Title: The Big Camp Secret
Tagline: Sleep-away camp has some hidden surprises for the twins!
Summary: Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield can’t believe they’re finally at sleep-away camp! Even though there are no boys, and Elizabeth’s friend Grace had to cancel her plans to go at the last minute, it will be two whole weeks of fun, fun, fun!
The twins waste no time diving into their favorite activities. Jessica begins to arrange a rendezvous with the boys’ camp across the lake. Elizabeth spends much of her time riding horses and making new friends. But the real excitement starts when Grace turns up in the most unexpected place.
Should the twins take a chance and hide Grace? If they do and they’re caught, camp may just turn out to be the worst two weeks of their lives!
The Big Camp Secret?
Joke just writes itself.
[Raven: Hi everyone! Quick note for you: this recap went up VERY LATE INDEED, all down to me, and both Wing and Dove have yet to comment on my asinine blatherings. So, if you’re a big fan of the comment back-and-forth, come back tomorrow morning (Tuesday) when, hopefully, all will be complete and I’ll delete this note. Cheers!]
[Dove: Thanks to my insomnia, I’m up in time to comment, but keep in mind I’ve only had a maximum of five hours’ sleep, you may want to wait for Wing.]
[Wing: And on Wednesday, 25 Oct, I finally have a chance to comment. Nothing like a lot of build-up for not a lot of snark.]
We open the proceedings at Casey’s Place. Our heroines, the bookish Elizabeth and the boy-crazy Jessica, are drinking milkshakes with Amy Porter [Dove: Are you being funny? *checks* Nope. Julie’s not present. He means Sutton.] (Elizabeth’s BFF), and Grace Oliver (someone else) [Dove: Grace is the girl who tamed the titular Bully.]. Casey’s milkshakes bring all the preteens to the yard.
The conversation du jour? An upcoming two-week trip to a nearby camp at Lake Laconda.
Elizabeth is looking forward to riding horses. Why? Because she likes horses a lot. Jessica is excited for the trip itself, although I’m sure if she sees a cute boy, a purple thing or a D-list celeb, she’ll explode with adolescent joy-juice. Amy mentions arts and crafts, but is truly mesmerised by the idea of fire and flame. I’m sure this will be tackled delicately in a later book (Sweet Valley Twins #125: Amy Kills Thirty People). [Wing: Amy has the right of it here. #burnbabyburn]
The real story, of course, is Grace. Apparently, she thought she could go on the camp trip. Unfortunately, she cannot.
THE DRAMA IS REVEALED.
Before the exposition is… exposited… Lila Fowler and Ellen Riteman sashay into Casey’s Place in an opportune time to change the touchy subject.
Next, a word from the publishers:
Hello, gentle reader, and thank you for purchasing this Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition. We hope you’ll enjoy the wacky hijinks of the Wakefield Twins and their associated chums!
Before you continue, however, we have to tell you something vital, something that could seriously damage your enjoyment of the text if unheeded. Something that could crack your very reality itself unless you acknowledge it head-on.
If you only take one thing from this book, make sure it’s this:
Although they look alike, Elizabeth and Jessica are very different.
Their differences include, but are not limited to:
- Elizabeth likes horses, while Jessica couldn’t give a fuck about such neighing titmunchers.
- Jessica is a social chameleon. Unfortunately, her camouflage is permanently stuck on purple.
- Elizabeth does not believe in ostriches. She thinks they are just “arrogant chickens.”
- Jessica loves meringue nests. She plans to nurture her young in a colossal meringue nest once she lays her eggs upon reaching legal and biological age.
- Elizabeth dreams of being a famous writer. Jessica dreams of being an infamous serial killer.
- Elizabeth cannot comprehend shoelaces. Jessica’s piss tastes like Lemsip.
So, get ready for the wild ride ahead! Jessica and Elizabeth will ROCK YOUR FUCKING SOCKS OFF.
Just remember… THEY ARE ALIKE BUT DIFFERENT.
Publishers OUT, y’all. BOOM.
Lila informs the gathered throng that she will NOT be going to camp with the rest of her bumpkin classmates. Nope. She’s got bigger fish to fry. In Paris with her grandmother. One girl’s fish is another girl’s poisson, after all.
Dove has informed me that, as with most of the Super Editions, Lila Will Not Be Appearing In This Book.
This is a huge shame, because Lila is spectacular.
Of course, it’s understandable. Because Lila being LILA is quite the scene stealer. She’d pull focus in most of the chapters she frequented.
Shame she’d not going to be around.
[Wing: As much as I was excited about the idea of the Super Editions, I’m sad that Lila will not appear. I love her. Everyone loves her. She’s terrible, and that is why we love her.]
Lila’s foreign adventure will leave Bunk Seven a bedmate short. Bunk Seven is set to house the twins, Amy and Ellen. I’m sure this will be important.
As Lila strides away in triumph, Jessica douses the fire of her Green Eyed Monster by reminding herself of another tangible benefit of camp: a separate Boys’ Camp is happening across the lake, containing Sweet Valley Beefcakes such as Bruce Patman and Ken Freakin’ Matthews! Although their camps are individual entities, Jess is already scheming to bring the two together.
The girls contine their mindless chatter about all the cool and wholesome bollocks they are sure to experience over the next fortnight. Grace, however, is getting a bit fucking sick of it, to be honest. She makes a feeble excuse and slinks off home.
Cue SUPER ELIZABETH TO THE PREDICTABLE RESCUE! It looks like Grace is her Meddlesome Project of the Week for this book. [Dove: Except, y’know, that Grace and Liz were never friends, and Grace is, in fact, a Unicorn. So Lila and Ellen should have actually been overjoyed to see Jess and Grace, and been rude to Liz and Amy. But I guess continuity is for the weak.]
[Wing: Much like Lila disappears during Super Editions, the strict social structure starts to break down.]
Grace confides in Liz, as the plot dictates. Apparently, her parents are getting a divorce. One piece of fallout sees the Elder Olivers about to take separate vacations to “think things over,” vowing to palm off their despondent offspring on an unsuspecting relative. This must happen at the same time as the camp trip.
Liz is full of the usual pointless advice. Rule One: Tell your parents how you feel. Naturally, Grace doesn’t do this, partly because she doesn’t want to pile extra stress on the problem, but mainly because if she did, they’d sort it all out and this would be a less super Super Edition than SVT Super Edition #18: Ned Does Some Filing. (Jamie Suzanne was really dialling them in by this stage.)
Grace promises to give it the good ol’ college try. Bet you it won’t work; loser spends 15 unrecorded minutes with Mr Nydick in the supply closet. Nevertheless, well done Liz. Meddling is for winners.
We do a quick flip into Grace’s POV, and watch her attempt to engage her quarrelling guardians in order to get her Hogsmeade letter signed.
Grace rocks up to her house. There is arguing inside.
Grace remains rather non-committal, while the folks tear strips off each other.
Grace, having not said word one to her parents, goes to her room as the quarrelling intensifies.
Way to go, Grace. Maximum Effort.
[Wing: Colossus. <3]
Some indeterminable time later, it’s Barbecue Party at the Wakefield Compound. Apparently, this tawdry cookout is in honour of the twins’ last day at home, as they are leaving for camp the following morning. Steven will miss them, of course, but at least he can rifle through their knicker drawers without fear of interruption. And the Ned / Alice Sexual Olympics will commence in their absence with the preliminary Pole Vault qualifiers on Jessica’s bed as soon as the camp coach has left the fucking street.
