion to justify hurting someone else, we’re in dangerous territory.
I magnify emotion over pretty much anything that doesn’t matter, but I just hate myself and wish I could live the moments over to get it right (as if that’s possible) because I have anxiety. Steven hates other people, because he’s an entitled little shit.
He gets home to see Ben waiting on his doorstep to take Jessica out.
Guess how he reacts.
Yeah. He storms over and forbids Jessica from leaving the house with Ben. He rants and rages, but because Jessica has killed many times before and knows that he sniffs her dirty clothes, she doesn’t listen to him and skips off on her date.
Good for you, Jessica.
On their date, Ben says that he knows why Steven’s mad at him, but he wishes things were different. He wants to be friends because Steven seems like a really great guy.
In what fucking universe? Point out one book (aside from Raven’s beloved The Older Boy) where Steven isn’t a complete waste of humanity. [Raven: He does a good job of rallying his friends for Jumping to Conclusions, and definitely pulls his weight in The Big Party Weekend.]
Jessica spots the Unicorns and makes sure it looks like she’s staring deeply into Ben’s eyes to show their connection, but she is bored rigid by his talk of homework. Aaron’s really funny. He doesn’t bore her. How many people does she have to date and compare to Aaron before she realises that she really likes Aaron? I’m fine if she wants to date more than one person before committing to marriage (unlike Elizabeth, who will be with Todd 4Eva), but every few books she gets a new crush, and then decides the crush isn’t anything compared to Aaron.
And yes, I’m still bitter that nothing was done with the Rick Hunter romance, especially since in that case she never had her “Aaron’s better than him” moment. The ghosties just stopped mentioning it.
The next morning, Steven is preoccupied and Jessica goes into super troll mode. She tells Elizabeth for the third time that Ben is taking her bowling tomorrow night, and he’s soooo cute, and so obviously athletic (as the centre) and totes popular (since he won class treasurer)…
This causes Steven to stand up and forbid Jessica from seeing him ever again and nobody will ever utter his name ever again. Elizabeth asks what’s his beef with the guy, and, after a pointless standoff, Steven explains his issue. Jessica gleefully tells him her love life is none of his business and he says if she goes through with it she’ll be sorry.
Elizabeth, delightfully, says she needs to go change her socks, because she does not want to get involved. Goddamn, stop giving her nice lines. I enjoy hating her.
In class, Jessica is daydreaming of her upcoming date when Ms Arnette calls on her to explain the emancipation proclamation. Jessica hasn’t done the reading because she spent all of last night bragging about her date, and is forced to admit that. Veronica Brooks gives an accurate answer (which is not shown) and Jessica seethes.
This going to end with Jessica getting bored of Ben, using Veronica to take him off her hands by implying that she couldn’t (just like she did with Bruce Patman in The Great Boyfriend Swap) and then Jessica lives happily ever after with Steven, where their incestuous love is firmly based on hating everyone smarter and more athletic than them and feeling all victimised and oppressed when their bare-minimum effort sometimes doesn’t let them win. Or not the incest bit, and she goes back to Aaron. But the Jessica/Steven thing is a very real contender.
Cut to Steven, still fuming over the breakfast scene, even though it’s the end of the day. He spots Cathy and Joe – his GF and BFF, OMG! – sitting with Ben. He yells for Cathy to come over to him, because fuck if he is going over to them, and she obediently does. He grabs her arm and demands an explanation. How can she hang out with his enemy? Can’t she even see his flaws? What flaws? THAT’S NOT THE POINT, BITCH. YOU LISTEN TO ME OR I WILL FUCK YOUR SHIT UP.
Only in Sweet Valley language. So basically he petulantly tells Cathy that she and Jessica should start an “I love Ben” club. Then he says that if she can’t figure out why he hates Ben, he’s not going to explain it. And demands they go back to her house because he can’t stand looking at Ben another moment.
