Title: Jessica’s Cookie Disaster
Tagline: What’s the secret ingredient?
Summary: Jessica Wakefield, baker to the stars…
Jessica Wakefield is a wonderful baker! At least, that’s what her home economics teacher thinks when she tastes the cookies Jessica baked at school. They’re so good, the teacher submits a batch to the producer of the television talk show, Lifestyles of the French and Famous. And now the producer has invited Jessica to appear on the show with four hundred of her delicious cookies for the studio audience!
Jessica is thrilled. She and her friends in the exclusive Unicorn Club get to work baking cookies. But there’s one big problem: Jessica can’t remember the secret ingredient that made her recipe so amazing! And the harder the Unicorns try to follow the recipe, the worse the cookies taste. Will Jessica have to appear on national television with four hundred of the worst cookies ever baked?
“Okay, time to write another recap! Let’s check out what books I have coming up…”
*checks upcoming schedule*
“Next month I have Deadly Voyage! Wow, that sounds great! After that, there’s The Twins Take Paris… how cool! Then there’s Elizabeth the Spy. Exciting! Then we have The Beast Must Die! Amazing, a great set of cool-sounding yarns on the horizon… … … So, what do we have this week?”
*reads book title*
“Jessica’s. Cookie. Disaster.”
*gets up, leaves house, drives to coast, throws book in the fucking sea*
[Dove: I would like to disclaim that Raven did not physically leave the house. He has not left the house for over two weeks. We are taking lockdown seriously. Though I’m pretty sure he imagined it heavily. And the alternative covers will be back, as soon as I get creative again. At the moment I’m managing my anxiety with digital filing (I’m Konmari-ing my Sims 2 downloads folder), and creativity is not an option. Apologies. I hate these crappy covers as much as you guys do. More. Definitely more.]
[Wing: I really want to bake cookies now.]
It’s fair to say, based on the title, that I was not looking forward to this one. I’m all for small tales of normal people, but this? Those three words are the very definition of “phoning it in”. Off the back of a book called The Secret of the Magic Pen, it’s not exactly an auspicious omen for greatness. Books about pens, cookies… what next, Lois’s New Fridge?
[Wing: Now hold the fucking phone, The Secret of the Magic Pen was a goddamn delight. Except the ending. Which was shit.]
So, did I enjoy it? Read on to find out!
We start with quite an odd scene: Jessica using a calculator. Hell, why not? It’s Monday, it’s after school, and apparently it’s Opposite Day. Whatever next, Elizabeth wearing purple and stabbing a bitch?
Apparently, this sudden bout of spontaneous arithmetic is due to Jessica being on the edge of making the middle school Honor Roll. After a fluked A on a history test, she needs a small bump to achieve fleeting academic greatness.
What the fuck is the Honour Roll?
Seriously, I’ve literally no clue, outside the obvious contextual inference.
Wing, can you do the honours? HAH! [Dove: I’m aware of its existence, and assumed that if Sweet Valley had one, Elizabeth would be on it. But really, we’re 105 books in and this is the first we’ve heard of it? I bet Wing was on it. She’s dead clever.] [Wing: Grades above a specific grade point. After high school, it was called the Dean’s List where I went to school, and it was only figured once a semester. I don’t remember how high school worked specifically, but I would be surprised if it was monthly and not also by the semester. And yes, at least through undergrad, I did make the list.]
As Jessica works through the numbers, we skip into the usual gubbins about the twins being the same but different. This time, however, it seems… the same, but different. How ironic.
It contains the usual elements that are obviously contractual, like the dimple and the blue-green eyes and such, but it seems a little more natural, a little less tacked on. Rather than being filler, it actually goes towards setting out some explicit characteristics for the story ahead.
For example, the Jessica section tells us that our psychotic heroine longs to be seen as more than just a pretty face.
Amazing grades. Jessica wanted to be respected for her brains on top of everything else. Being on the honor roll would do that.
And the Elizabeth section has a few gems of its own:
Now that they were getting older, Jessica was used to being thought of as the stylish twin, the one with fabulous fashion flair, the exciting, unpredictable one. And Elizabeth… well, people thought of Elizabeth as the smart one, the one who did well in school, the reliable one.
In some ways, Jessica thought, people seemed to take Elizabeth more seriously. They listened when she talked, they asked her advice, they trusted her.
See what I mean? Same information, but somehow different. It seems more pertinent, weirdly. Nice.
[Wing: It is presented in a much more interesting way, but I’m not sure I can get behind this whole Jessica cares about the honor roll thing.]
We cut to Elizabeth, who enters the kitchen an immediately sasses her sister about Jessica’s use of a calculator. Repeatedly. And quite humorously.
Liz soon discovers that Jessica is on the verge of Honor Roll greatness. She is surprised.
Elizabeth examined Jessica’s grade list. It was amazing, it was unbelievable, but there it was. It had probably been the A in P.E. that had really pulled her up.
Hah! Nice touch.
Elizabeth is pleased for her sister, and they eat Mallomars together in triumph.
We don’t have Mallomars in the UK. I just googled them as I wasn’t sure what they were.
Turns out? Mallomars are just Tunnock’s Teacakes.
Gotta love a Tunnock’s Teacake.
Jess vows to improve to the requisite level by concentrating on something easy, rather than a stinker of a subject like English. Fair dos, I guess.
After a shot bout of idle daydreaming over the social benefits of making the Honor Role, [Wing: WHAT SOCIAL BENEFITS? In Sweet Valley, there would be pretty much none. Only Elizabeth really gets away with being smart without being the target of the Unicorns.] Jess heads to the family room. She’s looking to check out her new favourite show, Lifestyles of the French and Famous. Apparently, it’s a cooking show by someone called Chef Crepe, in which Jessica’s favourite C-List celebs mug in front of a video that includes a chateau. Wow, sounds positively thrilling.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth has beaten her to the TV. The matriarch of Team Boring is watching an interview with her favourite mystery author, Amanda Howard.
Cue a long-winded argument over who should watch what.
Weirdly, despite Jessica’s insistence that Elizabeth should cede control of the remote to the most dangerous twin, Elizabeth actually has a spine this week. She stands her ground in the face of what is an amusing onslaught of wheedling and faulty logic. Gotta say, I side with Elizabeth here. Sorry Jess, but your more pious half was there first.
We learn that neither of them can merely decamp to the backup TV in their parents’ room, as it’s in the shop for repairs after Steven spilt a can of soda down the back of it. P’sheah, right. It’s in the shop because it has been gummed up with jizz after Steven watched one of his specialist videos. [Dove: I’m blaming the swingers party Alice and Ned hold every first Friday of the month. Also, why not record the interview? I’m sure I’d want watch it again. Then again, I was one of those people who asked for blank VHS tapes for Christmas/birthdays.] [Raven: Heh yes. Rewatch value is a real thing.]
The girls fight and bicker and channel-flick from one to the other, each demanding that the other lay down their protests and acquiesce.
Once she realises the star of today’s episode of LotFaF is the Days of Turmoil hunk Jean Voilan, Jessica is exquisitely Jessica:
“How can you say that little old lady is more important than Jean Voilan! Didn’t you see him rescue Skyler from that burning building just last week?”
And on the obverse, Elizabeth is perfectly Elizabeth:
Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. “Earth to Jessica,” she said sarcastically. “He’s an actor. It was a fake burning building on a soap opera. And I can’t believe you’d rather watch a stupid cooking show than an important literary program. Maybe you’re not ready for the honor roll after all.”
Loving it so far… but why the girls don’t agree to watch Programme A and tape Programme B on the video recorder? They just had a book in which this very feature was pretty much front and centre.
Tempers flare, tensions raise, and pillows are brandished. After a brief scrap, Liz hides behind the couch.