Elizabeth quizzes her burger-flipping father on his time at sleepaway camp. Apparently, Young Ned pranked the counsellors and won swimming championships while there, despite being terribly homesick. He offers the Old Twin some comfort crumbs should she be similarly caught low with longing for Alice’s home-cooked asparagus tips.
Jessica meanders into view, just in time to avoid all the pre-meatfeast prep work. She clues her sister into her scheming. Although nothing is set in stone – yet – Jessica is planning something epic to ensure Lila is jealous of missing out when she gets back from Paris.
I’m sorry, but it’s Paris over Sleepaway Camp every fucking time. This is Lila Fowler we’re talking about.
The Eiffel Tower > Ants in the bedding
Mona Lisa > Macaroni Collages in the craft room
The Romantic River Seine > Lake Laconda
A holiday romance with a French hunk > Getting felt up behind the bins by Winston Egbert [Dove: Winston is awesome. Don’t be a dick, Raven. Winston is our people.]
The chapter ends with Grace phoning Elizabeth to tell her Camp was definitely not on Grace’s agenda for the foreseeable. Sucks to be Grace, I guess.
OR DOES IT? There’s a spare bed in Bunk Seven, after all…
PLOT! PLOT! PLOT!
At the bus terminal the following day, Elizabeth looks for Grace. Grace is going to her godmother’s house, and for some reason Liz knows that Grace would be getting the bus from the terminal at the same time.
I mean, way to be complete dicks, Elder Olivers. Not only do you bar Grace from Camp Fun-and-Maybe-Boys, you make her set of to her exile at the same time as all her friends set off for their holiday. Asshats.
The bus comes, and everyone fucks off to camp. [Dove: If this book had a song as catchy as Camp Everfree, then I’d be more into it.]
As they arrive, the girls are giddy with excitement. They see log cabins, and horses, and the lake. Once they disembark, they flap around like zombie chickens until the camp counsellors retain some semblance of order and decorum by blowing their whistles.
After being directed to Bunk Seven by a stern dark-haired counsellor (PLOT!), we meet the rest of the bunkmates. We have:
Nancy McCall (someone new!)
Four sets of bunk beds, and a spare bed for their proscribed counsellor. Thrilling.
As the girls set about decorating the bare walls with Kent Kellerman posters (so dreamy!), the bossy counsellor marches in with assorted linens and orders them to make beds. Apparently, this stroppy cow is Tina. The collected B7ers pray she’s not their bunk counsellor, although her reappearance is indicative that the happier outcome may be in the negatory.
Jess, ever the proactive prankster, short sheets the counsellor’s bed.
Short sheeting a bed is called Apple Pieing a bed over in England. I recall that from my Blyton or Bunter days, I think.
Is that a phrase across the Pond? (in the US, I mean, not at the Boy Camp.) [Wing: No. I’ve only ever heard it called short sheeting. Why is it called Apple Pieing? (I ask Dove and Raven to explain phrases all the time, which is super not fair, because how many people know the history of phrases off the top of their head? Yet I keep doing it.) Also, that video took forever. I apparently don’t have the patience for that.]
Liz, naturally, plays the angel on her sister’s shoulder. And naturally, it transpires that Tina isn’t the bunk counsellor of B7 after all… that honour befalls the perkier and more personable Jamie, who enters in a blonde cyclone and deposits a cliché like a dog turd on your Weetabix…
“Everything will settle down and then we can start having fun. Seven’s going to be the best bunk at Camp Loconda!”
Is it now? (Actually, yes. The Wakefields are in it. QED.)
Jessica glances back to her Apple Pie bed, before shrugging with a fuck it face. Attagirl.
Jamie gives the B7ers a tour of the camp before Mrs Edwards, the camp director, gives her orientation speech. During the tour, we learn that the sourfaced Tina is the director’s assistant, that the buddy system is used when swimming, that canoes are available with permission, and that the Boy Camp (Camp Running Bear) is off limits.
We also learn of a dark shack, visible on some land higher than that of Camp Laconda. It’s Crying Moon Mountain, and it has a ghost story attached that, we are promised, we will discover at the campfire later (PLOT!). [Dove: It’s worth noting that the “mountain” is actually a hill.]
It is here that, I suspect, Wing may go Boom.
There is mention of “an old Indian site” nearby, and appropriation of Native American naming conventions. This is likely Not Okay.
To be honest, being 5-foot-8 of pure English bluster and confusion, I’m a little flummoxed about what may or may not be appropriate here. So Wing, please come spare my embarrassed blushes and take over.
[Wing Goes Boom Here?] [Wing: Wing goes boom here, but Wing is tired, so it’s not much of a boom. There’s a lot going on here, from the whole Indian/Native American thing (though “Indian” was used my more frequently in the 80s and 90s, and which you want used depends on the person, the tribe, and the situation) to the names and the use of them for the camps (and the implication that this is land taken from the indigenous people by force, which is, you know, most of the USA) to the “ghost story” itself. I’m not going to speak for a culture not my own, but I am going to direct you to American Indians in Children’s Literature, which “provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society” and was created by Debbie Reese, who is tribally enrolled at Nambe Owingeh. AICL is an amazing resource.]
The rest of the tour shows the stables, the sporting opportunities, the recreational facilities, the craft room, the dining room, the sex swing, the Deathtrap Dungeon, the Cannonball Run, the Third Reich, the Forth Bridge, the Price is Right, the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and, of course, Bobby McFerrin.
At the orientation, Mrs Edwards set out their routine. Aside from the abovementioned activities, each bunk would be required to put on a skit for the other bunks at some stage.
What the fuck is this obsession with kids putting on skits? They seem to have to do something like this every other fucking book or so. Is it one Jamie Suzanne’s joy, or something more universal?
Wing, Dove: were your schooldays full of skits for the student body? Because mine fucking weren’t, and I studied DRAMA.
[Dove: Nope. And same, I studied drama. But I also went to a deeply religious school, so who needs skits when you’ve got a really thick, boring book to read from so you can more adequately judge anyone who falls below the standard of perfection?]
[Wing: Not only were my school days not full of skits, but my summer camp days were also not full of skits. Not a single skit to be had.]
Contests and trophies are mooted. Jessica also pounces on the opportunity to suggest an inter-camp orgy with the stud-bulls at Camp Running Bear.
“Mrs Edwards,” (Jessica) called out. “Could we do something with the boys at Camp Running Bear?”
Mrs Edwards looked startled. “We never have.”
“But maybe we could have a dance,” Jessica persisted.
“I’ll have to think about it,” Mrs Edwards said.
Looks like that’s happening, then. Jessica always gets her way.
After dinner, everyone gathers round the campfire for scary stories. As is to be expected, the stories are clichéd and generic, but they scratch an itch. Tina tells of a body hanging from a tree scraping its feet across a convertible’s roof. [Wing: This story actually went a place I didn’t expect! I’ve only ever heard and told the version where the boyfriend goes for help, and the girlfriend hears something scratching on the roof all night. No bonus corpse, no convertible top to break, no falling into the car. Yes to a dead boyfriend and his nails scraping metal.] Jamie tells of a beautiful woman whose head falls off when her ribbon choker is removed. Finally, Mrs Edwards delivers the motherlode: the tale of Crying Moon Mountain.