I had an ex like that. He tried to bash my skull in with a tyre iron. He absolutely loathed my friends. One day a friend came over for a cup of tea. She came in, greeted me, smiled at him and asked him how he was. He ignored her. He spent the next five minutes dead-eying her until she “remembered” that she’d parked on double-yellows and had to go right now. When I asked him about it, he explained his behaviour with, “She treated me like a c**t.” When I asked for further details, because she smiled and asked how he was, he said, “If you can’t see what a bitch she was, I’m not going to explain it! If you loved me, you’d get it.”
Cut to Team Boring who are snooping around the Patman estate to find out what the prank will be. Elizabeth thinks this will take Amy’s mind off things. They find a pig and Elizabeth is ecstatic that she’s broken the case. Amy points out that might not be the surprise, and if she writes about it, she’ll destroy the surprise and the prank will never happen. Fuck me, we are now at the point where Amy fucking Sutton is my favourite thing in this book. [Raven: Yup. Go Team Amy!]
Elizabeth smugly says that’s exactly her plan. NO FUN WILL BE HAD ON HER WATCH.
(And she likes messing up Bruce Patman’s plans.)
At lunch, Jessica and Janet plan to go on a double date with their high school boyfriends. They see Veronica and body-shaming insults are exchanged from both sides. Jessica gloats that they’re dating high schoolers, and Veronica seems a bit miffed about it. Then Aaron and Denny approach to ask if they want to have lunch with them. The girls refuse because they have to go to the Unicorner. As they walk away, Jessica says it wouldn’t have hurt to have lunch with them, but Janet says they’re dating high schoolers now, they can’t hang around mere boys.
Back home, Elizabeth helps Jessica choose an outfit, and tells her to chill out, she’s too young to date, she’s just going bowling with a friend. Jessica says she can call it a date if she wants. Elizabeth then tells her it might be an idea to call it all off since it’s upsetting Steven. In fact, Elizabeth thinks the main reason Jessica is into Ben is because it annoys Steven. Elizabeth is a fucking idiot. It’s clearly that he’s older. Bugging Steven is just an added bonus. Jessica says she doesn’t care what Steven thinks, she likes Ben, he’s smart and funny and good looking.
Elizabeth thinks to herself that Steven is bound to retaliate soon, so she wishes her sister well.
Steven is on his way out to a date with Cathy when he sees Ben talking to his parents. Again, he’s livid. Jessica pointedly asks Ben how being class treasurer is going. Ben say it’s a lot of work, and Steven snipes that he should just give up the position to someone who’s up to it then. Alice chides him for his bad manners, and Steven counters that are they just going to let Jessica go out with a high schooler? Jessica says it’s none of his business, and Ned agrees – but since he asked, Ben’s father is going to drive them there, and Ned will pick them up. Steven says they still don’t know Ben and they shouldn’t let Jessica go. This gets him grounded for the night for his rudeness. Steven vows revenge.
Wow. It only took 94 books to get the Wakefields to parent. Perhaps if they had parented before, their son wouldn’t be having this meltdown because he wouldn’t be the entitled bratty shit that he is.
Over on the date, Ben and Doug are getting competitive. Doug has two strikes, Ben has three, and for some reason, Jessica is now about to bowl for the first time. Is that possible? I don’t really do bowling, so I don’t know these things. [Raven: I guess it depends on the team makeup? If it were singles, then Ben could have only bowled two balls before Jessica’s turn.] [Wing: If it’s like teen bowling dates here, they should each have gone once, so no, not possible.]
Ben tries to give Jessica some pointers, and his attention makes her nervous. [Raven: Bensplaining!] He tells her how to hold the ball and it ends up being a gutter ball. She tries to keep things light saying maybe next time she’ll have more luck. Ben chides her for using the word luck, and the stress gives her another gutter ball. She tries to joke that next time she’ll just luz it with her eyes closed and Ben does not get that she’s joking.
If this is a hint that Steven was right all along, I’m not going to be happy. I hope it’s just a hint that he’s not the right dude for Jessica.
While Janet takes her turn, Jessica expects Ben to talk to her, but instead he and Doug get into a bragging competition. Janet returns saying that she only knocked down three pins, and the boys will think they’re both “totally spastic”. Um, no book. I know the US was behind on this particular word, but that word wasn’t acceptable in the UK in the 80s, never mind the 90s. No. A black mark for you. [Raven: Yeah, that’s not cool.]
Jessica says she doesn’t care what they think, they’re acting like children about the score anyway. Janet shushes her and says they’ll hear. Jessica says no they won’t, they’re not even listening. Janet says that’s fair, and even considers dumping them, but Jessica can’t give up the bragging rights of a high school boy, especially one that pisses off her brother. So she does that vapid flirty thing of pretending he’s really clever.
Over at Amy’s house, Team Boring is snooping around the Sutton parents’ bedroom. Amy finds a letter addressed to someone called Jane. It’s in a sealed envelope so they don’t know what it says. Elizabeth suggests that it could be very innocent – a work colleague or something, then adds that maybe they should get a snack. Amy agrees, and says she’ll put on some cookies to bake.
Elizabeth stays behind to clear up and accidentally drops a folder. In it is a picture of Mr Sutton with a lady who isn’t Mrs Sutton. On the back it says, “For Rob, Love Jane”. Elizabeth ignores the fact that it’s clearly an old picture, and immediately panics. She has to keep this from Amy, so she feigns a stomach ache and goes home.
Also, as someone who lives in constant fear of food poisoning (my mother has poisoned me three times with bad food hygiene) I find it to be a particular dick move for Elizabeth to blame the pizza they ate. If Amy has any kind of anxiety, she’s going to spend the rest of the night wondering if she’s going to get food poisoning too.
Although, since nobody has any bodily functions in Sweet Valley, I bet food poisoning isn’t too bad.
… or it’s really awful, since you can’t get the poisoned food out of you.
Over breakfast the Wakefields are as dysfunctional as ever. Jessica throws in her brother’s face how much she enjoyed her date with Ben. Steven freaks out and demands that she be banned from saying his name. The Wakefield parents, ever helpless, turn to Elizabeth for an explanation of the situation.
Elizabeth summarises that she’s not on any side, but Steven doesn’t like Ben, but Jessica is seeing him. And both siblings snipe at each other throughout.
The Wakefield parents say that Jessica can befriend whoever she likes, but they can also see that she’s getting a kick out of rubbing her brother’s face in it, so both need to calm down.
And because Ned and Alice have barely parented before, the kids take no notice of them and continue to holler their demands that Ben be murdered/Steven move out or whatever escalation of this nonsense sounds plausible.
Steven sulks in his room, pissed off that he can hear the Unicorns gabbing away next door. He creeps up and listens at the door. He overhears them saying how jealous Veronica has been about Janet and Jessica’s high school boyfriends, and how she will be green with envy when they show up to the game as the dates of two of the players.
Steven remembers who Veronica is – that chick who framed his sister for stealing, yes, he literally remembers this – and gets a brilliant idea.
So Jessica accidentally dates the guy who outshines Steven in a non-malicious way (and yes, is delighting in rubbing his nose in it now she knows), and Steven’s response is to date the girl who actively tried to destroy both of his sisters’ lives – she framed Jessica and also stole Elizabeth’s locket in an attempt to gaslight both Todd and Elizabeth. Sure, that’s reasonable.
While the twins are watching a movie, Elizabeth says she wishes Jessica and Steven would get along. One of her friends going through an emotional time has yet again taught her to appreciate her family. Jessica makes vaguely interested noises and Elizabeth spills the situation.
“If I tell you, you have to promise not to say anything to anyone,” Elizabeth said quietly. “Do you promise?”
“I promise,” Jessica said. “No offense, but I can’t imagine anything happening in Amy’s life that would be worth gossiping about to my friends.”
Never change, Jessica.
Elizabeth can’t wait to discuss what she found with someone. Jessica says she knows it means an affair, she’s watched enough soap operas to know where this plotline leads.
The next day at school, there’s a huge commotion as Steven has shown up at the middle school to ask Veronica to be his date to the game on Wednesday. Uh… shouldn’t he be in school too? Also, I thought he and Cathy were a steady couple – I’m sure boyfriend/girlfriend has been used to describe them. Then again, he’s been such an asshat recently, I wouldn’t be surprised if she dumps him before she even finds out that he’s dating twelve year olds. [Raven: She really should.]
Lila gleefully breaks the news to Jessica, who assumes that Steven just showed up to give her a hard time about Ben. Jessica rants for a few seconds about how dare he date her worst enemy and then she figures it out.
Then Veronica comes around the corner, smug as fuck, and suggests she and Steven double-date with Jessica and Ben. And she’ll see Jessica a lot more now she’s dating Steven.
Again, I think Cathy’s going to have something to say about this.
Anyway, Jessica vows revenge.
Over with Team Boring, Elizabeth is forcing Amy to repeatedly re-read her story breaking the Arnette prank. This is because Elizabeth desperately doesn’t want to discuss Amy’s parents. Amy does though, and Elizabeth keeps sidestepping the question until she realises what a terrible friend she’s being.
Bafflingly, Amy wants to discuss her parents to announce that she’s going to hope for the best and not ask them what’s going on. Excellent. Totes worth forcing a conversation to say, “I’m going to keep doing that thing I’ve been doing for weeks.”
This causes Elizabeth to fess up about what she’s found. Amy does not take it well. She accuses Elizabeth of being jealous that Amy’s family is just as perfect as hers, and she doesn’t like other people being perfect too. Which is bullshit, because nobody is as perfect as a Wakefield.
“Amy, how can you say that?” Elizabeth asked desperately. She never felt the least bit competitive with Amy. She only wanted her friend to be happy. She felt as though Amy had just punched her in the stomach.
(Emphasis mine.) Yeah, Elizabeth, we know. As if that stringy-haired tomboy could compete with a Wakefield.
Amy sticks to her guns and runs out, leaving Elizabeth a bit doleful because she’d only meant to help. And in this occasion, I don’t actually think she was meddling (unlike the Henkels, for example). I’d have probably made the same call when I was twelve.
That night, Steven calls Joe to loudly brag how hot his new tween girlfriend is, and how all the guys on the team thing she’s totally bangable, all in earshot of Jessica. And we do get a wonderful insight into the mind of Jessica:
Jessica was seething. Veronica Brooks is definitely not the best-looking girl in the school! she thought angrily. She secretly considered herself to be the prettiest girl in school, and she had hoped everyone else thought the same thing. Of course, she and Elizabeth were identical, but Jessica took more care with her appearance, so Elizabeth was only the second-prettiest girl. But Veronica Brooks? How could any high school guy even think Veronica Brooks could compete?
The call ends with Steven suggesting he and Veronica double-date with Janet and Doug. I suspect Joe wasn’t actually on the other line. I’m just shocked that he wasn’t found out, because it feels like we are frequently told that Jessica and Steven fight over phone time.
Elizabeth goes to Jessica for advice about Amy before bed. Jessica says that a true friend wouldn’t have raged at Elizabeth when she told her the truth. A real friend doesn’t doubt you. Elizabeth points out that the Unicorns sure doubted Jessica when they thought she was stealing from them. Jessica says that’s different. Elizabeth knows it’s not, but also knows she won’t win that argument.
Cut to Steven overhearing in class that he lost by one vote, and the vote was cast by Cathy. I assumed this scene was a dream, because literally anyone who voted for Ben was the deciding vote. They all went in at the same time and were counted. It wasn’t like Cathy abstained and Mr Cooper appealed to her to please make use of her vote, break the deadlock, and she heartlessly chose Ben. [Raven: Also, the vote was tied last time, right? So who was the holdout that time (or this time?) Even number of votes cast last time, odd number this time.]
Steven doesn’t reason it through and instead flies into another rage as he now believes that Cathy voted for Ben because he’s soooo cute. Welp. Now he’s really going to show her by… uh, definitely showing up with the girl he already arranged to date behind her back before he even knew about this new development. Except Steven still hasn’t acknowledged that was a shitty thing to do.
In the Middle School, Bruce approaches Elizabeth to talk about her exposé of his prank, but she dodges him. She’s having a wonderful time, shutting fun down, and really wants to talk to Amy about it, but she can’t. And that’s saaaaaaaaaad.
At lunch, Veronica sits at the Unicorner and gushes about dating Steven. [Raven: “I’m not kidding, Tamara. Like a Cumberland sausage.”] She comments that with her double-dating with Janet and dating a Unicorn’s brother, she’s practically a Unicorn by association. Jessica says no, this is a Unicorn only table, so jog on. Veronica does so with another smug smile.
Jessica snaps at her friends that she can’t believe they allowed that to happen. And, of course, most of them are just fine with Veronica now because she’s dating a high school boy, and actually the fact that she framed Jessica for stealing is actually a compliment, it speaks to her dedication to becoming a Unicorn. Jessica walks off in disgust.
I’m assuming that Mandy and Mary weren’t there, because they wouldn’t stand for that.
Back to the high school, Steven won’t let Cathy sit with him. He calls her a traitor and accuses her of voting for Ben. Cathy admits that she does, but she needs to explain. Of course he won’t let her and just yells at her until he – yet again – storms off in a huff.
Cut to Team Boring, where Amy approaches Elizabeth and says she’s sorry. She just desperately wanted to believe her family was ok, and it was easier to lash out at Elizabeth than believe her. It’s actually a nice little reconciliation here. It feels like a lot of rows never get addressed or apologies are given for the wrong reasons. Elizabeth tries to be optimistic and says maybe the picture is just a cousin or something. Amy says no, she looked at it, and she thinks the worst, and she’s really going to need her best friend.
Boring scene of the Unicorns getting ready before the game. Nothing happens except Jessica and Janet hope the boys will let them wear their jerseys. Lila says it’s unlikely, they’re not boyfriend/girlfriend yet.
At the game, only one pre-teen is wearing a jersey. And obviously it’s Veronica, wearing Steven’s. Jessica hits the roof, obviously. If this was fanfic, I would be certain this is going to end with Jessica and Steven snogging madly, not caring how forbidden their love is.
When Ben scores, Jessica cheers. Steven gets enraged and he also scores. Veronica cheers. Jessica complains that Veronica is showing off.
“It’s not as if you’re Ben’s girlfriend any more than Veronica is Steven’s, and you just did the same thing she did,” Lila said.
Stay blunt, you sassy thing, Lila.
Janet says that they should ask Veronica to sit with them. Jessica says if they do that, she’ll leave. Lila says that just because one Unicorn doesn’t like someone, doesn’t make it true for the whole group. Mary, who is definitely there – no word on Mandy, says nothing.
The one-upsmanship continues after the game. Jessica says that Ben’s the best player in the country, and Veronica yells that Steven’s the best player in the world, etc. Steven invites Veronica to a high school celebration, and Ben does not invite Jessica, as he’s got too much homework. She sees Veronica swarmed with people, including her friends, and thinks, “That girl is lucky I’m not a violent person. If I were, I’d stuff her in that basketball hoop!”
Wow. Jessica isn’t the violent one? And she actually has been a victim of a malicious act, whereas Steven was merely not as good as someone else and didn’t get special privileges for being second best. And Steven’s the one threatening violence all the time?
If you ever find yourself acting badly by the standards of Jessica Wakefield, stop everything you’re doing and find a responsible adult to play the part of your conscience.
At school the next day, everyone is hanging on Veronica’s every word about what the high school party was like. Apparently there was very little dancing and everyone sat around having “mature conversations”. [Raven: “Keys in the bowl, ladies.”] Which sounds nothing like the parties I went to from the age of 14 and up, nor does it sound anything like the parties in the Sweet Valley High book series. Veronica makes a pointed comment about how nice it is to have a social life like she had before she moved to Sweet Valley. It’s a nice bit of continuity there.
Veronica sees Jessica and says she would have loved the party. Jessica laughs in her face and says she’d rather stay home than listen to the boys’ play-by-play of a game she just watched. It’s a lie, but given that she already hates bowling with Ben, it’s kind of true, whether she admits it or not.
That weekend, the twins go shopping and Elizabeth tries to talk Jessica out of buying a very prissy blouse in an attempt to be sophisticated. While Jessica rambles about having a more mature boyfriend, she changes the subject by pointing out that Lila’s in the mall too… with Janet… and another person…
Jessica says that’s weird, Lila said she was feeling ill. And she should have called Jessica, because shopping on a Saturday morning is a Unicorn tradition. Then they realise the other person is Veronica fucking Brooks.
And they’re heading this way.
Jessica drags Elizabeth under a clothing rack and they hide and listen to the Unicorns gab over high school boys. Veronica claims to have apologised to Jessica repeatedly, but never gets forgiven. She then buys the shirt Jessica was looking at and they all leave.
In biology on Monday morning, Steven and Cathy have another fight, where she wants to explain and he slut-shames her for speaking to another dude. When Howie, a mutual friend, says thanks to her, he decides she’s slutting up with him and asks her if she alternates the boys each day. [Raven: Way to go, Cathy. Get some!]
Which I think is magnificently fucking rich from someone who actually went on a date with someone else behind his girlfriend’s back. Fuck you, Steven.
Cathy tells him she’s been tutoring Howie in math but Steven doesn’t believe her.
Cathy, get out now. Do not become a Lifetime movie. You are too good for this shit.
But no, she wants to go to Casey’s after school to discuss it properly. He says no, he has a date with someone far hotter than her and doesn’t mention that she’s a child.
After basketball practice he overhears Ben talking to Doug, saying that he doesn’t like being class treasurer because it’s a lot of work and it’s eating into his basketball time. The thing that’s the problem is that Howie, the last treasurer, lost $280 by being bad at math, and now Ben has to raise the missing money for the Disneyland trip next month.
Uh, no. If Howie’s maths is bad, then the money should be there, with no explanation. If the money is gone, then it’s not his maths, it’s his responsibility and reporting that’s the problem. And it’s his responsibility to either work out where the money went by retracing his steps, or just pay up.
Doug asks if people knew about this and that’s why they voted him in, as a joke. He says no, the only person aside from Howie who knew was Cathy, and she was trying to protect her boyfriend from the debt.
GUYS! GO TO THE TEACHERS! For fuck’s sake. This is Howie’s problem and nobody else’s.
“Are you going to tell Steven?” Doug asked.
“I’m almost afraid to,” Ben said. “Ever since I got his position on the team and especially after this dumb election, I think he really hates me. That’s too bad, too, since he seems like a pretty cool guy.”
NO, HE’S NOT. HE’S AN ABSOLUTE SHIT OF A HUMAN BEING. He has grabbed his girlfriend. Shouted and thrown tantrums. He’s been petty and spiteful. He’s into his younger sister. He’s dating a twelve year old to make his sister jealous – caring nothing of his actual girlfriend. He’s an absolute twat.
Steven feels bad that Ben thinks he’s cool, and bad that Cathy was protecting him, but feels he still has to date Veronica to give his sister what-for. He makes sure that Doug and Ben don’t see him as they leave, and sets out on his vengeance date, because Jessica must pay for dating the guy he no longer hates…?
He’s an absolute cunt.
There. I said it. And before any non-Brits get upset about my misogyny, we Brits swear in a non-gendered way, enjoying the viciousness of the word, rather than the meaning of it. We like swearing far too much to limit our words by gender.
Steven buys some daisies for Cathy before his date with Veronica. He goes to her house and finally she’s assertive, saying that if he’s here to yell, he can get fucked. He gives her the flowers and she hands them back and tries to close the door. He says that he knows why she voted for Ben and he’s sorry, but she’s over it. She says she has an elsewhere to be, and shuts the door in his face.
Good girl! A+. But I can guarantee it won’t last.
He leaves the flowers on the porch and wanders off.
At home, Jessica is complaining to Elizabeth. Veronica was at the Unicorner again, so Jessica sat elsewhere, and not a single Unicorn came to sit with her. I call bullshit on that. What about Mandy, Mary or even Belinda? They’ve all had emotional moments with Jessica that would mean more than Unicorn loyalty. I’ll have to assume they’re off sick. Or maybe they’re on a different lunch? Over Christmas, one of my nephews explained that his school has different lunch shifts, and sometimes he eats lunch at 11:30, which is a fucking stupid time to have lunch. [Raven: That’s also when our work canteen opens for lunch. But we have people who start work at 4am, so fair play I guess.] [Wing: At Raven’s school, first lunch shift is around 1045.]
Elizabeth agrees it’s daft that they’ve forgiven and forgotten all of Veronica’s history. Jessica says it’s even more wacky that it’s all because of their brother. I can’t list a single good point of Steven’s so he must be hot as fuck. Maybe he’s like Christian Grey? I just see a monstrous abuser wrapped up in an admittedly athletic body, but a worrying amount of people see him as the perfect man.
We cut to Casey’s, where Steven is enduring a date with Veronica for as long as it takes for Ben and Jessica to arrive. Veronica coos over him, and when she’s not flattering him, she’s bragging. She’s going to Europe this summer, but she’s a bit bored of it, because she’s been to every church in Europe. It’s funny. There’s a church at the bottom of my road, I’ve never seen any gobshite Valley girl in it.
Also, EUROPE IS NOT A FUCKING COUNTRY.
Where exactly are you going? Russia (the bit that’s not in Asia)? Poland? Serbia? Latvia? Or do you actually mean Paris? You do, don’t you? Paris is what you mean. Paris and maybe Rome.
Steven comments that she should give her ticket to someone who would appreciate it. Veronica giggles, but then says she doesn’t get it.
He then spots Cathy walk in with Howie, and thinks that they’re together now.
I CAN’T EVEN RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE ON A DATE WITH SOMEONE WHO ISN’T YOUR GIRLFRIEND, YOU ABSOLUTE SHIT. YOU DATED HER BEHIND CATHY’S BACK. YOU DON’T GET TO ASSUME ANYTHING ABOUT CATHY RIGHT NOW.
Veronica changes tack and says she adores Jessica, but Jessica doesn’t like her, which is probably the only thing stopping her from being a Unicorn.
Steven internally thinks that he can see why. I really do feel there is a strong possibility of this ending with Jessica stomping in, pouring a milkshake over Veronica’s head and yelling, “Step away from my man, you bitch!” and she and Steven live happily ever after in their toxic, abusive, bubble of incest.
Veronica asks Steven to talk to Jessica about her becoming a Unicorn. I don’t actually think that’s necessary. The Unicorns are a pack of vapid harpies, who have apparently already turned against Jessica because Veronica’s boyfriend is hotter than Jessica’s.
Ben and Jessica walk in. Veronica asks Steven if he knows Ben, who she thinks is cool and very cute.
What is it with this guy? Steven thought in annoyance. Why does everyone think he’s so cute? The more Veronica stared at Ben, the angrier Steven felt.
I HATE THIS MOTHERFUCKING BOOK. I DO. IT’S WORSE THAN ITHIG. [Raven: NO IT FUCKING ISN’T.]
It’s not quite as bad as the voodoo one because that was actually offensive to real people, but THIS BOOK FUCKING SUCKS.
Here’s how the plot should work: Steven loses his place to a new guy. Steven irrationally hates him. Events conspire to make him think everyone loves the new guy more than him. Steven finally works out that he is the problem and the new guy is actually nice. They talk. FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC.
The problem with this book is that Steven has had his moment of realisation, his face-turn, if you like, and he’s still being a whiny tit about everything. He’s still fucking toxic.
And we move over to Team Boring, which is the usual two plus Maria Slater, also at Casey’s. Maria went to a fancy restaurant last night because it was her parents’ seventeenth anniversary. Oblivious to Amy’s situation, Maria heartily complains about how lovey-dovey they were, and how dull and embarrassing it was when they recalled their first five dates in detail. She adds she wishes they would chill out. Sometimes she just wants to talk to them and they’re making goo-goo eyes at each other and don’t notice her.
Amy says that sucks, and she should be grateful, what if her parents got divorced, etc. Maria and Amy glare daggers at each other and Elizabeth gratefully points to a disturbance.
What’s going on? Steven and Jessica are standing with their dates, yelling compliments at them, trying to outdo each other. Veronica’s the prettiest girl in school, Ben’s the best centre Sweet Valley High has ever had, Veronica should be a Booster as well as a Unicorn. It goes on until Jessica throws a cherry at Steven. He retaliates.
It escalates and everyone gets their food and drink thrown over them. Unicorns, high school boyfriends, Cathy and Howie, etc., right until Mr Casey yells at them.
Outside, the Wakefields, Amy and Cathy all have a good old laugh about things. They get laughing even harder when they see Ben and Veronica walking hand-in-hand into the sunset. (Fucking called it.)
The next day, there’s no Veronica at the Unicorner. She’s over being a Unicorn after the food fight. Apparently even Janet found it funny – I guess it didn’t reflect badly on the Unicorns? Apparently Doug and Ben were very sulky about the whole thing, and Jessica and Janet are delighted to be free of them. They both sigh and look over at Denny and Aaron.
After school, Cathy, Steven and the twins go to Casey’s – apparently Mr Casey is more forgiving than I would be – and wrap up the book for us.
Steven is relieved that Ben is stuck raising $280, not him – still, HOW? WHY? WHAT? I CAN’T…
Then Ben walks into Casey’s with Veronica. Steven says they can sit with them, but Ben says no. Also, he’s going to have to drop basketball, because raising $280 is now his life. So, Steven gets his spot back on the team.
Then Mr Casey comes over and throws them out after yesterday’s shenanigans. Huh. So he served them and then waited to chuck them out? Good for him. Get their money first.
Then a scene change to build up the next book. Elizabeth is having dinner at Amy’s and it is a dead atmosphere. Mr and Mrs Sutton answer any questions with a single word and have no interest in any conversation Elizabeth tries to stir up. She understands why Amy is losing weight. She’d avoid dinner too.
The phone rings and Amy gets it. It’s for Mr Sutton. It’s a lady named Jane. Moments later, Mr Sutton comes back to say that Elizabeth needs to go home. The Suttons need to talk.
Well fuck. Probably one of the better lead-ins to a new book.
I hated this book. It was stupid. It was pointless. It was toxic.
The only part I enjoyed was Amy’s storyline. Yeah. Amy. When Amy is the best part of a book, you’re on to a fucking loser.
Also, what about the great prank? Why was that so built up only to go nowhere?
Dude, I’ve done 9k words on this. I can’t do any more. I’m out. This fucking sucked.
[Raven: Yup. That sucked balls. Everyone was a complete bellfruit. The only thing I actually liked was the weird way the sub-plot was actually the foreshadowing for the next book, even if I thought the D.I.V.O.R.C.E. thing was massively overplayed. Roll on the next one, because I’m sick of this turkey.]
[Wing: I can’t believe I wish I had an Amy book, but I want to see the rest of this plot and I don’t want to recap what comes next. That said, where’s the book in which Steven dies? Because I need that book.]