Quickly, Jessica put the remote in her mouth so both hands would be free. Leaning over, she picked up the pillow Elizabeth had hit her with.
“Kuhm aw out,” she said. “Fie lie uh man.”
Elizabeth crouched lower behind the couch, her face contorted angrily. “Go jump!” she cried.
“Now we break for the commercial,” Chef Crêpe said reluctantly. “When we come back—soufflé city!”
Also… soufflé city! Brock Lesnar, eat your heart out!
Suddenly, a wild Steven appears! He’s super creepy!
[Wing: I mean, they’re basically having a pillow fight. His Jessica alarm went off.]
He takes the remote from Jessica’s mouth, flops on the couch, and starts watching baseball.
“Steven!” both twins wailed. “We were watching TV!”
“No you weren’t,” he said in a bored voice. “You were fighting with the sofa cushions.”
Man’s got a point, right there.
The girls put up a token physical resistance, but they are no match for their big brother.
Jessica’s fingernails dug into the sofa cushion, but she had to admit defeat. She knew her older brother was all too capable of holding her down and giving her noogies on her head until she gave in.
We end the chapter with Steven watching TV as the girls storm away, still at loggerheads.
Gotta say, that chapter was rollicking good fun!
A lot better than I expected, given the awful title.
Of course, we’re not got anywhere near a disaster as yet, be it cookie-based or otherwise.
Jury’s still out, but at least the judge is smiling.
We skip to the following day.
“Be careful!” Jessica hissed as Elizabeth brushed past her in home ec class.
Aha! Home Economics class. Surely this will be both the “easy” class for Jessica’s Honor Roll push and the staging area for the titular Cookie Disaster. And lo, the twins are still at war. That’s always fun, no joke.
From an adjacent cooking station, Lila asks Jess how she liked the Jean Voilan episode of Lifestyles of the French and Famous. Jess spat that she missed it, and Lila asks how on earth that could happen.
“Ask my pigheaded sister,” Jessica said. “She insisted on watching some stupid interview instead, and while we were arguing about it, Steven came in and stole the remote.” The very memory made Jessica feel angry all over again.
“Well, why didn’t you guys just tape one show while you were watching the other? Doesn’t your VCR do that?”
*golf clap* Bravo, Ghostie! Nicely done. Both Jess and the eavesdropping Liz are suitably embarrassed that they didn’t think of the obvious solution, due to the red mist descending all too quickly. [Wing: So fucking believable and relatable, too, losing logic to the anger.]
Attentions turn to cookery teacher Mrs Gerhart, handing out a recipe for the day’s lesson.
“Now, on this sheet you’ll find a basic sugar-cookie recipe,” the teacher was saying. “You’ll split up into your usual cooking teams, and each team is responsible for one batch of cookies. I’ve put out all sorts of spices, flavorings, and decorations so that you can personalize your cookies. You’ll be judged on how well you follow instructions, your technique, your presentation, and the final result. The team with the best cookies at the end of class will get a ten-point extra credit.”
Hmm. Okay. Sounds like a decent lesson plan for once. Maybe Mrs Gerhart is new, and as such is yet to have her spirit broken by the faculty. As SVT historian, I’m sure Dove will chip in and mention if we’ve seen her before. Dove? [Dove: *sighs* You actually killed her off in or drafted outline of our EPIC Sweet Valley/Supernatural crossover. You know who she is. I only do this for Wing… But, I guess in case Wing’s curious, yeah, she’s been there from the beginning.] [Wing: In a delightful twist, I knew she’d been around before.]
Sure enough, the promise of extra credit makes Jessica’s nethers wobble. Just what she needs to make the Honor Roll. Even though she’s no Home Ec Savant, she starts daydreaming of hitting a homer and becoming an eighth-grade valedictorian (is that even a thing?). [Wing: Depends. If it’s the kind of school that has an eighth-grade graduation, then probably.]
The problem? She is paired with Elizabeth on this one, and they are both at each other’s throats.
Sullenly, she queues for ingredients, while the other kids discuss their cookie designs.
“Let’s cut ours in circles and decorate them like basketballs,” Todd Wilkins was saying to his partner, Aaron Dallas.
Aaron nodded eagerly. “Cool. We can make stripes out of black licorice.”
“I’m going to add special flavoring to ours,” Lila was telling Ellen Riteman, another member of the Unicorn Club. “We can base it on a cookie I had in Italy once. They call cookies biscotti over there.”
Again, some lovely characterisation. I think I actually like this book. Nice!
Elizabeth and Jessica continue to bicker, until Elizabeth finally sets the plot in motion with the following:
“Make your own cookies all by yourself. That’ll be a laugh. I just hope Mrs. Gerhart doesn’t mind your wasting all the ingredients.”
Jessica is up for the challenge. Except… she’s no fucking clue what she’s doing.
Step 1. Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
Frowning, Jessica reread her list of ingredients. Cream wasn’t listed anywhere. How the heck could she get cream out of butter and sugar?
After a brief interlude in which Lila scolds Ellen for eating raw cookie dough (hah!), [Wing: Adorable detail, but damn, Ellen, at least hold out for good raw cookie dough. Chocolate chips or bust!] Jessica decides to copy whatever her sister is doing. Elizabeth is much more homely, after all. Unfortunately for Jess, she dithers and dallies until the prep time is almost over. In a panic, she flash-dumps all the dry ingredients, mushes a stick of butter into the eggs, and fills up a cup of sugar before turning briskly to ask Elizabeth for some advice.
Jessica and Elizabeth inadvertently collide, and Liz is covered with sugar.
Shit hits the fan. In her haste to apologise. Jess smears butter and eggy goop into the sugar on Elizabeth’s blouse. PG expletives start streaming from the mouths of both participants, in an escalating verbal spat that culminates in Jessica calling her sainted sister a bossy witch. I for one applaud this.
“Jessica!” said Mrs. Gerhart.
Startled, Jessica whirled, and her wooden spoon knocked a bunch of flavorings into her mixing bowl.
So THAT’S the disaster… cookies filled with mystery ingredients that will, undoubtedly, taste amazing. Excellent!
Jessica makes a final effort to roll this turd in glitter by adding red and blue dye, before dolloping the cookie dough on a baking sheet. As she does so, Todd and Liz flirt outrageously. Apparently, Liz has added a touch of orange to her cookie mixture, the brazen HUSSY.
The cookies are duly baked in the four large Home Ec ovens. I hope Jess is taking stock of these ovens, because they may come in useful once the Mercandy Back Yard is finally full. [Dove: Have you seen how much space rich Americans get with their gigantic houses? Even Jessica can’t kill that many people. (Yes, I know the Mercandys are poor now, but the house is on the same street as Lila and Janet, and the house is big enough to be scary, so it was once a lovely mansion.)] [Wing: I can’t believe you’re underestimating Jessica so.]
When the cookies come out of the oven, there’s a little detail on the rest of the class.
- Maria Slater and Julie Porter used too much sugar, and their dollops of cookie dough had shifted to form one huge, thin cookie. [Wing: Is THAT what causes it? I thought I’d just put the cookies too close together. I’ll have to confirm this with Mister Sister Canary, who makes the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had.]
- Lila and Ellen’s anise-tinged biscotti are a hit. [Wing: Gross. G R O S S. In case you are not aware, dear readers, anise tastes like black licorice and is therefor disgusting. ALSO, I’m not sure I believe they got to biscotti with the setup they had, especially the twice baked part.]
- Randy Mason and Caroline Pearce made good-looking cookies that taste like a dog’s ass.
- Elizabeth’s cookies were nice. Well done Elizabeth.
Finally, Mrs Gerhart gets to Jessica’s lavender (almost mauve) delicacies.
The home ec teacher scooped up one cookie and gingerly took a bite.