Two Native Americans, from warring tribes, met and fell in love: Crying Moon and Running Bear. They met in secret on the mountainside. One summer evening, Running Bear did not make their rendezvous. He had been killed by Crying Moon’s tribe. Wracked with grief, Crying Moon would search the mountain each day, yearning for her love. During a thunderstorm, she was struck by lightning and killed. Her last words were a cry for Running Bear. To this day, folk swear her ghost can be seen on the hill, searching for her lost love.
So yeah. Bollocks, really. [Wing: I think you could go pretty much anywhere in the USA and hear a similar story. The local one here focuses on falling rocks.]
The campers lap it up like a saucer of milk. They discuss its veracity on the way back to their bunks. Elizabeth, it seems, does not believe in ghosts. Jessica, of course, is not so sure.
Ghosts are fine in fiction. They can be scary, and scary is fun.
But when charlatans claim they can see your dead dad, and charge you twenty quid to piss on your legitimate memories with their money-grubbing platitudes… those “ghosts” are not fun at all.
Apologies for the digression. Moving on…
This is actually the first time I’ve ever used this meme in the ghost context. Usually I just email it to my friend at work when someone asks a particularly stupid question.]
[Wing: There’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking moment in Leverage season two where a “psychic” does a cold reading on one of the characters and absolutely breaks her heart. The team then explains every little thing the guy did during the reading, and it is informative and terrible and wonderful.]
As they approach their dorm, Jessica looks to the dark shack on Crying Moon Mountain. There was a light in the window! She summons her sister and fellow B7s, but by the time they check it out the light has vanished.
Jess knows what she saw, and challenges a sceptical Elizabeth to go check out the light the following evening. After a little browbeating, Liz and Amy agree. Erm, really? I mean, I know Jess gets her own way a lot of the time, but it’s a little out of character for Liz to accept Jessica’s dare. [Wing: To accept a dare, sure, but she does pretty much everything wants. All Jessica needed to do was flat out tell her to do it, and she would. No dare needed.]
The B7 girls climb into bed after their busy day. At the last moment, Jess remembers the short sheeted / apple pied bed, but it’s too late! Jamie is wriggling in Jessica’s trap, but thankfully, everyone sees the funny side and they all drift off to sleep.
I can’t wait for Jessica’s autobiography… Jessica Wakefield – Consequences Are For Other People. I do hope she’s sent to a facility that has access to more than crayons at rec time.
Second day at camp is packed with fun. First swimming, second a treasure hunt! This is likely one reason that Lila wouldn’t make a great fit in this book. She’d’ve simply called her father and bought some treasure. Why hunt it when you can shop for it?
Ten clues, each leading to “treasure” as decreed by the Camp Elders.
Before they start, there’s a tiny point of admin. To even the teams, Bunk 3 is split between the other bunks. [Wing: But … why? This makes zero sense to me.] Bunk 7 gets the mysterious girl Barbara Fields.
Let me take you down, because I’m going to, Barbara Fields…
Nothing is real… and nothing to get hung about…
Barbara Fields forever.
Jamie introduces her to the other B7s, but it seems that Barbara Fields is a scowler. THIS MUST BE IMPORTANT.
The treasure hunt begins, and it is shit. Here’s the first clue:
Girls aren’t the only ones
Who have to brush their hair
Go to a certain place
Ponytails are there.
I mean, come on. “Go to a certain place”…? Fucking weaksauce. [Dove: I love how this stumps even “genius” Elizabeth. “Is there a hair salon at the camp? A wig shop? I’m ignoring the PONY bit so hard right now.”]
The girls dash from stable to lake, searching for insipid couplet clues. Other teams are glimpsed, on the periphery of the action, questing for the treasure themselves. During this, Barbara Fields is surly and uncooperative. Eventually, she suggests an alternate course of action.
“Why should we break our necks looking for clues? We could just send someone outside to listen to the other groups and see what they’re finding. Things are so confused, no one would notice an extra girl running around.”
Elizabeth is scandalized. Even Jessica isn’t buying it, which is a bit rich coming from Sweet Valley’s laziest and most workshy fop. Me? I like the cut of Barbara’s jib. We lie, we cheat, we steal. Eddie Guerrero would be proud.
In a shocking move that is completely unexpected, the girls at Bunk 1 are victorious in snuffling out the treasure, which turns out to be a cache of paperback books (pretty cool, actually).
The B7 girls sit around and gossip about Barbara. They all believe she is a bit of a bad egg. Jessica tells everyone that if Babs doesn’t straighten up and fly right, she won’t get an invite to the dance. [Wing: Pretty sure that’s not how camp activities work, Jessica, even if it’s one that you come up with yourself.] As the others question Jessica’s plan, she reveals the next step: a petition, for the whole camp to sign!
“We, the Undersigned, want to have a dance with the boys from Camp Running Bear.”
The other B7s (sans Barbara Fields [Wing: Well, she’s not yet B7.]) agree that Jess’s plan might just work. They sign their names obediently.
I really hope the boys are like “fuck that noise, it’s great having no girls around, we get to fart and belch and sweat without judgment. Circle jerk!” [Wing: You’re not wrong.]
I suspect the dance will take place anyway, such is the force of Jessica’s will.
At supper, Bunk 2 present their skit. It’s about a princess falling in love with a rock star. Sounds right up the Wakefield’s alley, with Princess Elizabeth and Jessica the Rock Star both either recapped already or on the recap radar. Liz and Amy, however, are preoccupied with their dare…. They have to visit the shack on Crying Moon Mountain that very night!
Jessica is doing well on the petition, having corralled a number of bunks into signing. Nancy is ready to burst her bubble, questioning the input the boys were having in this organizational procession. Even this doesn’t phase Jessica; she plans to get the petition signed by the boys by delivering the paper into their hands personally.
After lights out that evening, Amy and Liz wait until Jamie falls asleep to dream of Kent Kellerman before dressing and heading out to the shack. They tiptoe through the deserted camp, discussing Jessica’s assertion that the old cabin was likely full of spooky vampire teen-eaters. Amy even suggests they don’t actually go, but just tell everyone they did. Nice outside-the-box thinking, Amy, but get to fuck. This is a SUPER edition, please try being SUPER instead of shit. [Dove: Also, won’t that spoil their integrity? Weren’t they scandalised about Barbara not taking things seriously? Sod off, Amy.]
As they broach the camp perimeter, Elizabeth feels something grab her arm. She nearly vomits in fear! However, it’s just Jessica, who has decided to tag along through some unfathomable sense of sisterly duty. Elizabeth, naturally, is pleased, as she realises that there’s now another victim to distract any spooky vampire teen-eater that may attack them. Outrunning just Amy when being pursued is 50-50, but outrunning one of TWO people is much more achievable. [Wing: Jessica is going to smoke both your asses. Or, more likely, she’s taking you to the cabin to kill you. Must keep up the murdering even in a new location.]
They climb the mountain in the darkness, which does its best to distract them with owls hooting and other dumb shit. Eventually, they reach the cabin and peer through the windows. Seeing nothing, they try the door, and, finding it unlocked, creep inside. One cursory examination later, they determine there is nothing there… but as they turn to leave, a light flashes and makes out a hulking silhouette in the doorway!
Screams happen. Everyone runs. Then all becomes clear.
Turns out that the “hulking” shadow was none other than Grace Oliver!
NOW we’re cooking with gas!
I know we’re trying for some cheeky suspense, but ending one chapter with “a huge, dark shadow” blocking the doorway and starting the next with “There, outlined in the door was a small figure with curly hair is ATROCIOUS.
End Chapter 1: THE TYRANNOSAUR ATTACKED!
Start Chapter 2: The dinosaur was a chihuahua.
I mean, sure, they explain it away with the “kerosene lamp in the corner casting a long shadow” guff, but even so. Bad form.
After admonishment and apologies, Grace fills the girls in on her sudden appearance. Apparently, Mummy Oliver was true to form and simply plonked her offspring on the bus – next to busses full of her camp-going friends – and fucked off immediately. Driven to the edge through jealousy at seeing her friends have fun when she was being denied it, Grace leapt off her bus, phoned her godmother to cancel using a made-up cruise story to prevent follow-up questions, then hopped aboard a non-Sweet Valley Middle School bus for Camp.
No one on the bus checked anything, and she passed unnoticed. I’m pretty sure she WAS on a Sweet Valley Middle School bus, but the teachers were all off their tits on smack and didn’t notice.
Upon arrival at Camp Laconda, Grace spotted the shack halfway up the hill, and scarpered to safety. She’d been there ever since, eating canned sardines and feeling wretched. On the verge of turning herself in and returning to her godmother, in stumble the associated buffoons from B7. Go Team!
Elisabeth immediately tells Grace to turn herself over to the authorities.
Jessica, of course, thinks the little runaway deserves some good old Camp Laconda fun. And she’s got the perfect plan to do it…
In the confusion of camp life, posits our despicable heroine, no one would notice an extra girl running around. Sleeping arrangements would be tough, of course, and even Jess thinks it impossible to smuggle another girl into the empty bunk of B7 under Jamie’s kind yet authoritative eyes. So Grace would have to sleep in the shack, but would spend all day with her friends at the lakeside.
Liz is still unsure, and voices a few more misgivings, but Grace is so happy that she fractures with a crack like a crisp lettuce under thumb pressure. She supposes it would work, and gives in. Another prime example of Elizabeth Wakefield’s dramatic lack of a fucking spine. Seriously, it’s like her backbone has been removed by Gilderoy Lockheart.
They agree to meet Grace by the dining room the following morning, and hightail it back down the mountain to rendezvous with their undoubtedly curious friends.
Next morning before breakfast, Jessica fills the rest of B7 in on the drama from the previous evening. Everyone is happy, as Grace is some sort of Clique Whisperer and is well liked by everyone. It’s agreed the whole wheeze should be spiffing fun, and the game is afoot!
Grace joins them for the meal, and all goes swimmingly. Until they realise the first activity for the day is, ironically, swimming. Ellen graciously offers to step out of rotation, so Grace to slot into their buddy system of paired-up swimmers without a hitch. [Wing: Actually, that brings up a good point. Maybe I missed it in my eyerolling, but B7 is down a camper. How did they pair up for swimming in the first place? Someone is an odd girl out.]
Swimming goes well, despite a hitch with the dressing arrangements after the dip. Jamie walks in and out of the bunk while the girls shower and change, which back at Sweet Valley Middle School would be a role generally occupied by a greased and tumescent Mr Nydick. Thankfully, Elizabeth comes over all duplicitous, and in a move of which Jessica herself would be proud, distracts Jamie by claiming there’s a boy with his cock out running around outside the dorm (or something). As Jamie rushes to take a mental picture for some pervy funds to pay her Jill Bill, Grace escapes out of the window. Result!
After a hard-fought baseball game in which Grace again passed unnoticed, it’s time for the B7s to plan their skit for the rest of the campers. [Wing: Did they draw nights to perform? Why is there no organisation for these skits?] Personally, I hope the skit involves someone getting actually stabbed, as that way the rest of the skits would surely be cancelled for Health and Safety reasons.
They decide that including Grace in their skit – a re-enactment of the Crying Moon and Running Bear legend – could easily be accompanied if the players all wore masks. That way, nobody would suspect there was an extra bunkmate taking part, especially since the whole “count the legs and divide by two” method of maintaining a register of campers was removed from the Camp Laconda counsellor handbook pretty soon after the tragic “One-Legged Lucy” debacle of 1981.
Elizabeth tries to piss on the collective B7 chips once more, with her patented “it’s dangerous to have fun” schtick, but Jessica beats her down with her Unicorn-approved purple cudgel.
When I Googled “Purple Cudgel” to find this picture, I gave a wary glance over my shoulder before I hit Return, I can tell you.
Safesearch is our friend.
Unlike the swimming, things go swimmingly. Neither the counsellors nor Mrs Edwards notice anything untoward, and after a rousing verse of the Camp Laconda song, Grace fades back to the Cabin in the Woods with a massive smile on her face. All the B7s agree that the day was a success.
As the girls disappear into their bunks, Elizabeth lingers outside for, I dunno, a quick ciggie or something. As she’s sparking up, she feels a tap on her shoulder.
It’s Barbara Fields, and she’s seen through everything.
Elizabeth is cold-cocked by Bab’s right hook of hard facts. She had spotted the red-headed Grace changing costumes behind a tree, and jumped to the right conclusions.
Elizabeth, again channelling Jessica in a fit of lies and deception – seriously, I don’t know who she is any more – tries to persuade Barbara that she had been mistaken. After Elizabeth affirms that no, B7 still has an empty bed, Barbara narrows her eyes like Randall from Monsters Inc and slinks off into the darkness.
Liz tells Jessica. Jessica thinks it’ll all be fine, as there is no proof of transgression, an outlook which should surely hold her in good stead for any court appearances she may have in the future. As long as it’s still a secret, there should be nothing to fear.
Next morning, however, it seems news has spread…
Practically every girl in the bunk had told at least one person about the great joke they had pulled off.
Let’s look back at the B7 register, shall we?
Now, I’m pretty sure Jess and Liz kept schtum. And the Empty Bed can’t be blamed. And Amy? I’d like to think that she’d keep quiet too, being Elizabeth’s best friend.
So that leaves Ellen, Kimberley, Kerry and Nancy.
FUCK Ellen, Kimberley, Kerry and Nancy. [Dove: Two unicorns, one default non-Unicorn and some girl we don’t know. My money’s on the Unicorns. It’s always the Unicorns.]
Snitches get stitches, bitches.
Luckily for all involved, the girls in the rest of the camp believe Amazing Grace to be winner winner chicken dinner, vowing never to spill the metaphorical beans, and even to help out with the duplicity should the need and opportunity arise. Grace’s secret is safe… for now.
The only fly in the ointment? The only spider in the gusset? The only pube in the casserole?
(Nothing is real.)
During a soccer game, Elizabeth wonders if Babs will prove to be a bad seed.
IT’S CALLED FOOTBALL, NOT SOCCER.
Only time will tell, Liz… only time will tell.
That afternoon, free of proscribed activity-driven fun, Jessica ups the ante regarding Operation Dance With Boys. Lake Laconda, it seems houses the mystical boundary between the Boy Camp and the Girl Camp. However Camp No Man’s Land lies on a floating platform in the centre of said lake, which is forbidden to one sex while the other sex is scheduled there.
Jessica plans to take a canoe, a petition and a smile to the floating platform at the very height of Floaty Testosterone Fun Time, in order to progress this book to the next stage of B Plot Nirvana.
- How does Elizabeth react upon hearing Jessica’s scheme?
- “Sounds like a fun idea, Jess. I say go for it!”
- “If you get into a canoe it might EXPLODE and you WILL DIE. Don’t do it!
Take a wild fucking guess…
Jessica, knowing it is unsafe to go alone and that Elizabeth would rather shit out a kidney than go along with this one, press-gangs Grace into accompanying her. Good work, Jess. She won’t be missed if she ends up dead. (Killed by a freshwater shark, or more likely Bruce Patman.)
Jessica and Grace take a canoe under the noses of the harried canoe-session-counsellor Rose, and set off with gusto!
After ten minutes of paddling, the float looms into view. Thankfully, the boys are all there. Bruce Patman, Jerry McAllister, and a counsellor who appears just as clueless and blinkered as his Camp Laconda counterparts. A fine career in Middle School Teaching awaits them all. [Dove: *sigh* Every single time I follow that link. And watch in full. And then the suggested videos.]
When the counsellor swims for the shore, Jess and Grace rock up and Jess shares her co-ed dance idea. At first, the boys are completely un-arsed (nice work, lads!), until a fresh fish named Sandy James decrees that he’d be up for a little bump and grind should the situation arise.
It’s on like gangbusters.
Back at Camp Laconda, Elizabeth is chairing a meeting regarding the Camp Newsletter. Why? Because that’s all she can fucking do. Well, that and horses. Maybe the next issue of the Sweet Valley Sixers will be on horseback.
Items on the agenda for the Camp Newsletter?
- The Awards Night.
- A new camp horse.
- The arts-and-crafts contest
- A gossip column that contains something about… Grace?
Again, Elizabeth boards the Nope Train regarding Grace’s inclusion, but it’s mooted that the letter contain a selection of riddles, such as “what has red hair and turns up at breakfast, lunch and dinner?” Answer? Grace. Also, Ronald McDonald.
We also learn something about Barbara Fields. Her riddle question would be:
“What girl disappears every day, and where does she go?”
Not really much of a riddle, that. More a salacious expose. It’s a camp newsletter, not bloody Gossip Girl.
A brief discussion later, we learn that everyone thinks Barbara Fields is weird, and that she disappears to Parts Unknown for a couple of hours each day.
The meeting adjourns with Babs being slandered for being weird, creepy, violent, and (bizarrely) psychic. Liz makes her way to the stables for some Horse Cock Monthly, where they learn of a riding contest.
After catching up with her sister, Liz and the gang troop off to dinner. They hook up with Grace as usual, but this time, things don’t go as smoothly as they’d like. Jamie has finally realised there’s a New Kid On The Block, and forgoes Hanging Tough in order to check out what exactly is going on. She introduces herself to a beleaguered Grace, who must’ve been AWOL for Jessica’s Defence Against The Dark Arts class (AKA How To Get Away With Murder 101) and gives her actual bona fide honest-to-goodness name when quizzed, only to brick it and spill milk over everyone in a vain attempt to pull focus away from her face.
As the milk is cleared up, Jamie gets confused and wanders off. Looks like the shrooms are fading fast, girl.
After dinner, it’s Film Night. The film? Old Yeller.
Again, REALLY?! Isn’t there ANYTHING more contemporary to the time of release than a Disney film made in 1957? I’m not asking for Ghostbusters or anyhing, just SOMETHING from roughly the same decade? Also, wah wah “oh, the camp probably couldn’t afford a better film” boo hoo sob sob. Sweet Valley is a rich neighbourhood in LA, they could’ve made a better film, never mind bought a video from a shop. [Dove: Or even if they had to go deep into the archives, why not something perky, like the original Parent Trap movie?] [Wing: Which is also camp focused. And doesn’t end with a fucking dog dying. That’s a cheerful movie night.]
The girls queue for the film, but there’s an Issue. Sour-faced Tina is doing a head count! She has a clicker, and it counting all the people in the queue as they pass into the auditorium.
Surely enough, her count has an extra girl on the books, and confusion reigns. As Tina motions to start the count again, a solitary voice chimes out with salvation…
“You must have counted me twice,” came a voice from the back of the room.
Jessica and Elizabeth gasped. It was Barbara.
(Nothing to get hung about.)
Barbara explains that she was likely double-clicked as she returned to her bunk for her sweater, delivering her reasoning is such a telegraphed “this is bullshit” way that she might as well have gave the B7 crew a massive comedy wink. But, as the counsellors all need to be clueless gimps in order to stop us thinking about the text too deeply, it all works.
Everyone is pleased that Babs has apparently stepped to the plate and knocked one out of the park for The Blessed Grace Immaculate. Elizabeth, however, is not so sure. Again, stealing the worldly-wise street cred from Jessica, she believes there could be much more to Barbara’s innocence than meets the eye…
Next morning, Barbara’s true colours start shining through. After distracting Jamie with a ball of string and a catnip mouse, The Evil Babs Fields tells B7 exactly what will happen: she will be moving into B7 to take imperious residence in the empty bed.
At first, the current B7ers hit the roof, and deny Barbara point blank. It seems one good deed does not make her any less weird, creepy, violent, or bizarrely psychic. They all turn her down flat.
She resorts to blackmail, of course. You like Grace? Then you like Barbara. Simple as.
Jamie returns after her pouncing session with the cat toy, and informs the assembled B7s that Barbara would be joining her. Everyone murmers a tiny “yay” before Barbara asserts her authoritah by demanding Nancy’s top bunk privilege. Nancy acquiesces through gritted teeth.
After breakfast, Barbara goes a step further: she declares that she is doing no chores while a member of Bunk 7. Her reason? Fuck you, that’s her reason.
And there’s more! That very afternoon, in preparation for their Hawaiian themed dinner [Wing: Because that’s not cultural appropriation at all, CAMP. Not that I can expect better from you. And yes, yes, let’s break down a nuanced and authentic culture to a costume. See the I am Not a Costume campaign. And finally, in a much less important note, how the fuck does everyone dress as hula dancers when they had no idea? Are they all wearing strips of green construction paper?] that evening, the proposed and universally-loved hula dancer costume idea is kicked to the kerb by a massively trolling Barbara demanding they all dress as clowns instead. What the hell clowns have to do with Hawaii is anyone’s guess…. Dove, Ostrich? To be honest, I really hope there’s no connection whatsoever, and that Barbara plucked Clowns out of her arse just to mess with everyone.
The girls looked at each other blankly. “But that has nothing to do with the dinner theme,” Elizabeth pointed out. “We won’t have a chance of winning.”
Barbara shrugged. “So what? I want to be a clown, and if you don’t agree, well, just remember Grace.”
Blimey. Easy Barbara, you sound like you’re threatening to kill her.
At the dinner, everyone else dresses for a luau, while B7 wear red noses and big floppy shoes. It does not go well, and soon, everyone else in the camp knows what Barbara is up to. And no one likes her for it.
Over an undetermined amount of time, Barbara takes charge. If there’s a special treat, she snaffles it. If there are teams, she’s captain. And for a couple of hours each day, she disappears to lord knows where to do lord knows what. Rumours abound, but there’s nothing serious (or even possible) about what is being suggested.
Grace is mortified that the whole camp is being ground to dust underneath Barbara’s iron-heeled jackboot of oppression, but the rest of the non-Babs camp are having none of it. Grace is blameless. It’s all Barbara’s fault. Weirdly, Grace reports that Babs is actually quite nice to her… it’s just the rest of the chumps she despises. (I SMELL A LITTLE SILHOUETTO OF A PLOT!)
Soon, it was time for another Major Excursion – the Camp Leconda Overnight Camp Trip. Not content with actually being a, y’know, CAMP, it seems odd that there maybe a subset of the camp who actually want MOAR CAMP. [Wing: The first summer I went to camp, we had a three day canoe and camping trip in the middle. It was amazing, by far the best part of camp. We canoed in the border waters between Canada and the USA, went cliff diving, slept at one of Al Capone’s alleged hideouts — seriously, best time. I would do it again in a heartbeat. (We were a mixed gender camp, and some of the nights a bunch of us sat up with the guys talking for hours under the stars. )] They whole thing is very Campception. Soon it would be B7’s turn, and Barbara was down to let it occur without a fuss. Grace, too, couldn’t possibly go.
The girls set off in their canoes, then hike the remainder of the way to the campground. Once they got there, everyone but Barbara pitches in to make the place homely and special. While gathering wood for the fire, Amy, Liz and Jess hear a wailing moan, as if an animal was crying out in pain. Upon investigation, it seems to be nothing sinister, although the root cause cannot be determined.
After a pleasant night of hot dogs, stories and marshmallows, everyone turns in for the night. It’s such a pleasant evening that Jamie decrees that anyone can sleep outside their tent tonight if they’d like, and Jess, Liz, Amy and Ellen [Dove: Really? Ellen?] are up for the task ahead. Sure enough, when people drift away, the mysterious moaning resumes in earnest.
The girls are understandably scared, but there’s nothing to fear. Soon the moans are replaced with giggles and sniggers, as the culprits unveil themselves… it’s the Sweet Valley Middle School boys we all know and love (Bruce, Chris, Aaron) [Dove: And who the fuck is Chris? Seriously.], and newcomer Sandy Residue, or whatever the fuck he’s called. They have water-pistols, probably filled with piss.
Sadly for the lads (Ladly), they are sprung by Jamie just as they are warming up and getting their flirt on. She’s not impressed, and suggests the boys STRONGLY fuck right off back to Camp Running Bear where they belong. As they do, they hand Jessica a signed and completed petition, which Jamie largely ignores. Fuck’s sake, Jamez, pull it together. Have a bit of stability.
Jessica opens the petition with glee. Three pages of signatures! She plans a way to present the petitions to Mrs Edwards that’s so spectacular, it’s guaranteed to succeed.
Next morning, it’s up and at ‘em and back to the main camp for a rousing display of Capture the Flag.
Jamie explains the rules – if you’re struggling, just Google it – and Barbara pshaws in her usual derisory manner. She’s getting on my nerves a bit now, and I’m usually all for the antagonists in this kind of thing.
So, the Red Team battles the Blue Team, with Bunk Seven being firmly Red. After some back and forth, in which even Barbara pulled her weight, Blue take the upper hand and capture the Red flag. All they need do is get the purloined flag back to their own base for the Ultimate Victory. Jessica, however, isn’t taking this lying down. She captures the Blue flag and makes a break for it!
Unfortunately, she’s soon hemmed back by the Blue team members. In a desperate attempt at victory, she hurls the flag to Barbara Fields, who is in the open. Babs catches the flag and makes a dash for the winning line. With a clear sprint for the gold, Barbara comes close. But at the last moment the flag falls from her hand and is retrieved by the enemy.
Seconds later, the Blue Team wins. And the collected strength of the Red Team rounds on an indifferent Barbara.
Jessica is certain Babs dropped the flag on purpose.
Elizabeth wants to give Babs the benefit of the doubt.
Babs is a honey badger, and honey badger don’t care.
One refreshing thing about this book is that the Wakefields aren’t winning everything. They lost the Treasure Hunt and they’ve lost Capture the Flag. Nice to see a little vitriol against perfection on this.
We now break for the Riding Competition – I’m exhausted just reading about all the scheduled shit going down at Camp Laconda – Which Elizabeth smashes. Back to business as usual. And when Liz collects her rosette prize, she shares it with the horse.
I mean, COME ON.
Dove, is this believable? I’m all for giving credit where it’s due, but this feels a little over-the-top to me. [Dove: To be honest, sort of. You have to be a right scumbag if you don’t appreciate what your horse did for you in a competition, regardless of whether you win. However, you don’t get to make a speech when you get your prize, you just rock up, get your rosette, put it between your teeth and do a victory canter around the ring, then leave. Then you proudly tie your rosette to the horse’s browband for the rest of the day. Afterwards you pin it up on your wall when you get home. Also, I love the way Liz is asked to do a “slow canter” and she has issues keeping her balance as the horse “lunges forward”. Nope. It’s called a collected canter, and the hard thing is collecting your horse so that he or she keeps cantering, while moving at a speed more suited to a walk or a trot. Fancy and I always had issues with that. She was like, “Nah, bro. That’s walking speed. I’m gonna walk.” On the days we did get it right, it was amazeballs. Her steps would be so small and slow, it was almost like she was moonwalking. Also, Liz, stop giving horses sugar. FFS. Carrots, apples, and the odd Polo/Extra Strong Mint, but not sugar. Behold some truly epic control: dressage set to hip hop:
[Wing: Sugar is still a thing people give to horses over here, though not as frequently. (We used to give carrots and apples, mostly.) Also, collected canter sounds so boring. Why do I want to canter at a slow speed? The best thing about canter is that it’s leading into a full gallop. I don’t understand. #westernriding4eva]
During another task later that day – more editorial work on the Pulitzer Prize Nominee Camp Laconda Uncovered newsletter – we learn another fact about Grace: she’s pretty great at art. As talk turns to the Arts and Crafts contest, Grace reveals that although she can’t enter, she was working on a cool horse statue in the practical sessions.
While Grace shows Elizabeth her wonderful work (Horse Cock Monthly), Barbara rocks up. She clocks Grace’s horse, and clucks appreciatively. She also asks a few questions about the judging process for that evening, and wanders away.
COULD THIS BE IMPORTANT? WHO KNOWS?
At dinner, Jessica is primed to hand Mrs Edwards the double-signed petition. She’s ready for her pitch, and has teaching aids to help her get her point across smoothly. But before she does, in strides Barbara, who decides she doesn’t want a dance. And if Barbara doesn’t want a dance, then nobody can have a dance.
Mutinous mutterings from the B7 Massive threaten to derail Barbara’s cruel intentions, but Babs doubles down:
Barbara wiped her mouth slowly with her napkin … “could you really have a good time at the party if Grace wasn’t there?”
Grace is horrified, and hangs her head. Dinner passes in a seething silence, until Barbara leaves the room. Then the angry words spill out.
“I could kill her,” Jessica burst out.
(Never a truer word spoken.)
Ellen nodded. “She’s ruined everything.”
“No she hasn’t,” Grace burst in. “I’m the one who’s ruined everything.”
Elizabeth staves off Grace’s waterworks by chivvying her along to the Arts and Crafts judging ceremony… but this backfires spectacularly.
Grace’s wonderful horse model has been entered into the contest…. By Barbara Fields!
As Elizabeth and Grace stood in shock and awe, vacillating between blowing the whistle on the whole thing or letting things slide, the judges give Grace’s horse the blue ribbon. She has won… or rather, Barbara has won.
Before the prize giving, a swathe of the campers realise that Grace is upset, and once they discover the reason behind it, the mood darkens. Mrs Edwards hands out prizes to positions 2 and 3, to great applause from the spectating throng. When Barbara steps up to collect “her” prize, the campers golf-clap her off the stage.
Jessica is in no mood to mess around. She strides up to Babs and hurls a direct accusation.
“How could you do that?” Jessica demanded.
“But I was going-”
“Taking Grace’s statue of Brownie [the horse] and pretending it was your own – just because you don’t have any talent,” Jessica fumed.
You can literally see the fume.
Of course, things aren’t as they seem, as we can see from the “But I was going-”… Let’s analyse exactly what this could mean. “But I was going…”
- “… to bludgeon you all to death with the statue.”
- “… home. Screw you guys.”
- “… up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. Oh how I wish he’d go away!”
- “… down to Alphabet Street, I’m gonna crown the first girl that I meet, I’m gonna talk so sexy, She’ll want me from my head to my feet, Yeah yeah yeaaaaah…
- “… to give Grace the prize, as it’s a shame she couldn’t enter the contest herself.”
Yeah, my money’s on number 5. Although I have a soft spot for Number 4 (and the Unicorns would LOVE Purple Rain).
Jessica lays the smack down, telling Barbara exactly how everyone feels. Barbara hardens, retreats into herself, and marches off, trophy in hand.
Grace, ever the martyr (channelling Liz, no doubt), is convinced it’s all her fault. We have a few pages of “It’s me / It’s not you / It’s me / It’s not you,” which is not as good as this:
Before Elizabeth can get to Step 6 of her 8-Step Programme of Peripheral Character Bolstering, Grace turns tail and flees toward the cabin in the woods. Liz makes to follow, but Jessica restrains her with her Mind Lasso (note: the Mind Lasso is metaphorical). Grace is sure to return to the campfire later that evening.
At the campfire, Mrs Edwards has a surprise. She’s heard – somehow – about Jessica’s plans for the Boy-Girl Dance. She’s heard about the petition. And she thinks the whole thing is a great idea.
Had Barbara spilled the beans, only to see it spectacularly backfire? Nope. Apparently the boys had asked when the dance was happening. FUCKING idiots. Thankfully, Mrs Edwards is apparently cool. Yay Mrs Edwards.
The dance is arranged for the last night at camp. Everyone is pleased. Except Barbara, probably.
Next morning, while Barbara was AWOL doing eldritch things beyond the ken of mortal men (especially mortal men actually named Ken), the B7s tried on each other’s clothes in order to pool the best outfits for the Boy-Girl Dance.
Barbara returns, and the fun stops.
As the mood darkens, Babs hands Liz an envelope.
“Here,” she said. “This was left for you.”
“What is it?” Elizabeth said, examining it.
Barbara shrugged. “I don’t know. I think it’s from Grace.”
Jamie enters, and complains about the mess. They all clean up (well, not Babs), and troop off to breakfast. As they depart, Elizabeth reads Grace’s note.
As you’ve probably guessed, Grace has decided she can’t take any more of Barbara’s blackmail, and declares she’s headed back to her godmother’s house.
Elizabeth corners Jessica, and they collude to skip breakfast and check out the Cabin in the Woods. Maybe Grace hasn’t left yet?
With the threat of rain, Jess and Liz arrive at the Cabin to discover that… it’s empty. Grace has obviously decided that it’s time to get gone, and get gone good. Unless the whole thing is a dramatic ruse from Barbara, and Grace’s severed head is buried under the floorboards. [Wing: No one ever thinks to check for severed heads.] They dash back to the camp as the rain starts falling.
Back in the bosom of B7, the twins and their non-Babs bunkies discuss Grace. It’s a long walk to the bus station, they posit. And it’s about to piss it down – a storm warning means all outdoor activities are cancelled. They feel Grace could be in tangible danger, and Elizabeth comes up with a plan: pretend it’s their mother’s birthday to blag a chance to use the Camp Phone, and call the bus station to confirm if Grace has made it there unscathed.
At first, I thought this wasn’t really Liz’s character. It’s quite a scheming thing to do, fabricating a parental celebration for personal gain.
But then I realised it’s actually VERY Elizabeth, to pull out all the stops in order to save a drowning waif.
Get fucked, Elizabeth. You’re ridiculous.
After a brief altercation with Tina, the twins are allowed access to a telephone. They cough up the change, and call the bus station. Luckily, it seems they get through to someone with a solid work ethic and a workable photographic memory. Grace has not passed through the bus station churn that morning.
Outside, the sky is blackening. The storm is coming, fast and dark. Grace, likely caught out in the downpour, might actually dissolve under the water pressure jetting from the sky. And that Just Won’t Do.
The twins have a heart to heart. Elizabeth realises it’s time to come clean. Jessica, naturally, does not want to get into trouble, but she eventually succumbs to the gravity of the situation. It’s time Mrs Edwards knew the truth.
Tina, however, is being a bellend. She doesn’t immediately acquiesce to the Wakefield’s demands, which is alien to Jessica. Our beloved sociopath comes out with the single most threatening line of the series so far.
“Tina, we have to see Mrs Edwards, “Jessica said firmly. “It’s a matter if life and death. If you don’t let us see her right now, a lot of people are going to be very sorry.”
Fucking hell, Jess. Put down the gun and let’s talk.
Tina obviously complies, as death threats are pretty compelling.
Once the beans are spilled to Mrs Edwards, she is astounded. The fallout?
- The most important thing is finding Grace.
- The girls are in SERIOUS trouble for their behaviour.
- Grace’s mother needs to be called.
- Jamie is also summoned, likely to be sacked for not spotting the shenanigans going on under her perky little nose.
Wheels are set in motion, and the twins discuss what’s happened. Jessica is incredulous about one salient fact omitted by Elizabeth in the whole sorry confession: at no time was the involvement of Barbara Fields (Forever) mentioned.
Jessica feels it’s all Barbara’s fault, and she needs punishing for her attitude.
Elizabeth believes Barbara is so miserable, she’s likely been punished enough.
THIS is the Elizabeth we’ve come to know and loathe.
Forgiveness is for suckers, Liz.
Burn the bridges.
To the hilt.
(Nice work, Jamie Suzanne.)
Jessica vows to make this personal, and ask the rest of the campers what to do about The Problem Of Barbaba.
Back in B7, after Jamie is dispatched to see Mrs Edwards, the twins tell their bunkmates what has occurred. As Barbara sleeps – or pretends to sleep – Jessica’s hackles begin to rise. She storms over and shakes Babs like a Polaroid picture.
Barbara is quick to bite back with retorts and accusations, and the anger rises to a crescendo. At the height of the fracas, Jessica swings for the fences.
Barbara looked as if she were about to cry.
Jessica turned to the others. “We want her out, don’t we, girls?”
Jamie returns, both angry and disappointed in the whole debacle. The B7ers hang their heads as she fills them in. Grace’s mother has been called, and will be there in an hour. The bus station and the godmother have been checked, but no Grace. The police are now involved. A search party is being assembled. Operation Find Grace Before She’s A Worm-Addled Bloated Corpse is officially a go.
In all fairness, it’s actually nice to see something being done. So many books in this series so far have little or no parental / adult interaction or supervision. I guess it only takes the threat of death to get us where we need to be.
Under Jamie’s supervision, the girls split themselves into two groups, ostensibly to search the immediate vicinity for signs of Grace. But even this goes badly: no one wants Barbara in their group.
Barbara completely sees her arse, and fucks off with a proverbial two-finger salute. She raises a fist to the sky, opens the door, and runs off into the storm.
Hey, maybe she will find Grace by herself, as she shouts over her departing shoulder. Or maybe she’ll die in a ditch. Either way, she’s out of our hair for a while, which can only be good.
As Barbara departs, Jessica mentions that the fleeing Grumpaluphagus is weird. Jamie makes a cryptic comment about ‘people with problems at home’ can often act out in unpleasant ways.
Jess pushes for more info, but Jamie isn’t biting. She sees the priority being finding Grace, the runaway girl lost in the storm, and not Barbara, the other runaway girl getting lost in the storm. Jamie’s a fucking sponge. Adapt your plan to new information, you porous molecular spam gannet.
The whole camp, in small groups, search every inch of the camp grounds. No Grace. Eventually, the rain becomes torrential, and the girls are ordered indoors.
Jamie, it seems, actually realises that Barbara is a concern too, and has told Mrs Edwards of her pre-search flounce and bounce. Mrs Edwards asks if there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and Elizabeth finally opens up and empties her swelling and sanctified heart.
We cut to Barbara. She’s lost in the rain, and heading for the Cabin in the Woods. After a hideous trek through the wild wind and wet weather, she finally crashes through the door and wraps herself thick in an old blanket by the cold fireplace.
The cabin, apparently, is Barbara’s secret place. No matter how badly the other girls treated her, she could come here and get away from the snarls and the sneers.
That’s right, Ladies and Gents, it’s time for the Inevitable Bad Girl Face Turn Exposition! Why, exactly, is Barbara such a massive asshat?
Through tears on wet cheeks, Barbara retrieves some hidden letters from her parents, stashed in a nearby desk. And whaddaya know, it seems her parents are going through a divorce. Letters from her mother tell her how crappy her father is, and letters from her father tell her how crappy her mother is. Babs is trapped in the middle, and hating it. And when she didn’t join in with the laughing and chatting at the outset of camp, the other girls thought she was mean and aloof, and started rumours. So she chose to BE the bad girl they thought she already was. And she’d been the boss, for a week at least!
If I’m honest, I wanted to snark Barbara’s Origin Story a great deal. But I was actually rather charmed by it. It was given more attention than is usual for such a thing, likely due to the Superness of the Super Edition, which goes to show that More Words is Better.
So keep reading this overlong and flabby recap, and damn well thank me for it.
After the exposition is over, the plot must progress. Guess who else is in the cabin?
Our red-headed heroine stagger in from the other room, where she had been sleeping off a twisted ankle. I’m presuming she wasn’t there when Liz and Jess searched the place earlier, because overlooking their sleeping friend at that point would’ve been ridiculous.
Grace and Barbara. Barbara and Grace.
Forget Mayweather and McGregor… THIS could be the fight of the decade!
LET BONDING COMMENCE!
Over a frank sharing of facts and opinions, it seems that Barbara ain’t so bad after all. She’d only entered Grace’s model horse in the contest because she thought it deserved to win, and she’d planned to give Grace the award straight after. And after hearing about Grace’s family issues, she’d felt close to her, and not at all vindictive, petty or mean.
Grace responds kindly to this news, although Barbara is suspicious of her motives. All becomes clear when Grace admits to feeling a connection with Barbara through one thing…. She’d read Barbara’s private letters.
Barbara is incensed. The letters were for her eyes only. All thoughts of bonding, reconciliation and friendship go out the window. Although the storm still rages outside, she rushes outside and disappears into the rain.
Again, quite a nice twist. I thought the reconciliation between the girls was well handled, and pretty much endgame for their story journey. But Jamie Suzanne threw an extra layer into it, keeping us on our toes.
Nice work, Jamie Suzanne.
Outside, in the storm, the lightning begins. Barbara is battered by wind and rain, and things are looking grim. Suddenly, a huge crack sounds behid her, from the cabin. Turning in horror, Barbara discovers that the cabin is ablaze! The roof, struck by lightning, as pieces of burning roof fall down on a stranded Grace.
That escalated quickly.
It’s been raining from AGES, and the lightning turns the shack into an immediate inferno death trap? What the hell is the cabin made of? Petrol?
Stupid Hollywood shoot-a-car-and-watch-it-explode physics.
After contemplating the situation, and deciding she couldn’t simply leave the twisted-ankle-Grace to a fiery death, Barbara girds her loins and rushes back into the Cabin. Inhaling smoke and avoiding falling timbers, she spots the limp and compromised Grace laying prone in the corner. Using all her strength, she rouses a confused Grace and helps her out of the building into the cool and wet evening air.
Once safe under a nearby tree (in a lightning storm?!), Grace and Barbara finally bond for real. Babs wants to dash off for help, but Grace doesn’t want to be left alone. She thanks her saviour, much to Barbara’s embarrassment.
Suddenly, a search party arrives! Mrs Edwards, Tina and Grace’s mother. So, the exact people the story would dictate, not just three random policemen or concerned private citizens. How lucky!
After a tearful reconciliation between Mother and Daughter, Tina is dispatched to fetch the paramedics in order to check out Grace’s leg. Grace suggests that they should also check over Barbara… but Barbara is no longer there.
Maybe she’s been dead for twenty years, and she’s actually a ghost! How spooky. [Dove: … why wasn’t that the story? I’m good with that. Ah well, we’re only a month or so away from a Super Chiller!] [Wing: SERIOUSLY. One dead girl who keeps haunting the camp where she died. At first, she loved tormenting the campers, especially the ones who were there the year she died, but they’ve all grown up now, and she wants out, but she’s stuck in this endless loop. Until Grace. Or, you know, a more compelling character, whatever. Dude, it could also be a queer love story.]
Mrs Edwards is getting a bit pissed off with the whole thing, as she’s likely got to send out another search party to search for Barbara. Also, it’s confirmed that Daddy Oliver is also on his way, probably in order to tear up the Oliver Divorce Papers in a fitting Everything Is Awesome finale.
We’re on the home stretch now, thankfully. Back at camp, everyone is pleased to see Grace, and the Olivers are penitent over their divisive behaviour once their daughter told them how she felt and what they were doing to themselves. They don’t out-and-out reconcile (nice work, Jamie Suzanne), but they vow to stop the bickering, for the sake of the integrity of their family unit.
As the Oliver Reconciliation is happening, Bunk 7 are still unaware of Barbara’s part in Grace’s adventure. They sit and bicker about how far they should make Barbara fuck off, should she return.
Lo, a wild Barbara appears! After fading from the scene at the Cabin, she wandered back to the Camp in the rain.
As she makes her way to her bunk, Jessica rounds on her, backed by the rest of the girls. They lay into Barbara something fierce, and pull no punches. Jessica vows to tell everyone about the blackmail and the horse statue, vowing to make sure Babs got the short end of a rather shitty stick for her behaviour.
Babs is actually scared here… she doesn’t want to be kicked out of camp, as her bickering parents would be devastated. But what can she do? Everyone’s mind seems made up.
Actually, I’m shocked Liz is going along with this, albeit in a rather silent capacity.
Barbara offers a placatory apology, but Jess is in FULL JESS MODE, and not willing to back down. When Jamie summons the B7 Crew to see the recovering and reconciled Oliver family, Jess and Barbara linger behind.
So Jess can “help” Barbara pack for her immediate trip home!
Attagirl, Jess. