Title: Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader
Tagline: Elizabeth is getting ahead!
Summary: High expectations…
Elizabeth Wakefield is thrilled when she hears the news: her teachers want to skip her to seventh grade! Everyone is proud of her—except her identical twin, Jessica, who wants her sister back in sixth grade where she belongs.
But Elizabeth vows to prove that she can make it as a seventh-grader—even if it means staying up all night to finish her homework, or sneaking out to a seventh-grade party.
Trying to meet everyone’s high expectations is turning Elizabeth into a zombie. Maybe she can make it as a seventh-grader, but does she want to?
I have so many questions. Where are we in the school year? Last book was Valentine’s Day, so we are at the earliest in the second half of February, which means well into spring semester. Elizabeth probably has about three months of school left for the year. And even if we stick to the main series books, the last one felt like a spring semester book. Flu season generally is the heaviest in the first part of the year, and Shakespeare makes me think of second semester English class for some reason. Why the fuck would they promote her now instead of waiting until next fall and having her skip seventh grade completely? Am I really supposed to believe that Elizabeth would be happy to leave her twin, her friends, and the Sixers? Am I supposed to believe that she’d be happy with all this extra pressure when at the end of the last main series book she was annoyed at how much pressure her parents put on her and how they expect too much and she can’t measure up to it? Are you trying to tell me that Elizabeth sneaks out to a seventh-grade party? Unless Jessica is egging her on (and from earlier in the blurb, it sounds like she won’t be), I will not believe this at all.
So many questions. I’m sure the answers will be just fine. Just. Fine.
[Dove: I really looked forward to Wing either explaining how this could or could not happen based on US logic, since skipping a school year isn’t a thing here. And she’s irritated before she’s even started. A good sign. Also, since we universally hate these ugly covers, have mine instead:]
Jessica asks Elizabeth to go to the mall with her because she needs to buy things for the sixth-grade camping trip in less than two weeks. Jessica. Is excited about going camping. In the outdoors. Without electricity. Probably without toilets. Without stereos and cute clothes and all those older boys. Really. [Raven: Well, I guess she was excited to go to camp in The Big Camp Secret. Not the same, I know, but it is wilderness-adjacent.]
Elizabeth and Jessica are eating dinner alone because Steven’s over at Joe’s and Alice and Ned are having a special conference with Elizabeth’s teacher. She’s incredibly nervous about it, understandably. So nervous that she pours pepper into her milk without noticing until Jessica teases her about it.
Elizabeth wonders why they’re having the meeting, she hasn’t done anything wrong; Jessica suggests she flunked a test, and Elizabeth, instead of blowing her top over the mere suggestion, actually wonders about that because she finished a math test too quickly the other day and maybe she missed a section of questions.
God, that was one of my fears back in school. I would always triple check to make sure I hadn’t missed anything or put the wrong answers in the wrong places or whatever.
Jessica immediately reassures Elizabeth that she was just joking, Elizabeth is incapable of failing a test, and never gets into trouble. Except, you know, for that whole lecture after the Juliet situation where both girls were shitty and yet Elizabeth got the bulk of the lecture because they expect her to be so much more mature. She sure got into trouble then. [Dove: And, in a surprising show of continuity, in BIG for Christmas, where Alice expected Elizabeth to be more grown up and was shocked she had to parent both her daughters, instead of just the wayward one.]
Jessica then teases her a little more, saying that when Mr Bowman called that afternoon, Alice didn’t seem too upset, she only cried for a few minutes. This is actually kind of adorable and believable sibling interaction between them, showing how close they are, close enough they can tease but also close enough they can share their fears and real thoughts. I like it.
Alice and Ned still aren’t home by 9:30, and Elizabeth has full-blown anxiety going on over getting kicked out of school because her work isn’t as good as it used to be. I don’t tend to be sympathetic to Elizabeth because she’s such an annoying character who is almost always unreasonably supported by the narrative, but I empathise here. This sort of thing would suck, and I would also obsess over what I’d done wrong.
When Alice and Ned come in, Elizabeth immediately starts asking if this serious thing is the math test or whether she’s been whispering too much with Amy during class, but no. She didn’t do anything wrong. She’s doing everything too well, and her teachers think she’s not being challenged enough in the sixth grade but should instead go to seventh grade. Alice and Ned are incredibly proud of her and of course haven’t given much thought to the potential complications and downsides, such as the difficulty of catching up partway through the year or the social development she’ll lose by being thrust into an older peer group, etc. They briefly mention that she won’t see Jessica as much and the social scene will be a little “…faster” in the seventh grade, but no actual details about what she might face nor do they seem to think it will actually harm her. [Dove: And yet a couple of books ago, Elizabeth wasn’t allowed to party with the older kids while supervised by parents. But sure, she can be friends with them. She just can’t hang out with a large group of them with parents in the house.] [Raven: A little faster in the seventh grade? What the actual fuck? Okay, so maybe the kids might think that, but the adults?!]
Elizabeth thinks she’ll still see Jessica at home and her friends at lunch (there is no reason SVMS should have all the grades eating at the same time) and she’s thrilled at the idea of hanging out with older kids and all the challenges it would bring. Oooookay, ghostie, I totally buy this.
The next morning while they’re walking to school, Elizabeth says she has something incredible to tell her; Jessica says she does, too. Hers is about Lila, who told her that Tom McKay’s having a part on Friday, and it’s supposed to be the party of the year (…again), but Jessica isn’t invited because it’s just for the seventh and eighth grades. Janet tried to talk him into making an exception for the Unicorns, but he said if he let in one sixth grader, he’d have to let them all in.
First, that’s not really how it works. Second, I thought you hung out with them all the time. Third, you told Janet no and refuse to let Jessica come to your party? Your days are numbered. [Dove: Fourth, Tom McKay is in SIXTH FUCKING GRADE. It’s his brother Dylan that’s in seventh grade. #JustSayin’]
Elizabeth is excited that she could go and be included with the older kids. She even thinks about how weird that is since she doesn’t normally care about parties all that much. Except for that group Christmas party you threw a fit over and managed to turn yourselves into adults in your tizzy after missing it.
Elizabeth knows she can’t tell Jessica her news now. Instead, she tries to cheer her up because how fun could it possibly be without any sixth graders there. Jessica dramas it up all over the place, as she does, and I am delighted. She hates being in sixth grade, because seventh graders get all the fun. [Raven: But the sixth and seventh graders mix and socialise together constantly.]
Elizabeth feels a secret thrill over this. So much for telling your best friend everything.
That night, Jessica and Steven fight over Steven’s bad table manners during dinner at La Maison Jacques. Jessica doesn’t understand why their parents have taken them to the best restaurant in Sweet Valley, and I’m not sure why they take Steven out into public for meals ever.
Ned only stops their bickering because Elizabeth has a special announcement, not because he’s going to actually fucking parent.
Elizabeth finally breaks the news, and Jessica immediately freaks out because Elizabeth can’t go to seventh grade, if anyone it should be Jessica who has friends there and they won’t be in the same classes anymore, they’ll never see each other, they won’t study together, and Jessica’s eyes actually fill with tears.
God, honey, this sucks and I’m sorry.
She gets rid of those tears fast and says she’s the more socially mature. [Dove: Says the girl throwing a tantrum about not skipping a grade…] She and Steven bicker some more, Ned snaps at her to stop because she’s just being negative when they’re supposed to be celebrating Elizabeth, and Elizabeth promises they’ll be as close as ever.
Jessica is not convinced. She and Elizabeth belong together. (This comes across a little as if Jessica’s going to make sure they stay together and put them both in a grave.) AND Elizabeth will get to do all the fun things without her. [Raven: Pretty sure I dislike Jessica throughout this book. And this is the start. She doesn’t want her sister to stay in the sixth grade with her. She wants to take her sister’s place in the seventh grade. And why? Because she’s more “socially mature,” as if that matters to the decision. Fuck off, Jessica.]
The next morning, Jessica is too sad and grumpy to even get excited about french toast. She and Steven briefly talk about it. Jessica says that one of the rules of being twins is to be in the same grade, and that’s a good point about how she thought she’d go through life. Steven doesn’t think Elizabeth is actually ready for seventh grade, either, because they can be pretty wild.
…okay, people, I know I talked about social dynamics and potential harm earlier, but this is starting to sound like she’s jumping up to college and not like half a year at most. [Dove: She’s not changing schools, she’s just in different classes. I love the way the Wakefields are absolutely convinced that everyone who isn’t their kid is indulging in orgies and huffing paint, because that’s just what older kids do. And it’s fine if Steven hangs around with them. He’s a boy. It’s fine.]
Steven tells Jessica to use reverse psychology on Elizabeth, make Elizabeth think that being in seventh grade is the best thing in the world, and she might change her mind because she’ll think Jessica doesn’t care about not being with her. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to do shit here, but okay.
Jessica, of course, comes up with much more useful things, such as making sixth grade seem amazing and hanging out with Elizabeth’s friends and working on the Sixers to make her jealous, things like that. And this is pure Jessica. Love it.
At school, Elizabeth flat-out dismisses Amy who wants to talk about the article she’s working on about the camping trip (gee, I wonder if a sixth-grade camping trip might be a catalyst or something) because she has much more important news.
Amy thinks this is amazing news, the best news of the year, and she’s happy for Elizabeth. She doesn’t seem too worried about her best friend fucking off to all new classes, which makes sense considering Elizabeth fucks off to book-long BFFs all the time.
Wait. WAIT. WAIT A FUCKING MINUTE. Not only is she skipping grades partway through a school year, possibly with only a few months left, she’s doing so on a fucking Thursday. A THURSDAY. TWO FUCKING SCHOOL DAYS LEFT OF THE SCHOOL WEEK. [Dove: And the fifth day of the week. *tuts disapprovingly*] [Wing: Damn straight, weeks start on Sunday!] [Raven: Not in the UK Dairy Industry. Monday4lyf, yo!]
SVMS, someone needs to burn you to the ground. [Raven: Jesus fuck, I hate this school.]
By lunch, Caroline Pearce, SVMS’ biggest, and often most incorrect, gossip lets Elizabeth know that the current rumour is that Elizabeth is skipping straight to high school and that she’ll be on the high school cheerleading squad, because apparently she’s both Elizabeth and Jessica right now.
Amy and Maria think she’ll want to sit with her seventh grade friends at lunch because they’ll have more to talk about what with them sharing the same teachers, and Todd is worried (though he couches it in teasing) about her being swept away by a seventh-grade guy. Elizabeth reassures them all that she’ll never like anyone more than them. For about the next half a day before she gets swept up in her new life, per that blurb above.
Next up, Rick Hunter stops by to congratulate her on her genius IQ of 200. Elizabeth’s surprised by this, because while she doesn’t know her IQ, she doubts she’s a genius, all she’s doing is moving up to the seventh grade. [Raven: I don’t believe for a second that Elizabeth hasn’t taken a self-administered IQ test.] Rick thinks that’s pretty cool, and when he’s gone, it’s clear that Todd is full on worried and getting clingy and controlling because of it. He warns her away from Rick and other seventh-grade guys because they think they’re really cool and will do anything to impress her, unlike sixth-grade guys.
Uh, you’re making a pretty solid argument for dating seventh-grade guys even if she doesn’t skip up to the next grade. [Dove: A better counter is that Rick is Jessica’s ex, and if her twin steals her man, Jessica will flat out frame a bitch for murder.]
He also says it’s different for him to be friends with seventh graders because “older guys treat younger girls differently from the way they treat younger guys.”
Good lord, people, for most of them the age difference is one year or less. Again, it’s not like she’ll be in classes with eighteen-year-olds or something. [Dove: Their birthday is 13 June. In some cases, it’ll be a couple of months. There’s a solid chance that they have a bigger age gap with some of their classmates than the kids in the next grade.]
After school, Amy asks if Elizabeth will go to the Sixers office with her to go over an article before the staff meeting, but first Elizabeth has to pick up her new schedule. Sooooo, that whole sixth-grade newspaper thing hasn’t caught up with you yet, huh.
Mrs Arnette (you know, the Hairnet) gives her the schedule, and Elizabeth is overcome with joy over a new seventh-grade schedule. I can’t even mock her here, because I loved getting my new schedule each year, and then when I got to university, I loved planning it out for myself each semester, making sure I got all the requirements, all the fun stuff I wanted, and all the interesting things I thought might inspire me. There were charts with different options to make sure I could handle classes, my three part-time jobs, and my various organisations and their responsibilities. Good times, good times.
Anyway, Elizabeth is taking intermediate French now and pre-algebra and I call shenanigans. She can be smart as hell, but skipping into classes like that partway through the year is bullshit. She’ll be so goddamn far behind she’ll never catch up.
Sure enough, Elizabeth gets a giant amount of homework that she has to catch up on, including 10 papers for English class and 20 quizzes and exams for pre-algebra. Jesus fucking christ, SVMS, what the fuck is wrong with you. I seriously hope Raven goes balls to the wall with rage over the teaching (“teaching”) decisions made in this book. [Raven: I’m containing my rage until the end… mostly.]
Elizabeth turns up at the Sixers office ready to run the staff meeting but it’s already in progress and Amy’s in the editor-in-chief chair. Mr Bowman made changes to the newspaper because Elizabeth, if she’s going to work for a paper, will work for the Sweet Valley 7&8 Gazette (jesus, I can’t believe the Sixers is the more clever name of a newspaper at SVMS) and so he made Amy the new editor-in-chief. [Dove: I think I’ve been calling it Gazette 7&8 in my fanfic or references to it. Which is still less of a continuity error than actual authors in the series have committed.] [Raven: Why is there a separate school newspaper for each year (or couple of years)? Is this common?] [Dove: I bet a later scene will answer the first question…]
Elizabeth is shocked because she never once thought about this. And while one part of me is boggling that she didn’t, the other part of me thinks this is actually believable. She’s been so caught up in praise and excitement and everyone being proud of her that of course she’s not really looking at the downsides.
Elizabeth tries to make the best of this and is doing okay until she sees Jessica at the table. FINALLY HER PLAN IS IN MOTION. Jessica says it’s a shame that Elizabeth had to quit just as Jessica decided to try her hand at journalism and join the Sixers. Because her kicking ass at The Unicorn News wasn’t trying her hand at journalism. Jessica really twists that knife, talking about how Elizabeth has to be excited that Jessica is going to give journalism a try, and she knows how much Elizabeth worked on the Sixers so of journalism talent is in their blood and now Jessica is excited to use it.
Man, this is working already, and I love manipulative!Jessica. Elizabeth leaves the office with a weird, jealous feeling, and she tries to convince herself that she’s beyond the Sixers anyway and on to bigger and better things. [Raven: For some reason, I HATE this Jessica, even though it’s what she normally does. I just wish she’d be a bit supportive of her sister.]
Alice asks about Elizabeth’s new schedule first thing that afternoon, and Elizabeth is thrilled that she makes her mother so proud and happy. Ugh, kid, I hate that you feel you have to prove yourself so much, especially after you flat out admitted that you worried about that, and even though you’re Elizabeth Wakefield and I’m sure by the end of this book I’ll have Gone Boom, I still feel hard for you right here. So believable. So sad.
Elizabeth doesn’t even get to go down and watch Primrose Place with Jessica because she’s too busy working on the assignments she has to make up. That’s apparently their favourite show and they almost never miss an episode [Dove: That brand new tradition we’ve always had!], but Elizabeth already thinks she won’t have much time for television for awhile and Jessica should just let her know what happens.
What a perfect opportunity for Jessica and she, the manipulative darling that she is, jumps right on it, really talking up how great it is that Elizabeth is working on those tough assignments already and how she’s changed her mind about Elizabeth going to seventh-grade because it’s important for identical twins to have some distance between them. This makes Elizabeth feel weird, because she thought Jessica loved being together all the time just like Elizabeth does, but this entire series started with the idea that Jessica wanted space from you and you had to come to terms with finding your own things and making your own friends so this is not brand new information, Elizabeth.
In fact, Jessica will be so busy with the Sixers and Boosters and Unicorn meetings that she may not have any time at all for Elizabeth after school, either. Elizabeth offers to help her with her articles for the Sixers, but Amy already offered and Todd’s going to do some guest editing on the sports articles in the next issue, so he’ll be helping Jessica too. They’re both really great, by the way, Jessica says to rub it in, and when Jessica questions her on that because she’s always said they were boring, Jessica says she didn’t know them well and now she likes them. Man, Jessica, you are giving this your all considering you’ve just basically said you were wrong about something. I love your commitment. [Dove: Could we consider this a continuation of her acting skill?]
Elizabeth only gets about three hours of sleep while working through her backlog of assignments and jesus fucking christ, SVMS staff, you are complete and utter horrors and should not be allowed near students. WTF are you trying to do to this kid? [Raven: I hate them.]
The next morning while they’re briefly hanging out with Amy and Maria, Jessica turns talk to how exciting the camping trip will be the weekend after next and what a shame it is that Elizabeth can’t come. She invites Amy and Maria to the mall with her to get ready for the trip and keeps watching Elizabeth surreptitiously to see her reaction.
Elizabeth’s first class is science. There’s a human skeleton hanging by the teacher’s desk and posters of apes and monkeys on the wall. Elizabeth thinks it all looks so advanced. I am delighted at the implication that SVMS teaches evolution! A surprisingly rare thing in the USA at the time (and in some places, to this day, because religions and MURICA). Elizabeth is awkward with the teacher, Ms Sawyer, because she’s expecting to be told where to sit, but there is no assigned seating in the seventh grade. Okay, I call bullshit on this. Even if they are able to choose their seats on the first day, there’s no way they’re allowed a free-for-all every single day.
The day starts off with a quiz, one they have every Thursday, and once a fucking gain, SVMS is a completely bullshit failure of a school. The quiz is 10 multiple-choice questions about different kinds of human bones, and Elizabeth read that section the night before, so she doesn’t feel terrible about it.
While they’re getting their tests back, the students whisper that she must have gotten an A+ and rumour is that she’s a genius. I do not believe that these kids give one flying fuck about Elizabeth being a genius.
Ms Sawyer tells her that she did a nice job and is off to a great start — but Elizabeth is disappointed in her B+ and decides she has to work harder than ever. Here we go.
Elizabeth and Amy get lunch together, and when Elizabeth asks about the Sixers, Amy admits it’s more work than she realised and she doesn’t know how Elizabeth did it all the time. And, again, while I normally am not sympathetic toward Elizabeth, I kind of love this because too often people think they would do a better job of being the one in charge only for them to get there and realise the entire reason it looked so easy before is that the person in charge worked hard to get it all done. Not that I’ve ever run into someone trying to do that to me, ahem.
Helen Bradley, a seventh grader, asks Elizabeth if she wants to sit with her and her friends because they thought she might want to sit with some of her classmates. [Dove: That’s funny, becuase Helen Bradley was also a sixth grader in Stretching the Truth – Jessica was passing notes to her. AND YOU MOCKED ME FOR MY MIND-BOGGLINGLY DIFFICULT TAGGING SYSTEM! WELL, WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, BITCHES???] [Wing: And then I got mocked for tagging too many people, so I think we’re even!] Uh, again, I’m shocked at how welcoming they are to her especially considering SVMS’ track record with the many, many, MANY new students they have each year. Each month. [Dove: Maybe as one of the three sixth graders who appear to have moved to seventh grade in the space of a single book, Helen is easing the transition. For fuck’s sake, how hard is it to make up fucking names? (Apparently I feel as strongly about this as Wing does about what day the week starts.)] [Wing: As you should!]
Elizabeth is pleased but doesn’t want to skip eating with Amy, but Amy waves her off and says she should eat with the other seventh graders on her first day. So Elizabeth ends up sitting with Helen, Leslie Carlisle, and Kerry Glenn [Dove: I have always assumed that Kerry is sixth grade too, since that was the cover story (visiting her cabin) that Jessica used when dating Josh Angler. And we all know how the Wakefield parents feel about their kids hanging out with older kids… well, they do now. And FYI, Leslie Carlisle is the subject of the first Unicorn meeting, where Janet reveals that she has found out Leslie’s bra size (36E). So it seems that at least one of these three names really should be in seventh grade.]. Elizabeth is anxious-excited, right up until Leslie welcomes Jessica to the seventh grade. Welp, guess someone isn’t keeping up with the gossip.
Talk turns to clothes and Elizabeth lies about where she buys her clothes, and the girls know it. She’s never talked about shopping or clothes with her friends, that’s Jessica’s thing, and she felt too babyish to admit she bought them at the mall.
They then gossip about Gilda Samuels and how they were playing Spin the Bottle and she was completely shocked when it landed on her.
And Elizabeth doesn’t know what Spin the Bottle is. Is this believable? I knew what Spin the Bottle was at her age, but I had a lot of older friends and read a tonne, even more than I do now, so maybe I am not the one to use to measure. But I feel like Elizabeth should have at least an idea of what it is. [Dove: We played it at the leaver’s party at my primary school. We were 10-11. And here’s where it gets creepy. Someone’s dad insisted in joining in.] [Wing: WTF Dove. What. the. fuck.] [Raven: That’s all kinds of wrong.]
Elizabeth feels uncomfortable and completely out of her depth with the seventh graders, especially when she looks over and sees how comfortable Amy, Todd, Maria, and Winston are together, but then tells herself to be patient, she’ll find things they have in common.
Jessica’s waiting impatiently for Elizabeth to show up at Casey’s, the ice cream parlour, where she’s hanging out with Todd, Winston, Maria, and Amy. Now what, pray tell, do the Unicorns think about this sudden change in her social group? Because I imagine Winston and Amy, in particular, do not reflect well on the Unicorns. [Raven: This book doesn’t reflect well on the Unicorns. Because they’re not fucking in it.]
She is super bored by the conversation about the science fair, but is determined to make Elizabeth jealous even though Jessica herself would rather be sitting with the Unicorns who are also there. Wait, they are actually there, in Casey’s, and haven’t given you shit about this? I don’t believe it for a second. [Dove: Jessica has been known to be single-minded in her plans before.]
Once Elizabeth arrives, they tease her about sitting with the children instead of the other seventh graders. Jessica tries to make Elizabeth jealous by talking about how she’s working with Amy on her article, but they’re interrupted by Tom turning up to tell Elizabeth he’s hoping to see her at his party Friday night. Jessica, of course, is furious about this, but manages to pretend she’s not upset. She doesn’t manage to dismiss it enough to put Elizabeth off it, though.
Jessica offers to help Elizabeth set the table that night so she can put more of her plan into action. She talks about how she just got off the phone with Todd and they’re all going shopping for sleeping bags and camping gear that weekend.
Elizabeth finally clocks that something weird is going on and points out that Jessica is suddenly spending more time with Elizabeth’s friends than with the Unicorns. Jessica waves that off because they’re her friends now, too, and she’s finally getting a chance to know them. [Dove: I could actually buy this in the right scenario. If she really lost Liz (like, if she was in a coma or moved to Switzerland), I could see her trying to be her. She’s creepy and co-dependent enough.] [Wing: …those are suspiciously specific what-ifs.] She also offers up her clothes for the party because she figures Elizabeth must be pretty nervous about making the wrong impression.
They snap at each other clothes, Jessica getting the best of Elizabeth at every turn, of course, and eventually Elizabeth admits that it sounds like a seventh-grade party is a lot of hard work and she wishes Jessica was going with her.
At dinner, Jessica mentions the party, and Alice and Ned are immediately concerned. UM. WTF DID YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN YOU LET HER MOVE UP A GRADE AND JOIN A NEW PEER GROUP? WHAT. THE. FUCK.
Sure enough, Jessica and Steven convince their parents that it will be too wild and Alice and Ned forbid her from going because she’ll find another way to make friends. Yeah, they really thought this change through, didn’t they.
Jessica keeps pushing at Elizabeth to get jealous, but Elizabeth isn’t biting anymore. Instead she talks about how the book she’s reading for school will end up being one of her favourite books of all time; she’s reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and even Steven agrees that it’s a great book. Of course the lawyer’s kids are here for it. [Dove: I find it weird that we’re in a run of books where Steven is actually quite intelligent. He’s usually so “sportsball-food-girls” it’s a bit odd to see him functioning as a human.]
At lunch with the same girls the next day, they tell Elizabeth she’ll be a certified seventh grader after the party and she’s lucky to have such a good one to go to her first week because otherwise it might be tough to make friends because it’s the middle of the year and everyone’s already got their own thing going on.
Elizabeth decides she’s going even if it means having to sneak out.
Jessica is shocked when Elizabeth tells her she’s sneaking out, and Elizabeth snaps at her because Jessica does this kind of shit all the time and would do it now if she was invited to the party. Elizabeth refuses to let Jessica make her feel guilty, and she knows Jessica won’t tell on her. Jessica even helps her get ready, though Elizabeth doesn’t want to wear things that make her look older. Jessica gives her a guilt trip over the party being more fun than staying home with her, and it feels like there is some real emotional under the manipulation and also hypocrisy because yeah, Jessica would be at the party already if the situation was reversed.
Eventually, Elizabeth agrees to a denim miniskirt paired with her own long-sleeved purple and white striped t-shirt. Jessica calls it dorky, despite the whole purple thing, so okay, I don’t buy it. [Dove: Why on earth does she own purple? If she wore it, people would just mistake her for Jessica? She doesn’t even like the colour. I give up.]
And then she makes the mistake of trusting Jessica with her makeup. She ends up with blue eye shadow all over her eyelids and red lipstick coming off the sides of her lips. Yeah, that was a good choice, way to go Elizabeth. She tries to clean it off with a tissue, smears everything, and Jessica offers to help her clean up while they’re in the car with Mary and her parents, who are driving Elizabeth and Mary to the party, and Jessica’s going to ask them to drop her off at Amy’s.
Before that, though, Jessica tells Steven that Elizabeth is sneaking out to the party and if Alice and Ned find out, they’ll put her back in the sixth grade immediately. Steven points out that they’re too proud of her to do that, they’ll just ground her or something, and instead Jessica should just let Elizabeth see she’s not ready for seventh grade on her own. Jessica decides that’s logical and lets it go. [Raven: Jessica was ACTUALLY GOING TO SNITCH ON HER SISTER FOR SNEAKING OUT TO A PARTY. That’s not cool. Not fucking cool.]
Jessica doesn’t get much of the makeup off, and though she knows she shouldn’t let Elizabeth walk into the party looking like that, she can’t bring herself to tell her.
Luckily, Elizabeth catches sight of herself in the window at the front door and realises how terrible she looks. Somehow, Mary has not, so she sends Mary inside and rushes around the house to the outside spigot, wets some tissues, and washes her face until she’s certain she’s removed all the makeup.
So many problems here. If you knew you needed water, why did you use a dry tissue earlier? Why did you let Jessica use dry tissues in the car? How do you not have little bits of tissue all over your face now? What did you do with the wet, dirty tissues, shove them into your pocket? Toss them into the yard? [Raven: Jessica’s a complete bitch, and you lecture Elizabeth? Way to blame the victim, Wing.]
Ghostie, you are stretching my ability to ignore the little things. It will soon snap.
Elizabeth joins Helen, Leslie, and Kerry outside, and they greet her very cooly. They’re talking about the big fight that Peter and Sara had and how they’re breaking up and Sara was so mad she refused to come to the party if Peter was there. Then about Debbie the huge flirt who doesn’t have any girlfriends because all she cares about is guys. Elizabeth feels sorry for her because everyone should have a girlfriend; when she notices that Debbie keeps looking over at them, she thinks Debbie really wants to come join them but is afraid they won’t be nice to her. [Dove: I kind of hoped that Liz would say “Screw this!” to the mean girls and go befriend Debbie, but no.]
Meanwhile, Jessica is discussing things to do at the campout. She wants to dance around the campfire, because she is embracing the witch inside. Do it, Jessica. Do. It. That’s what we need to shake things up a bit.
Maria, Amy, Winston, and Todd want to do more nature-related fun things like a nature treasure hunt and singing songs around the campfire, but certainly not Johnny Buck songs. Jessica isn’t have any fun at all pretending to be like Elizabeth. [Dove: I’m with Jessica. They want to sing Kumbaya and He’s Got the Whole World. Urgh.] [Raven: I’m glad she’s not having fun. She’s a fucking nightmare in this book.]
Back at the party, the first game begins. They sit in a circle on the floor of the living room, and Elizabeth is too embarrassed to ask what kind of game it is. Gee, I wonder, considering those girls were talking about it at lunch the other day. Elizabeth never did learn what Spin the Bottle was, because Elizabeth is apparently an idiot.
Tom tells her to go first because she’s new, and when she asks what she’s supposed to do with the bottle, everyone laughs at her. Tom tells her how to spin it but doesn’t tell her what comes after.
It lands on Bruce Patman, good looking, wealthy, and obnoxious according to both Elizabeth and Jessica. For awhile, Jessica was wavering over him, but it does seem like she’s mostly settled on him being a hot jackass, and I like it.
Elizabeth wonders if she’s supposed to throw the bottle at Bruce now or what, which is both an idiotic idea about the game and also the best idea ever. [Dove: DO IT! Murdergames are always a win!]
It’s not until Bruce sits down in front of her that she realises she’s supposed to kiss him. At the last second, she turns her head so that his kiss lands on her cheek. He gives her shit about doing that and makes most of the room laugh at her. Everyone but Mary gives her grief about being a baby, though Mary apologises for not telling her, she thought Elizabeth knew.
Elizabeth ends up crying and wonders why no one warned her about the seventh grade — and then realises people did. Oh, honey. She then decides she will not be so easily defeated, and she will go back out there to prove she’s a real seventh grader.
Next party is Truth or Dare. Elizabeth knows what this is but has never played it; she’s going to stick it out this time. When it gets to Helen, Tom asks her truth or dare and she chooses truth. He asks who she really wanted the bottle to land on when it was her turn, and she says Rick Hunter. They all tease each other now and it’s pretty fun and believable.
Janet asks Elizabeth truth or dare, and though she swore she’d play along, Elizabeth says she doesn’t care because she’s not sure which will be worse. Tom says if she doesn’t care, he’ll decide and it will be a dare. Mary warns her that she won’t want to do any dare Janet decides. Mary, you are not reflecting well upon the Unicorns, and I love it. Mary suggests they leave because the party’s almost over, and Elizabeth is tempted and finally agrees. [Dove: Why is Mary a Unicorn? She is too good for this nonsense.] [Raven: Weak. “I’m going to stick this out and prove I’m a seventh grader!” … “So, Truth or Dare, Liz?” … “Erm… what? I NEED AN ADULT.”]
Janet says that she’ll think about Elizabeth’s dare over the weekend and she’ll have to do it at school next week, and Elizabeth agrees because she is an idiot.
Alice and Ned are home when she gets there and though she’s braced for a lecture, Alice tells her that though it was wrong to sneak out, she and Ned made a mistake because fitting in socially is just as important as succeeding academically, and they don’t want anything to ruin her experience in the seventh grade. This is a hard adjustment and they want to support her any way they can.
I … I almost can’t believe this level of parenting. It’s not perfect, they’re putting this pressure on Elizabeth, mostly without realising how much it is, I think, but they are taking a surprisingly nuanced look at the situation and trying to help their daughter. Amazing.
Of course this conversation makes Elizabeth think her parents will be heartbroken if she can’t cut it in the seventh grade and so there’s no turning back. Oh, kid. I feel for you.
Saturday, Jessica bugs Elizabeth for details. Elizabeth tells her that it was the best party ever, everyone was nice and cool, and she washed her makeup off before she went inside, they ate and talked and played cool games, the kind of games Jessica will find out about when she’s in seventh grade.
Ice cold, Elizabeth Wakefield, and I am here for it.
Jessica fires back with how funny Todd is and what a great time she had with Amy and how they might share a tent with Maria. Elizabeth again asks her about her own friends, like Lila, why she doesn’t want to share with them, and Jessica says the most ridiculous thing in this entire series so far: maybe Lila will share a tent with Amy too.
Maybe. Lila. Will. Share. A. Tent. With. Amy.
MAYBE. LILA. WILL. SHARE. A. TENT. WITH. AMY.
My mind. It boggles. [Dove: At this point, Liz should have just said, “Oh, Jess, you’re hilarious,” and walked off chuckling.]
Jessica invites Elizabeth to go shopping with Maria and Amy and then the Unicorns after, but Elizabeth has to study all day. Jessica warns her that if all she does is study, people will forget about her and she’ll have no friends.
While out with the Unicorns, Jessica learns the truth about what happened during Spin the Bottle because of course Janet immediately wants to spill the beans. Janet’s still trying to come up with a dare; Mary tells her to make it easy considering what Elizabeth already went through, but Jessica is torn. She knows Mary’s right but she also wants to see Elizabeth humiliated even further because maybe that will send her running back to the sixth grade.
Damn, you two are nasty to each other, and it’s coming from a place of genuine caring from both of you.
Jessica finally comes up with the perfect dare: Because Elizabeth didn’t kiss Bruce the way she was supposed to at the party, she should have to kiss him in front of the whole school. Janet loves it, of course. Mary thinks it’s mean.
Jessica feels some guilt over this, “her least favourite emotion.” God, I love you, Wakefield.
Schoolwork is getting ever easier for Elizabeth, or so she thinks; she says that’s not fair since her social life is sucking more and more. In math, Ms Larson has her solve a problem on the board, and she does it perfectly. Ms Larson then gives her a harder one and Elizabeth gets nervous about it and being in front of the class, but, of course, solves that one perfectly too.
Elizabeth approaches Helen, Kerry, and Leslie after class. They tell her that Tom’s party got more interesting after she left and tease her about having a bedtime or something. Elizabeth lies that she had another party to go to, one for a friend who goes to another school, Valley Friends. [Raven: Valley Friends? Sounds like Muppet Babies.]
What. the fuck. is that.
That is a ridiculous school name and also where the fuck does it exist? Why haven’t we heard of it before? What happened to Big Mesa? Goddamn it, ghostie. [Dove: *flips tables* IF WE ALL KNOW THE NEAREST SCHOOL IS BIG MESA, THE FUCKING GHOSTIE SHOULD TOO!]
Elizabeth turns the talk back to Tom’s party, and this is the gossip:
- Kimberly Haver had to call the Hairnet and pretend she was selling encyclopedias, and the Hairnet ordered the whole set and gave Kimberly her credit card number — I’m not sure I believe this, because who sells encyclopedias Friday night and surely the Hairnet is smarter than that;
- Maggie Sullivan had to kiss Duncan Saunders, the ugliest guy in the school, on the lips;
and that’s it. That’s all the big gossip. Elizabeth feels bad that she doesn’t defend Duncan when she thinks he’s a nice guy, and when she walks off, she wonders why she’s trying so hard to fit in with people who aren’t nice at all.
Elizabeth sits with Amy and Maria at lunch, and they talk about Amy feeling a little overwhelmed by getting everything done by the Sixers’ deadline. Elizabeth misses that hectic pace and the responsibility she carried. Elizabeth still hasn’t talked to the 7&8 Gazette. Normally, I would call shenanigans here, but as busy as she’s been with homework, I’ll buy it.
She tells her friends the truth about the party and just as they’re talking about how Elizabeth doesn’t need cruel friends like that, Janet and Kimberly come to give Elizabeth her dare. She’s supposed to kiss Bruce Patman Friday during lunch, in front of the entire school.
Elizabeth is horrified. Amy and Maria both agree it is a ridiculous idea (though Maria calls it crazy and moronic, so fuck off Maria). Elizabeth knows they’re right, but she’s determined to make it as a seventh grader and if that means she has to do something she thinks is silly (or, as a few paragraphs ago, horrible), then she’ll do it so she won’t let down her parents, her teachers, or herself.
Ugh, kid, don’t do this.
Elizabeth tells them she has to do it, they argue over why she’s giving in to peer pressure and she thinks they don’t understand, and she’s kind of miserable when she leaves them.
Tuesday, she talks to Jed Michaels, the editor-in-chief of the 7&8 Gazette (god, that name is terrible). He likes some of the work he did for the Sixers earlier in the year. She’s always looked up to him as a great editor, and she’s pleased by his compliment and the chance to work with him.
She assumes he’s going to let her on as a writer, and then when he says the job he has for her isn’t as a writer, she’s certain he’s going to make her an editor — and what he really offers her is the chance to help out around the office, make photocopies, organise things, deliver the papers. Elizabeth swallows her pride and takes the job.
And I have thoughts: On the one hand, so much second-hand embarrassment for her and her assumptions, so much so that I can’t even be happy to see a Wakefield Not Win, damn it. On the other hand, making the new person do this kind of work is pretty normal, though she does have some experience. On the other other hand, this could be sexist as hell, too. Giving a girl the job of office support is a really fucking standard way to keep her from doing substantive writing in a newspaper, for example.
I’m pretty sure that’s not what ghostie meant, and I am maybe a little sensitive to this because of my own experience with newspaper work when I was younger, but still. [Dove: I merely delighted in it. I do appreciate that occasionally the Wakefields do not win.] [Raven: While I disliked it, because I don’t get how this weird middle school journalistic microcosm actually works. When Liz (and the rest) graduate into seventh grade, does she vacate the Sixers and then become editor in chief of the 7&8? And while I get that she doesn’t get the plum editor role she wanted, I still think the 7&8 staff would get her to write something about, I dunno, what it feels to skip a grade or something.]
Jessica is at a Sixers meeting and is bored out of her mind and hasn’t written the article she promised to write. Amy asks her to bring it by her house that night, because the paper starts printing at 730 a.m., but Jessica promises to bring it in before 730.
Once the meeting is over, Jessica flirts with Todd a little and talks about her new social life, all the parties she’s been going to and her new friends. This is enough to make Todd act curt toward Elizabeth when she walks up, and when Elizabeth wonders what’s wrong with him, Jessica says she thinks he’s upset because of the kiss with Bruce on Friday. Elizabeth is shocked that he knows about it, shocked that Jessica knows about it, but Jessica laughs that off. Everyone’s talking about it, you know, and that this is the chance to prove she’s not a baby, since it was weird that she didn’t kiss Bruce last Friday. The whole school knows about that too, Jessica claims.
She really rubs this in, saying that everyone thinks she’s too much of a baby for the seventh grade, but she can prove them wrong on Friday, prove herself up to being in the seventh grade.
Goddamn, Jessica, you are terrible, and it is great. [Raven: No it isn’t. Jessica is awful.]
Jessica never does manage to write an article about the camping trip, and though she normally doesn’t worry about not being able to finish assignments, this time she can’t let Elizabeth know that anything’s wrong.
While she’s thinking about this, she has her next great idea, which is to try to make Elizabeth think the Sixers is falling apart without her. She spins a story that Amy’s in a lot of trouble with the next issue, it’s too much responsibility for her, she assigned extra articles to Jessica, she must not have wanted to worry Elizabeth, and, oh, since Jessica has two articles to write, maybe Elizabeth can help her by writing the one about the camping trip.
Jessica. Wakefield. You devious genius. [Dove: *nods approvingly*]
Tons of seventh graders tease Elizabeth about the bet, and she gets more and more upset throughout the week. Plus writing that article for Jessica (which Amy loved, of course) reminded her how much she enjoys writing and misses working on the Sixers. Especially after spending two hours photocopying in the 7&8 Gazette’s office. She misses the responsibility from the Sixers.
She hangs out with Jessica while Jessica gets ready for the camping trip, and the happier Jessica is (or, as we know, seems), the worse Elizabeth feels because she’s missing the sixth grade and all the fun there. Finally Elizabeth decides that even though she’s doing great academically, she’s miserable, and she needs to quit seventh grade.
Note that wording: quit seventh grade. Not return to sixth, or her friends, or the work she loved. Not change her mind. Quit. Which reads as failure to her, and okay, fine, I admit it, I’m finally feeling some sympathy for her. I had a tonne of support from my parents, but I also had a lot of pressure put on me to be better than the sibling who came before me. I brought sunshine back into my parents’ lives after they’d had a hard time with my older sibling, and while they didn’t mean for that to carry as much weight and pressure as it did, I still spent a lot of time trying to prove myself worthy of that. Prove to myself, I guess, really.
She goes to talk to Ned, and he says he wants to talk to her, too. He doesn’t let her go first, of course, because otherwise we wouldn’t get this comedy of errors moment, and instead spends some time talking about how proud they are of her and how her teachers are raving about her. (Mr Bowman called them with this news, because he’s … not even her teacher anymore and somehow weirdly still involved. I know we keep an eye on Nydick, but I think we might have a problem here.) [Dove: Oh, just wait until high school where we meet Mr Collins.]
Elizabeth can’t stand disappointing her parents, and so decides to stick it out.
Thursday afternoon, she’s reading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (and loving it) when Jessica comes in from an afternoon at Casey’s. She ate the biggest banana split of her life, which made me laugh, and tells Elizabeth about how allllll the gossip was focused on Elizabeth’s dare. Some people think she won’t go through with it, the Unicorns are taking bets (not Jessica, though, she promises, and I don’t believe her), and Elizabeth feels horrible about everything.
Lila is, apparently, the only one who bet that Elizabeth will kiss Bruce.
Elizabeth is determined to shock everyone now that she knows no one expects that she’ll be able to do it. Jessica ignores this and talks about how Todd is getting upset because seventh and eighth grade boys are teasing him about Bruce taking Todd’s place in Elizabeth’s life. He almost got into a fight with one of the guys, even.
Elizabeth is furious about this and how the older guys are obnoxious and think they can get away with anything.
So…just like your sister, then.
Steven and Jessica have a quick talk about Elizabeth’s dare. He thinks it’s a bad idea and she shouldn’t kiss anyone in the middle of the cafeteria, much less Bruce Patman. But I’m sure it would have been fine if you kissed someone in the middle of the cafeteria in sixth grade [Dove: He kissed someone while working at the counter of not-McDonald’s.]. I do not believe in this older brother act here, though I enjoyed some of the early bits of him and Jessica working together.
Jessica convinces him that if they act scared and make it a big deal, Elizabeth will get brave and go through with it, but if they tease her, she’ll get nervous and chicken out.
Elizabeth dreams about all sorts of different people talking about the dare and whether she’ll go through with it and whether she’s smart enough not to give in to peer pressure and whether she has to do it to prove herself and whether she’ll still have her friends after, etc.
She wakes up even more determined to get through it because she loves her classes and she doesn’t want to let her parents down, so she has to stay in the seventh grade. And I hate this part of the story, the fact that she does love her classes. As much as I think it was a terrible idea to skip her up a grade the way they did, I love that she feels challenged and is enjoying the work. That’s wonderful, and I’m furious that the resolution to this is going to end up being her losing that.
Ned and Alice conveniently go to work early, leaving the kids to eat breakfast alone, adn Jessica and Steven tag-team teasing Elizabeth until she seems both terrified and sick to her stomach. They even push into the idea that it makes sense for Todd to break up with her for kissing another guy in front of everyone and she’s in the seventh grade, after all, she can’t have a sixth-grade boyfriend if she wants to fit in with her classmates. They do so much that Elizabeth flees to school without them.
In homeroom, Elizabeth can’t stop thinking about how much she misses her old sixth-grade homeroom and the fun she had there with Jessica and Amy. She gets a copy of the Sixers, worried about the terrible issue that Jessica talked to her about, and Amy changed up the layout, but it’s not terrible, it’s wonderful, fresh and eye-catching and the articles are interesting and well written. Amy’s not having any trouble at all without her.
Go get it, Amy. I bet you do get a chance to have more personality without being buried in Elizabeth’s shadow.
Oh, god, we get a little fashion talk even though it’s Elizabeth!
Elizabeth looked up as Leslie, Helen, and Kerry started filing into homeroom. They were all wearing hip, cool outfits—the kind of stuff Jessica would probably think was really sophisticated. Helen had on bell-bottoms and a long, ribbed T-shirt, and Leslie and Kerry both wore miniskirts and tiny sweaters. Elizabeth looked down at her oxford shirt and jeans and suddenly wished she were wearing something else. I should have listened to Jessica, she thought. I do look pretty boring and juvenile like this.
They tease her about the cafeteria serving Hershey’s Kisses and a Tuna Kiss casserole, and Elizabeth is both embarrassed and annoyed that no one seems to have anything better to talk about.
Elizabeth sits with Amy and Maria at lunch, and she feels safe with them, but she knows they can’t stop the inevitable from happening. I guess it’s continuity that she has no spine, though it usually only shows up when she backs down to Jessica, but Elizabeth, honey, this is in no way inevitable. You freaked out at the beginning of sixth grade because you and Jessica were no longer doing everything together, and that worked out fine. This will, too. All of this is believable and even somewhat understandable, but frustrating as hell at the same time.
As they talk, Elizabeth wonders why she has to kiss Bruce in order to stay in the seventh grade, and the more she thinks about it, the less it makes sense even though it felt clear not too long ago.
But before she can say anything, Janet and Kimberly rock up to have her finish the dare. She says she wants to finish her sandwich, but Janet is having none of it because lunch is almost over. Amy nearly begs her not to do it, but Janet and Kimberly give her grief about being the baby of the seventh grade if she doesn’t and, worse, that no one will care that she is, either.
When Kimberly says she bet $5 that Elizabeth won’t kiss Bruce, Elizabeth snaps. All the students are watching her, but even the teachers seem to know something’s up, too. I think you’re assuming too much about SVMS teachers, though they certainly should have an idea of what’s going on.
She looks to Jessica, who mouths for her to go for it, and Todd, who won’t even look at her. Bruce looks like a gross creep, but she manages to take a few steps toward his table. She thinks about her parents being proud and how excited and happy they are that she’s doing so well in the seventh grade and forces herself to go all the way up to him.
People are shouting about her actually doing it, it being Bruce’s lucky day, and she stops right before she’s going to kiss him. She can’t believe what she’s doing, she can’t believe she’s acting like somebody else, someone who cares about what other people think. Which is (a) exactly who you are and (b) is also your twin, so. [Dove: … is no teacher going to step in here? No? Ok.] [Raven: Of course not. There’s probably only one of them actually watching, or two if you count Mr Nydick with his cock out.]
She heads back to her friends with her head high, and Amy and Maria celebrate her. So does Todd who suddenly comes up and asks if she needs him too, which totally makes sense considering how he’s been avoiding her and not talking to her like a bag of dicks.
Jessica rushes up and says she knew Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to stay away from the sixth grade for long. Elizabeth tells her that she’s staying in the seventh grade, but she’s going to stop trying to be something she’s not, even if that means no one will talk to her.
Jessica is devastated, of course, and Elizabeth reassures her that they’ll still be friends and close and sisters, etc. Elizabeth spends a little time wishing she could go back, though, because she misses her friends and her sister.
Everyone leaves for the campout after school, and Elizabeth, dejected, makes her way home.
Alice asks her to come on an errand when she gets home, and Elizabeth hopes for a distraction but can’t stop thinking about the campout and all the fun they’re having. She hopes Alice doesn’t notice her crying, and probably she wouldn’t in her haze of gin, but I have a feeling there’s going to be some surprisingly useful parenting going on here.
They drive a long time until, sure enough, Elizabeth arrives at the campsite where her classmates are waiting. Alice tells her welcome back to the sixth grade. Elizabeth rushes to her friends and then Alice, Mr Bowman, and Mrs Arnette come talk to them.
They tell her that her teachers are pleased with her work and this isn’t a punishment, but she’s horrified that she did something wrong. They tell her she’s not ready socially, though; Mr Bowman overheard her saying she wished she could go on the trip and reached out to Alice. So, uh, nothing about that whole scene in the cafeteria that we know you were watching because Elizabeth flat out mentions you. Nothing about that, huh. Okay then.
All the adults apologise for not giving enough thought to how difficult the transition would be, and SVMS needs to be burned to the ground.
So she’s a sixth grader again, she loses all those classes she loves, Elizabeth and Amy are going to be co-editors-in-chief, and everything but that is back to exactly the way it was before this book so what was the goddamn point.
We get a hint of what’s to come when Jessica and Aaron meet up Monday morning and he tells her about a guest teacher they’re having in social studies, a guy who is a friend of Aaron’s grandfather and who is going to teach them a game … wait a fucking minute here.
*double checks next book*
THAT’S NOT A FUCKING GAME.
[Dove: For those that don’t know what’s coming next… it’s called “It Can’t Happen Here”. Yes. Yeah, no, it really does mean what you think.] [Raven: Jesus fucking tap-dancing Christ. “First they came for the Boosters, and I did not speak out…”]
This book is pointless. It had some moments that were interesting, and I did end up more sympathetic toward Elizabeth than I ever expected, but the adults were bullshit throughout and the entire premise doesn’t make any fucking sense in the timeline.
I am still surprised that Jessica got away with spending so much time with Amy, Maria, and Todd and abandoning the Unicorns for so long. That doesn’t reflect well on the Unicorns, and I have zero doubt that they should have been giving her all sorts of shit over it.
God, SVMS teachers suck. I feel slightly less animosity toward Alice and Ned, but they, too, should have thought this through more than they did. Who the fuck would think it was a good idea to move a student up in the middle of the year, in the middle of the damn semester? Who then thinks it’s a good idea to put her back down without even talking to her about it?!
What the fuck, Sweet Valley. What. the. Fuck.
[Dove: I didn’t hate it, although I wanted to flip tables over how many sixth graders were referred to as seventh. I can let Helen Bradley and Kerry Glenn slide, but Tom McKay? His brother being in seventh grade was the A-plot in a previous book. I actually didn’t hate Elizabeth as much as I usually do. In fact, everyone was well-written. Mary is probably the only seventh grader with a soul.]
[Raven: I properly hated this, for a couple of reasons…
The first is the obvious one: my GOD this school is a motherfucking shitstorm. They treated Elizabeth absolutely terribly, on all metrics. I get it that a book in an ongoing episodic series needs to start and end in the same place, but letting Elizabeth skip a grade for ONE WEEK before rescinding the invitation is horrible at best, and abuse at worst. Poor Elizabeth is plastered with extra work, so much so that she’s neglecting sleep, and the staff don’t even notice. And then, when she actually gets through her crisis of confidence regarding the social ettiquete of seventh grade and stands up for herself in the canteen (over the Kiss Bruce debacle), they deduce that Elizabeth can’t cope with the social pressure, so she can get to fuck back to the sixth grade, exceptional schoolwork be damned. So much fucking bullshit.
The second reason I hate this book is because of Jessica’s terrible treatment of her sister. This one’s a bit more nuanced, because I know Jessica’s a sociopath and I usually think that’s great… but this time, Elizabeth is excited about her new challenge and opportunity, and Jessica’s jealousy has her treating her trusting sister like a fucking beanbag. It really felt like Cartman bullying Butters (a la South Park), which is, again, amazing in South Park but not what I’d expect from Sweet Valley. When Jessica is usually a self-centered bitch it’s against someone who fights back a bit, or it at least leads to atonement and a realisation that she’s being terrible, even if that self-reflection doesn’t last until the following book. But this felt like gaslighting, and just being mean, and Jess properly screwing with Elizabeth’s life just because she wanted to go to Tom McKay’s party. They’re supposed to be best friends, but this just felt horrible.
Oh, and there was no Lila or Unicorn action, so fuck the book, and fuck the Ghostie.]