Lila, Sophia, and Aaron leaned forward with anticipation. Randy Mason got a glass of water ready. Jim Sturbridge pulled the trash can closer.
Mrs. Gerhart blinked.
She took another bite.
Finally, Mrs. Gerhart swallowed and peered at the lavender cookie in her hand.
“This is absolutely delicious!” she announced.
Nice work, Ghostie! That built well, to the obvious payoff.
Jessica is as surprised as everyone else, but mugs spectacularly. When Mrs Gerhart asks for the special ingredient that tips the cookies over the edge, Jessica tells her that it’s a secret. Mrs Gerhart proclaims that Jessica wins the cookie contest. Ten points to Slytherin!
Other classmates take a cookie, and each is impressed. Lila tries to style out a “well, they’re okay I guess”, but it’s unsuccessful. By the time she and Elizabeth taste her handiwork, Jessica has rationalised that she’s the best damn chef that’s ever cheffed. Never change, Jessica.
But the plaudits aren’t over just yet. Mrs Gerhart has another special surprise…
“Listen, Jessica,” she said in a low voice. “A friend of mine, Antoinette Maresca, has a cooking show on television. She’s always looking for new talent. Would you mind if I submitted your cookies to her?”
Jessica jumps at the chance, and if you have to ask why then you’ve really not been paying attention for the past ninety-odd books. The show?
Lifestyles of the French and Famous.
So, Jess has a chance to take her mauve cookies onto her favourite show, despite
- Not being French,
- Not being famous,
- Her cookies not being French, and
- Her cookies not being fucking famous.
It seems that everything is coming up Milhouse for Jessica. That evening, back at the Wakefield Compound, a gleeful Jess tells the Elder Wakefields of her academic success. They are both over the fucking moon. In fact, Papa Wakefield is so blindsided by this titbit that he puts his foot right in it…
Mr. Wakefield came over and gave Jessica a hug. “That’s terrific, honey,” he said. “Gee, a daughter on the honor roll. I’m really proud of you.”
Elizabeth blinked. She was always on the honor roll. Had he forgotten that? Now he had two daughters on the honor roll. Jessica was second.
The Elders gush and froth over Jessica, and promise a celebratory meal at a restaurant of Jessica’s choice (she chooses something impossibly posh and French, naturally), while Elizabeth mopes and seethes in the background. So there’s the sub-plot… Elizabeth is jealous.
To be honest, I get her point. Way to go there, Elder Wakefields. Bad parenting all round.
Elizabeth also hits the nail on the head with this perceptive thought:
The thing is, I’m on the honor roll because I study a lot and take school seriously. Jessica’s on the honor roll because she baked some great cookies by mistake. It seemed unequal somehow.
[Dove: This is starting to become less out of the ordinary for me but… I agree with Elizabeth here. Her parents are asshats.] [Wing: Hard agree. I know this is kind of a typical sitcom plot, when the less scholastically driven child makes a great scholastic achievement, the more scholastically driven child feels overlooked, but it is such shit parenting. Yes, sure, this is great, but just because Elizabeth does it more often doesn’t mean it’s not still an important thing when she does it, too.]
Elizabeth finally shakes it off and promises herself she’ll be happy for Jessica. After all, she knows it won’t last.
Next morning at school, accompanied by Liz and Lila. Jessica is approached by Mrs Gerhart. Apparently, Lifestyles of the French and Famous are keen to feature Jessica and her cookies on the show. She’ll be interviewed by Chef Crepe, and has to provide four hundred cookies for the studio audience.
First up, there’s the disaster… Jessica doesn’t know how to make the secret ingredients for these damn cookies. And second, four-fucking-hundred sugar cookies?! Seriously, thank fuck Jess didn’t make a croquembouche. It’d be a croquempocalypse.
[Wing: Wait, they just trust guests to come in and feed their studio audience food without ensuring it is, you know, made in sanitary conditions or made correctly at all or not poisoned? Damn.]
Elizabeth is happy for her sister. Lila sees the situation for what it is… an opportunity for the Unicorns. She calls a meeting that afternoon after school.
Later that day, Elizabeth is in science class with her best friend, Lank Haired Spunkwaffle Amy Sutton. Amy posits the theory that someone should interview Jessica for the Sweet Valley Sixers before her triumphant TV appearance, while the science teacher Mr Hillsboro (who the fuck is this prick? [Dove: We Brits would have remembered someone called Hillsboro, even if it’s spelled wrong. He’s new. What happened to Mr Siegel?]) tells Elizabeth that she must be very proud of her Honor Rolling lookalike.
[Wing: Why the fuck are the teachers talking about this to Elizabeth? I know teachers do compare students to their siblings, especially younger siblings to their older siblings, but goddamn, this seems inappropriate.]
Despite her mounting jealousy, Elizabeth agrees to do the interview. As she should seeing as she runs the damn paper.
BAM! We’re at the Unicorner at lunchtime, and Lila informs her collected bredren of the meeting later that afternoon. She tries to be centre of attention, but Janet muscles in. Eventuially, of course, all eyes turn to Jessica. She’s the hot ticket, after all.
Caroline Pearce tries to get the gossip about her upcoming television appearance, and then Bruce Patman wades in with his size nine loafers and scoffs at the whole affair. Nice to see he’s being a jeb-end still. Gotta love continuity.
Jessica puts him back in his box pretty sharpish, before he asks the Unicorns what their angle is in this mauve cookie debacle.
“Well, you see, Bruce,” Lila cut in, putting a restraining hand on Janet’s arm, “we wanted the Unicorns to have a signature cookie—like a designer cookie. We’re thinking of calling them ‘Unicookies.’ Like all Unicorn endeavors, it’s a smashing success.” She settled back in her chair, a smug expression on her face.
As Bruce wanders off, Jessica is confused at this talk of “Unicookies.” It astounds me that Jess is on the Honor Roll when she has so much difficulty putting two and two together.
Lila bustles away before she can be questioned further.
Skipping to the sub plot, we see Elizabeth talking to Mr Bowman about the upcoming interview with her sister. Mr Bowman turns talk to Jessica’s addition to the Honor Roll, and asks if Elizabeth had considered trying out for the Principal’s List.
WTF, America? You’re just making shit up now.
What’s after the Principal’s List? The Mayor’s Notebook? The Senator’s Scroll? The Presidential Declaration? The Supreme Leader’s Heiroglyhics? God’s Post-It?
[Wing: Okay, the principal’s list is a new one for me.]
A-pluses in everything gets you on the Principal’s List. Liz vows to consider it. And after a short scene in which Amy convinces her it’d be a possibility, she decides to go for it.
“Pass the chips, please,” Tamara Chase asked Jessica.
“FUCK YOU, TAMARA CHASE,” said Jessica.
[Dove: *blinks* I don’t believe that’s a real quote in the book.] [Raven: … You might be correct in that belief.]
It’s after school, and we’re at Fowler Crest. The Unimeeting is in full purple swing. They surround the pool, eating cookies and weirdly piling on some praise to Jessica. Admirably, she smells the proverbial rat. It soon becomes apparent as to why.
“OK, then,” Janet continued. “Let’s talk about Unicookies.”
“Unicookies?” Jessica asked suspiciously, bristling at that word for the second time that day.
“Let’s face it, Jessica,” Lila said, sitting on a lounge chair. “These cookies of yours could be the best thing that ever happened to the Unicorns.”
Yay! Jessica’s cooking skills can reflect well on the Unicorns! [Dove: The best thing? But what about when the mayor came to their party? Or, despite all karma, Donny Diamond showed up to the school dance?]
Jess puts up a token resistance, trying to keep the cookies entirely her domain, but the Purple Pointy Pre-teen Borg are having none of it. The Unicorns are Legion. You will be assimilated.
Lila and Ellen pile on the pressure for Jess to basically hand over the rights to her cookies to the Unicorns. Apparently, it will make everyone doubly famous if the cookies are in the domain of a sixth grade middle school clique. This is patently ludicrous, but so on brand that I love it to pieces.
Apparently, Dove takes umbrage with the following passage, attributed to Ellen:
“Look at it this way,” Ellen Riteman broke in. “Either the cookies are the brainstorm of one sixth-grade girl—in which case maybe they’re just a fluke—or they could be yet another huge success in a long line of huge successes of the famous Unicorn Club. We’re already the most important, most powerful girls at Sweet Valley Middle School. These cookies could make us invincible. And if the Unicorn Club is invincible, and you’re a member of the Unicorn Club… you’d be twice as important. Don’t you see?”
Me? I like it. I understand that our Ellen is fanonically as thick as a pornstar’s cock, but even a stopped clock (cock) is right twice a day. And she was eating uncooked cookie batter earlier, so I call it a push.
[Dove: As if Ellen knows the word “fluke”. She probably thinks it’s a type of hair clip. Then again, the Jamies and probably Francine herself take umbrage to the way I pronounce Ellen’s surname “Reetman” instead of “Riteman”.] [Wing: I liked Ellen here. She’s still been her ridiculous self in this book but also gets to be a bit on point, at least when it comes to this ridiculous false Unicorn logic.]
To seal the deal, Unicorn President Janet Howell dangles the purpliest of carrots.
“There are some other considerations,” Janet said importantly. “For example, your own standing within the Unicorn Club. It would sure go up. And as you know, I’m going to be at Sweet Valley High next year. The Unicorns will need a new president.”
Nice work, you manipulative witch. And once they sweeten the deal with an offer of help to make the four hundred cookies, Jessica is done. As long as she’s the one to be interviewed by Chef Crepe, and as long as she can personally sign every box (wonderful detail!), then the Unicookies are a go!
One the contract is signed, the immediate next question? What’s the secret ingredient of the Unicookies?
Jessica doesn’t know.
The girls offer some intelligent ideas. Pecans, fruit extract, vanilla. Jessica vamps, and does what Jessica does best: she ignores the problem and pushes it down the road.
There was really nothing to worry about. She’d be able to come up with the secret ingredients, no problem. After all, the whole Unicorn Club was helping her, and the TV show wasn’t until the following Tuesday. There was plenty of time to figure out the recipe and make the cookies.
She sets a cooking date the following afternoon, and we’re done!
Later that night, Jess scours her mother’s cook books for sugar cookie recipes. She finds a few, which I’m surprised aren’t all “add one cupful of gin to the mix before baking”. Unfortunately, while the had a few ideas such as ginger or cinnamon, there was nothing inspirational in any of them.
She had no idea whether she had used spices or not, or what they had been. Vaguely, she remembered some sort of pale liquid running through the batter. What could it have been?
Pale liquid? Hmm…
I’ll leave you to make your own jokes here.
It’s looking like it might be tricky for Jessica to bottle this particular lightning again.
We move onto Elizabeth’s onerous task… she’s girding her loins to interview her Honor Rolling Cookie Cooking sibling.
As you can guess, Jessica is tremendous during the interview. She bats away every question with some artistic inspiration bollocks, real gems such as the below:
“We artist/geniuses have to get in touch with our innermost feelings, constantly searching for that spark of life, that lightning bolt of inspiration that pushes the average cookie into being a transcendent cookie.”
Elizabeth nods sagely along, but is secretly rolling her eyes.
Golly, Jess. We’re talking about cookies here, not the cure for cancer, Elizabeth thought with surprise. And it’s not like they’re going to take your cookies and display them in the Sweet Valley Fine Art Museum.
Proper sassy, that. I do love it when the twins are in disagreement.
Eventually, Elizabeth wraps it up and leaves, promising to print it on the front page in the upcoming issue “if it’s a slow news week” (hah!). Once out of the room, however, she realises that she’s not questioned Jess about the four hundred cookies required for her TV appearance. She pops her head back in, to find Jessica deep in a cookery book.
Frowning, Elizabeth quietly shut the door again, her question forgotten. What was Jessica doing with the Julia Crumpet Baking Book? Elizabeth had the suspicion that Jessica’s fame might already be starting to unravel.
Okay, so that’s totally on the money, but come on! This could also be a pure example of Jessica’s Fave New Hobby. If Jess had actually discovered a flair for cookie baking, she would FOR SURE immerse herself in it to the hilt, for the beginning at least. Elizabeth is just being mean here.
It’s tomorrow! We’re in the Wakefield Kitchen, and the baking is about to commence. Jessica, still stalling for time on the Secret Ingredient Reveal, decides to run over a few basics.
The Unicorns should wear official outfits (or Uniforms, lol).
The Unicookies should come in special boxes, with white or purple doilies.
The Uniboxes should be sealed with a purple sticker, and signed by Jessica.
Eventually, Janet decrees that it’s time to get down to business.
“Look, I guess it all sounds OK,” Janet said finally. “But, Jessica, and this is a big but, first we have to have these fabulous cookies to go in the fancy boxes with the doilies and the stickers and the big writing. Now, it’s already Thursday. We have to have four hundred cookies by Tuesday. I say we get started baking right away. We can make three batches a day and freeze them. By Tuesday we should have all the cookies we need.”
With the timeline established, Jessica hands out the recipe sheets… none of which contain the secret ingredient. The Unicorns are confused, naturally.
“What about the secret ingredient?” Lila asked.
Jessica paused. The stupid secret ingredient. Well, there was nothing else she could do. She would just have to wing it. Fortunately, since she was so smart, it should be easy.
As the Unicorns are divided into three teams, Jessica decrees that each team will create a plain batch of cookies, which will allow Jessica to swan past them and administer the secret ingredient. The Unicorns don’t like it, but they have to go along with it.
The batter is soon ready.
Janet slapped Ellen’s hand away from their batch. “Leave it alone,” she cried. “You’ve already eaten half of it.”
“I’m sorry,” Ellen said in a small voice. “Raw cookie dough is my weakness.”
Eventually, Jessica adds the following three “secret” ingredients to the first batch:
- Pineapple flavouring.
- Liquorice essence.
Wow. I mean, WOW. That’s some strong and hideous shit right there. I don’t know why Jessica didn’t at least think “well, they tasted a bit nutty, so let’s try pecans” or something. [Dove: That irritated me. We never got a description beyond “delicious”, so we were even more clueless than Jessica about what she was trying to achieve. I… don’t like it when data is not available to me. It’s a job thing. And a me thing.] [Wing: Liquorice essence is going to be quite a bit like those anise biscotti Ellen and Lila made last time, and like I said then, G R O S S. Pineapple and ginger wouldn’t be too bad a combo, though.]
The girls bake the cookies while watching The Lifestyles of the French and Famous. Eventually, the cookies are ready, and eagerly sampled by the majority of the assembled throng.
They look like shit. [Wing: I’ll give her this one. It’s hard to get the colour mix just right.]
They smell like shit.
And yes, they taste like shit too.
Eight Unicorns gag, spitting the remnants out into the sink. Tamara Chase declares that it is the most disgusting cookie she’s ever tasted.
“Don’t even call it a cookie,” Lila begged, fanning her mouth with her hand. “You’ll depress all the other cookies in the world. Cookies that are worthy of the name.”
Another zinger from Lila. Loving this book so far.
So the secret ingredients are NOT Pineapple, Liquorice and Ginger.
Jess mumbles that she must’ve misread the secret ingredients. Janet motions towards the two remaining virgin cookie dough batches, and Jess scours the rest of the potential spices and flavourings. She struggles, and the Unicorns begin to devour her for her ineptitude. Luckily for Jessica, Elizabeth appears.
Liz enquires to the problem. Janet piles onto Jessica and outlines their predicament. This all proves to much for one Unicorn…
Tamara Chase angrily grabbed her backpack and her purse. “I have to get home—I’m late already. All I can say is, you better get it together, Jessica.” She stomped out of the kitchen and slammed the front door behind her.
YAY! TAMARA CHASE ACTUALLY FUCKED OFF! *flailgasm*
Elizabeth, ever the mediator, refills the Unicorns’ juice glasses and attempts to apply balm to the troubled waters (or something). After Mandy outlines the problem – that Jess won’t tell them the secret ingredient – Elizabeth gets Jessica to confess the true issue – that she can’t remember what she added to the original cookie mix.
The Unicorns. ARE. NOT. PLEASED.
Again, Elizabeth does her part to calm things. She convinces the Unicorns that, with four days of experimentation left to them, they could surely crack the cookie code and make four hundred slices of heaven. Intelligently, she plays to their vanity.
“I’m sure if you all work together, you’ll pull it off. Aren’t you always saying that the Unicorns can do anything?”
I mean, what the hell can they say to that? They’ve lived that rhetoric for ninety books, and they aren’t about to change course today. With a huzzah and harrumph and a pre-teen ‘Murica, they set sail to nail this motherfucker to the goddamn wall. They all agree to meet the following afternoon at Fowler Crest.
Wait, did the Unicorns just abandon the other batches of unsullied cookie dough?
The chapter ends with Alice demanding that Jessica clean up the decimated kitchen, once the Unicorns have departed. Jessica tries to wheedle out of it by blaming the Unicorns, to no avail.
“Looks like the Unicorns are gone,” Mrs. Wakefield said severely, cutting her off. “So you’ll have to clean this all up by yourself.”
“Me?” Jessica squeaked. “By myself? I only made one-ninth of the mess.”
Hah! Nice try, Jess. This Ghostie is nailing the characterisation on every level (bar the Ellen misstep based on our fanon theories).
Chapter Seven starts with Liz brushing up on her History on Thursday evening, in case there is a pop quiz at school the following morning. Looks like she’s taking this Principal’s List thing seriously, yo. Sure enough, the following day, there IS a pop quiz in History. Unfortunately for Liz, her concentration on History study made her plum forget all about the upcoming algebra test that afternoon. Nice to see Little Miss Perfect not being quite as perfect as she would appear.
[Wing: Two brief rants about the pop quiz. (1) There is no way that a pop quiz has essay questions like she claims, and the one question they show us is not a goddamn essay question, Wakefield. (2) The Nineteenth Amendment did not give women the right to vote. In practice, it gave white women the right to vote. Teen Vogue has a nice high-level summary of this topic. Also, if you would have told me ten years ago that Teen Vogue was going to do better political commentary than many of the so-called political analyst publications in the USA, I would not have believed you, and I would have been goddamn wrong.]
On the way home from school that afternoon, Jessica bemoans her tortuous plight to a weary Elizabeth. Again, there is sass in this exchange, which is lovely. Then there’s this gem:
“Don’t worry, Jess,” Elizabeth said to soothe her. “I’m sure the Unicorns will help you figure out the recipe. And if worse comes to worst, and you can’t duplicate them exactly, just dye regular sugar cookies purple and show up anyway.”
Way to go, Elizabeth! Excellent work. Now you’re thinking like your sister!
Jessica claims she can’t do anything so duplicitous. Man, now I’m thinking this is a body swap book. Liz is Jess, Jess is Liz, Steven is a pervert, cats and dogs living together. [Wing: She did eventually come clean about that whole disaster pineapple recipe.]
Eventually, Jessica Womans Up and cracks on.
“After all, I’m Jessica Wakefield,” Jessica said. … “I’m a Unicorn. I’m on the honor roll, starting Monday. I baked the most fabulous cookies the world has ever seen. What am I moaning about?”
Attagirl, Jess! Keeping it positive, despite all the available evidence.
Jess heads off to Lila’s house with a spring in her step.
In the kitchen at Folwer Crest, Janet takes charge. As Jessica hasn’t a clue on how to make Unicookies, Janet highlights the problem. For those following at home, here’s the precis:
“We know that they’re mostly a basic sugar-cookie recipe with a few secret ingredients,” Janet said, gesturing to the piles of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs waiting on one counter. “We know the ingredients were present during home ec class, so it’s not anything totally bizarre that only Jessica could know about. And finally, we know that we have to duplicate Jessica’s first batch of cookies if we want to be on Lifestyles of the French and Famous. Any questions?”
They prepare three batches of cookie dough, to which they add the following:
Batch 1: Cinnamon, Orange, Mint.
Batch 2: Vanilla, Root Beer, Nutmeg.
Batch 3: Allspice, Almond, Lemon.
This whole thing is very reminiscent of a an episode of friends, in which Monica tries to recreate a cookie recipe by Phoebe’s Grandma…
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
One more thing… Root Beer cookies? Really?! [Dove: Maybe this is a thing we Brits simply don’t get? Wing?] [Wing: I’ve never seen them, but I also hate root beer, so I wouldn’t really be the one to know. Readers?]
When the cookies emerge from the oven, they have the signature lavender hue. At least that’s a positive.
Unfortunately, while two out of the three batches were nice (no guesses on which was the dud), none of the three matched up to Jessica’s original Unicookie recipe.
The Unicorns aren’t pleased. Especially Belinda.
“What are we going to do?” Belinda wailed. “This is never going to work! We made three batches yesterday and three batches today, and all we’ve done is make ourselves sick! It’s hopeless. We’ll never get on TV.” Putting her head down on the counter, she closed her eyes and sniffled.
Erm… excuse me, Belinda. You made ONE batch of cookies yesterday. Sure, you made three batches of cookie dough. But only one batch of cookies. You get no plaudits for making uncooked batter, other than a few cheers from Ellen.
“Wait a minute,” Lila said, her brown eyes starting to gleam. “I have an idea.”
And here, folks, is where the book catapults itself off the charts. Lila’s idea to coax the information out of a forgetful Jessica?
Predictably, the Unicorns are up for it.
“It’s a great idea,” Mandy said. “How can we hypnotize her?”
“It looked easy,” Lila said. “Let’s go into the family room, where we can lower the blinds. And I need a candle, and something shiny, on a chain.”
Five minutes later, the crew are trying to hypnotise a willing Jessica, trying to access her subconscious and farm the secret ingredients out of their locked mental boxes. The shiny thing on a chain? Pure comedy gold.
Jessica’s hand shot out and grabbed it. “What the heck is this thing?” she demanded, examining it. “It’s a… a tooth! A silver tooth. Oh, gross me out!” She dropped it again.
Lila frowned at her. “It’s not a real tooth,” she explained impatiently. “It’s my Tuffy the Tooth good-patient charm. My dentist gave it to me when I didn’t have any cavities for a year.”
“Couldn’t you use something else?” Janet asked. “That is kind of gross.”
“It’s not a real tooth!” Lila cried. “It’s just a charm. What do you want me to use—my real ruby necklace? Get over yourself.”
That last line… SO good! I’m loving the sassy Unicorns in this book, especially Lila. [Dove: I will admit, that was very Lila.]
In an adorable scene, Lila tries the whole “you are very sleepy” dangling chain routine, directed at a bored and unengaged Jessica, as the other Unicorns watch on. Every time Lila says something, Jessica’s mind wanders away from the action in front of her on other tangential matters. As she happily daydreams, Lila tries to regress Jessica back to the fateful Home Ec lesson in which she created the wonderous Unicookies.
Eventually, Jess spaps herself out of her reverie, and has no clue about what has happened, or what was supposed to happen. Lila and the rest of the Unicorns groan in frustration. The hypnosis hadn’t worked.
Or had it…?
Tamara sat behind Lila, still holding the candle perfectly still.
“Tamara?” Kimberly said. “Tamara?”
“What, Mrs. Gerhart?” Tamara answered slowly. “Can’t I use sprinkles on top of my cookies? Elizabeth did.”
Jessica’s eyes went wide, and she looked at Lila in alarm. Tamara was staring off into space beyond the candle’s flame.
“Oh, my gosh,” Lila whispered. “It worked on Tamara!”
STRAIGHT. UP. AMAZING.
Such an obvious joke in retrospect, but I laughed long and hard here. The fact that it was Tamara made it all the better. I guess it could have been Ellen (Ellen the Batter Eater, not Ellen the Eloquent), but still. [Dove: Question: Why is seventh grade Tamara in the home ec class with Elizabeth Wakefield? Wing will point out that it’s not completely impossible, but I will say she was demonstrably absent in the cookie disaster scene. *raises eyebrow* Fail, ghostie.] [Wing: Actually, in middle school it is pretty unlikely. By high school, the class would be mixed grade, but not usually in middle school.]
The mesmerized Tamara is a problem, as Lila admits she had no idea how to bring anyone out of a trance… she’d watched a programme on Hypnosis the previous evening, but had switched channels before the end.
The chapter ends with Tamara still in a trance! OH NOES Tamara, what are you going to do?!
The next chapter starts with Lila and Jessica chatting together on the phone the following evening. Apparently, they’d spent the whole Saturday at Janet Howell’s house, trying ANOTHER triple-batch of prospective Unicookie flavours. This time, they’d also had to deal with Janet’s brother Joe Howell and his best friend, one Steven Wakefield.
As the best friends chat (in what is, yet again, a lovely exchange), we learn that Lila has been banned from using the kitchen for two weeks by a volcanic Mrs Purvis (the Fowler housekeeper) [Dove: Also, in another continuity fail, Mrs Pervis was consistently spelled wrong as “Purvis” in this book. That’s three black marks so far, ghostie.] [Raven: Jesus… some folk want the moon on a stick.]. We also learn that the kitchen was left in such a pigsty state because it took such a long time to extricate Tamara from her trance. HAH!
“At least Tamara did finally wake up,” Jessica said. “It was pretty creepy. I thought she was going to end up going to high school like that.”
Lila giggled. “Maybe that wouldn’t have been so bad. She was so agreeable when she was in her trance.”
“We’ll have to remember the technique for later,” Jessica said with a giggle. “Like, ‘Tamara, lend me some money so I can get the latest Johnny Buck CD.’ ‘Oh, OK, Jessica.’”
Again, such a well worked exchange. It’s like Lila and Jessica are actual friends!
Once they hang up, we hit a Lila POV scene, which is a nice change of pace. In it, she it PURE LILA. She acknowledges her days are currently blighted by these fucking Unicookies, and concludes that the Unicorns would probably bomb on The Lifestyles of the French and Famous early next week. She imagines herself going down in metaphorical flames, live on TV, brandishing boxes of “death cookies” while America looked on in disgust.
Unwilling to capitulate to such a fate, she asks a question that I guarantee Dove, Wing and I have asked ourselves a thousand times before… What Would Lila Do?
OK, think, Lila, think, she commanded herself. You’re a Fowler. What would a Fowler do? What would Dad do in this case?
The answer? Throw money at it. [Dove: Behold our groceries/delivery bill this month.]
She decides to source 400 Swiss cookies from an out-of-town source, so she can be ready to save the day should – nay, when – Jessica falls flat on her face.
This is 100% Pure Lila. This is Peak Lila. Queen Lila. This is Optimus Fowler.
Suddenly, it’s Sunday afternoon. The action is at Chez Leyton, where Belinda is hosing the latest phase of Operation Unicookie. As usual, it’s not going well. And the Unicorns are at their wit’s end. They start wailing, and back-bting, and blaming each other. I don’t blame them, they’ve got two days to deduce and perfect the Unicookie recipe before making four hundred of the fuckers.
Jessica has a last-ditch effort. The following morning (Monday), they coral Mrs Gerhart into letting them access the Home Ec kitchens to make yet ANOTHER batch of potential Unicookies, in the hope that the familiar surroundings from the scene of the original triumph will kick-start Jessica’s subconscious into Total Recall mode.
Sounds plausible, I don’t think. But I guess it’s the only plan they’ve got.
They bin their remaining Poo-nicookies and prepare for the final assault.
We snap to Elizabeth going over her homework assignments that Sunday evening. She’s doing well, but it seems that the pressures of attaining the Principal’s List are getting to her. Alice brings her a glass of juice, which I’m only 60% sure does NOT contain a double gin.
Alice attempts some parenting, and inquires why Liz is buring the homework candle at both ends. Liz lets slip that she’s trying for the Principal’s List, requiring A+ grades across the board. Alice actually sees through the gin fugue and offers some sage and pertinent advice.
“I see.” Mrs. Wakefield stood up, then came and kissed Elizabeth on her forehead. “That would be wonderful, honey, and we would be so proud of you. But of course, we’re always proud of you, no matter what you do. So if you want to achieve this goal, make sure you’re doing it for yourself.”
The scene ends with Liz questioning her own motivations before noticing that she has forgotten to hand in her extra-credit English report the previous Friday. Perhaps the Principle’s List is a step too far…
This is nice. It shows Elizabeth isn’t perfect. Or is it that she’s self-sabotaging because she knows she’s only doing it to out-do her sister? Either way, I like it! [Dove: I’ll admit, this humanised Liz. I’ve always assumed that she always got A+ results and never forgot anything. Basically, that she was Wing. And I can only really handle Wing doing that, because she has magic powers.] [Wing: I wasn’t a straight A+ student!]
The following morning, the Unicorns gather at the Home Ec kitchen. Using the pretence that they need the large kitchen to finish off the four hundred cookies for the TV show, and under the questionable supervision of Mrs Gerhart (sat reading the paper at the back of the room), they power through more batches of experimental cookies. Jessica can’t bear to select the ingredients, which pretty much renders the “let’s use the Home Ec kitchen to jog Jessica’s memory” plan completely moot.
They build the cookies in a sullen silence, save for the odd dig and bicker when things don’t run like silk.
Once she’s gathered her thoughts, Jessica returns to log their secret ingredient combination on her clipboard. I can hear Dove now… “LET’S BUILD A SPREADSHEET!” [Dove: Why wouldn’t you? It’s the perfect way to track data and see which things have been tested together…]
The ingredients? Orange, or lemon. Chocolate syrup. Extra sugar.
The verdict? Tastes like monkey balls.
With the tiniest of pops, the bubble finally bursts, and the Unicorns implode.
“Oh, good grief!” Mandy cried, banging her wooden spoon down on the counter. “I can’t take this anymore! Let’s face it, it’s not going to happen.”
“Don’t say that!” Jessica shouted. “If you all weren’t such a bunch of wimps, we would have done it by now!”
The girls each screech their blame into the Home Ec Aether, and what is at first caterwauling and recrimination soon becomes full on culinary violence.
In desperation, Janet suddenly smacked Mandy on the behind with the spatula, trying to get her to be quiet. Mandy, enraged, took a big handful of raw batter and smeared it on Belinda’s shirt. Shrieking with anger, Belinda slammed Lila over the head with a cookie sheet. Lila wobbled for a second, but recovered almost instantly and walloped Jessica on the shoulder with a wooden spoon.
Completely falling to pieces, Jessica picked up a raw egg and hummed it as hard as she could at Lila. But Lila saw it coming and ducked, and it sailed over her head like a round white missile… until it reached Mrs. Gerhart and splattered against her forehead.
Mrs Gerhart is APOPLECTIC. She cleans the goo off her face, as Janet offers a mumbled apology. Still furious, Mrs Gerhart announces that she can see no cookies being made, and questions whether Jessica will have four hundred cookies ready for the following day.
Jessica doesn’t know what to say. Which is new.
Declaring that Jessica’s grade would suffer immeasurably is she let her TV-show-producing friend down, Mrs Gerhart demands that the Unicorns clean up their mess immediately. She also assigns each of them a two-page essay explaining their deplorable behaviour, to be written by noon on Wednesday, the best of which will be published in the Sweet Valley Sixers as a warning to other wayward children.
While it’s nice to see a staff member actually doing something other than dressing weirdly (Bowman), wearing hairnets (Arnette), torturing ballet dancers (André) or touching minors (Nydick), I’m not sure that she should be doing these things. I mean, can she really dock Jessica’s grade for not creating four hundred cookies for a TV audience? And by telling everyone that she’d publish the best essay on their appalling behaviour in the Sixers, she’s not exactly promoting the authors to submit their best work. Much rather they write something shit and avoid the infamy of being the Sixth Grade Poster Child for Delinquency. [Dove: Also, it rather undermines Mr Bowman and Elizabeth’s editorial decisions. Although in all honesty, how much news can there be weekly at a middle school, even one in Sweet Valley?]
Once the Eggy Gerhart has breezed from the rooms, the Unicorns get to tidying… and bickering. One after the other, the non-Jessica Unicorns make their positions clear. They will no longer be helping Jessica achieve culinary greatness on Lifestyles of the French and Famous.
Jessica can’t believe their betrayal, and abandonment. But let’s face it, this is ENTIRELY on brand. The Unicorns in this book are PITCH PERFECT.
“This means no TV show,” Jessica reminded them, trying to keep her voice calm.
“Aye!” they all yelled.
“No glory for the Unicorns,” Jessica said, scrubbing her counter furiously.
“Aye! Aye! Aye!”
Jessica stuck out her bottom lip and narrowed her eyes. “If I make the cookies by myself,” she warned them, “they won’t be called Unicookies. They’ll be named after me.”
“Fine.” Jessica rinsed her sponge and started on a new countertop. Those Benedict Arnolds. She would show them. They would be sorry. Somehow she would make them sorry. Somehow.
[Dove: I think they’re called Benedict Armholes.]
Seriously. I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying this book.
Usually, if I’ve loved or hated a book, I mellow on it somewhat when I come to recap it. So my hate becomes dislike, and my love becomes like, and so on.
So, as I always say at times like these, I can only apologise to those that come here for the snark. Don’t worry, I’m sure normal service will be resumed shortly.
We cut to a scheming Lila, waiting by the phone near the school cafeteria. She makes a call to Gourmet Food from Switzerland customer service, to power through her order details.
Thirty-four dozen purple sugar cookies, to arrive at Folwer Crest no later that 8am the following morning.
To quote David Lee Roth, whoever said money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.
“Throw Money At It.” The motto of House Fowler since 1953. [Dove: But in Latin. Classy, y’know.]
That afternoon, a glum Jessica discusses her plight with an empathetic Elizabeth. Jessica is at her lowest ebb. I’ll let this glorious Ghostie take us through the myriad of reasons why…
“Nothing matters anymore. I’m hopeless. Tomorrow morning I have to call Antoinette Maresca, the producer of Lifestyles of the French and Famous, and tell her that me and my stupid cookies won’t be coming after all. Then I have to write a two-page essay about how it feels to be on the road to failuredom. The Unicorns hate me, Mrs. Gerhart hates me, and I’m probably going to be blasted off the honor roll, after only one day of being on it. I’m a lost cause.”
Elizabeth feels Jessica’s pain. Why, that very morning, she’d missed a word on a spelling quiz. The word? Serendipity.
For some reason, Serendipity keep playing on her mind. Serendipity. Serendipity…
Suddenly, she has an idea! She grabs Jessica, and drags her back to the kitchen. Adventure!
Elizabeth’s grand idea? To let the choice of secret ingredients be left in the lap of the gods. Jessica moans that the whole thing is pointless, but this plays right into Elizabeth’s plan.
Elizabeth is set on recreating the exact conditions of their fight in the original cooking class. She feels that if she can spur Jessica into recreating the same timeline over again, like a culinary Groundhog Day, things will culminate in exactly the same ingredients being knocked into the mixing bowl by Jessica’s flailing.
Pfft. Why the hell not, ay?
Y’know, if any other book pulled this shit, I’d be kicking ass and taking names. It’s demonstrable bullshit.
But this book? I’m fine with it.
There was a hypnotism scene, for fuck’s sake.
While Jessica grumbles, Elizabeth sets up the scene, and then begins goading her sister in ways to ensure she explodes once more.She hits all the marks, and Jessica performs perfectly.
Liz gets sugar on her shirt, as she had last time.
Jess smears Liz with eggs and butter, just as before.
Jess threatens Liz with a spoon, in accordance with the prophesy.
And finally, Jessica flails another bunch of “secret” ingredients into her cookie dough.
“Hold it! Let’s look at what’s in there.” Excitedly Elizabeth carefully picked out a small bottle of vanilla extract, a small bottle of almond extract, and a small plastic bag full of ground almond powder.
Half an hour later, with cookies coming out of the oven and apologies made all round (way to go Liz on this continued subterfuge), there’s a metaphorical drumroll as the Official Tasting went down.
Jessica swallowed, then looked at Elizabeth. Her face split into an enormous smile that lit up the whole kitchen.
“It’s fabulous!” she screamed, starting to jump up and down. “It’s delicious! It’s the best cookie in the whole world!”
Well, thank fuck for that!
Of course, there’s one more issue…
At dinner that evening, after telling her parents that she and Liz had managed to recreate her Serendipity Cookies perfectly, the penny drops. In order to be on Lifestyles of the French and Famous, Jessica needs more than a recreated recipe… she needs four hundred fucking cookies to feed the studio audience. All ready to eat by the following afternoon. And it’s a school night too.
Steven snorts his derision about the predicament. Not possible, he opines.
Au contraire, mon frere. Au con-fucking-traire.
In a lovely scene of family unity, the entire Wakefield clan stay up until two in the morning baking Signature Wakefield Cookies. They make four hundred and four of them. And it wipes them out.
“I want to thank everyone,” Jessica said, her head flopped back against her chair. “You’re the best family ever. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Mrs. Wakefield leaned over and scraped a dried piece of batter off Jessica’s cheek. “We were glad to help, honey. That’s what families are for.”
Beautiful. Top quality pitching in from all involved.
Jessica goes further. She thanks her sister for saving her bacon, and invites her to appear on Lifestyles of the French and Famous so they can share the plaudits together.
It’s actually really sweet, and I’m swept away by the love in the room. No, seriously.
Then there’s this…
“I’ve even thought of a new name for the cookies: JEMS. The J is for me, and the E is for you.”
“What’s the M for?” Elizabeth asked.
Frowning, Jessica said, “I don’t know, really. It just sounded good.”
“Maybe the M is an upside-down W for Wakefield,” their mother suggested.
“Yeah!” Jessica’s face lit up. “That’s what it is.”
Pretty nice, I guess. I’m sure all involved are glad that the W for Wakefield is upside down. We don’t want another occurrence of It Can’t Happen Here. I have a very inappropriate joke to make here, but I’ll leave that to the philosophers.
Tuesday morning! The day of the TV appearance. And the first thig we see? Lila Fowler, gleefully taking delivery of four hundred purple sugar cookies, fresh from Switzerland.
This is excellent!
So many books have the denouement occurring, closely followed by a chapter or two of padding before the inevitable foreshadowing for $BOOK+1. [Dove: $Book++ would also be acceptable.]
This book? We know that Jessica is going to succeed, as the cookies are packed and ready. But there’s still interest in the remaining text, as we’re longing to see Lila’s Glorious Fail.
Nice work, Ghostie! (Again.)
At the Unicorner that lunchtime, we see both Lila and Jessica playing their cards close to their chest. Neither want to reveal their plans to each other, or to the collective Unicorns. Of course, this is very well written, and the Unicorns are as sassy as ever.
“I mean it, Jessica,” Janet said firmly yet delicately. “Please don’t mention the Unicorns. We’re really sorry you’re in this mess, and we really tried to help, but it just didn’t work. I don’t want the Unicorns dragged down by something that wasn’t our fault, OK?”
Jessica shrugged, but she didn’t look that bummed. “OK. I promise not to mention the Unicorns.” She gave Janet a little smile.
Nice work, Jessica. Excellent malicious compliance there. [Dove: I love Jessica here.]
After school, the twins are whisked away by their parents, for a quick spit and polish at home before heading to the TV studio. I’d ask where the fuck the studio was, but I suspect it’d stretch my belief in the story to breaking point. Then again, if I can buy the serendipitous genesis of the recreated cookies, I can buy Sweet Valley TV on their doorstep.
Lila, on the other hand, is having a few difficulties. Her chauffeur has driven her and the cookies to the rear entrance of the Local TV Station (Hah! I called it!). Lila is dolled to the nines, but still insists in carrying the five silver platters of cookies to the building herself.
The driver picked up the trays and loaded them into Lila’s outstretched arms. She almost staggered under the weight of the five heavy silver trays. But it was OK. This was her destiny: to carry these cookies into the TV studio and steal Jessica’s thunder.
Again, this is very Lila.
Teetering under their bulk, she makes her way to the Studio door.
Back with the Twins, we have a nice exchange in the make-up room before they head to the studio floor proper. As they wait from the wings, they chatter with anticipation.
Jessica’s heart was thundering with excitement. “Elizabeth,” she said, turning to her sister, “two things: I just want to tell you how thankful I am that you’re here to share this with me.”
“Thanks,” Elizabeth said. “I’m glad, too. What’s the other thing?”
“Could you let me do most of the talking?”
Both heart-warming and sassy. Perfect.
Back with Lila, she daydreams of her inevitable success as she totters towards oblivion.
The Twins again. We learn that the latest edition of Lifestyles of the French and Famous will feature Jean Voilan again. Of COURSE it will.
At that moment, the studio audience started clapping, then the assistant motioned for Jessica and Elizabeth to head onto the set. With a last, beaming smile at Elizabeth, Jessica picked up her tray, and they walked into the glare of the bright studio lights.
… … … Here we go!
But first! Back to Lila.
Tension is building in this back-and-forth, and I’m loving it.
Lila’s losing her cool. The walk with the cookies is longer than she anticipated. She’s sweating, and struggling, but she’s still convinced it’ll all work out well in the end.
She’s incorrect in this assumption.
As she struggles in the doorway, the door barrels outward and knocks her flying.
“Aiieeee!” Lila screamed, tottering backward, trying desperately to juggle her cookies.
“Juggle her cookies”… hehehehehehe.
She falls flat on her ass. Cookies rain down, with melted icing splattering all over her. As she tries to regain her composure, the person who knocked her down opens his mouth in apology and puts his size night right in it.
“Gee, I’m really sorry,” the man said. “Are you from catering?”
Lila blusters and splutters a heated response – she’s supplying the special guest recipe cookies, damnit! Then she learns that the cookie twins are already in the studio, schmoozing up a storm with the famous glitterati. Incandescent with rage, she stomps to the studio.
Back before the camera, both Jessica and Elizabeth are going down gangbusters. The interview goes very well, and the audience laps up the JEM cookies. Well, most of the audience.
“Ma’am?” a gofer asked Mrs. Wakefield, holding out a tray of cookies. “Care to sample a JEM?”
Mrs. Wakefield’s face fell, and Mr. Wakefield looked panicky. Steven held up his hands in front of himself in the shape of a cross.
“Get away from me,” he croaked.
“No, no, thank you,” Mrs. Wakefield said quickly. “Someone else can have mine.”
“Me, too,” said the twins’ father, looking pale.
On the set, Jessica and Elizabeth started laughing, and gave each other high fives. Neither of them saw Lila standing in the wings, close to tears and looking almost fuzzy with stuck-on cookie bits.
SUCH a great ending.
The final chapter sees the status quo being reset before the next book. But first, Jessica is getting carried away be her new-found fame and apparent cookery talent. She insists she’s ready to make a souffle in the next Home Ec class. Elizabeth is unconvinced that Mrs Gerhart would agree.
“Tut,” Jessica said. “I know Mrs. Gerhart will let me skip ahead of the next couple of assignments. Why should I waste my time on a basic chicken casserole when culinary history is waiting to be made?”
“What kind of history?” Todd Wilkins asked, wrinkling his nose. “Was that a dirty word, Jessica?”
That’s definitely not for the kids, folks. This Ghostie… sublime. [Dove: *eyes bug* HOW DID I MISS THAT JOKE? I’m so used to their feeble jokes, I guess I whizzed right by it.]
Mrs Gerhart hands out the grades for a new non-cookie-related Home Ec assignment. Liz gets an A, and not an A+… no Principal’s List for her. Jessica gets a D+… and she drops off the Honor Roll after barely a week. She’s rather sanguine about the whole affair, as we all knew she would be in the end. You can’t keep a good psychopath down.
Mr Bowman talks to Elizabeth regarding the esteem her parents have for her achievements, and Liz is grateful. Jessica’s interview will be published, along with her essay detailing the Destruction of the Home Ec Kitchens. And there is much rejoicing.
Finally, the twins head to the mall for a milkshake at Caseys. While there, we learn that Cousin Robin (she of Jag-wahs fame) will be coming to stay for two whole weeks, setting up the next book for all of us in the cheap seats.
And with that, this wild cookie ride draws to a conclusion. And what a ride it was!
As you’ve no doubt gathered, I loved this book.
I was not looking forward to it. Just goes to show, don’t judge a book by its cover, or its title.
This book had everything I love about the series. Everyone was perfectly portrayed (if you focus on Ellen the Batter Eater rather than the alternative), with both Jessica and Elizabeth being awesome in their own special way. Lila was brilliant, and the Unicorns were ON FUCKING POINT. The Wakefield Fam en masse were wonderful, and even the teaching staff were moderately decent.
The structure of the book was excellent, the dialogue was sassy, the pacing was taut and pacey, the plot was surprising, and the comedic scenes were actually funny.
I will read this book again, more than once. Legit Top 3 of the series, and probably the best I’ve read yet.
Jessica’s Cookie Disaster? APPROVED!
[Dove: I don’t know if I’m just in a bit of a mood as far as this series is concerned — two Steven books in a short time will do that to anyone, let alone someone who loathes him as much as I do — but I did not feel the love like Raven did. I thought it was a perfectly fine book, kind of like the earlier entries, wacky hi-jinks, everyone wins. What I am loving is Raven’s delight over this one. It’s adorable. Anything that makes him this happy can’t be a bad thing.]
[Wing: As you may recall, I enjoyed the last couple books far more than Dove or Raven did, to everyone’s surprise. I’m glad Raven’s stepped up, at least, because this book was a fucking joy, and he did not oversell it when we all talked about it the other day. So much fun and snark, sisters being sisters, family being helpful, friends being ridiculous and wonderful, and again so much fucking fun and snark. I really loved this book.]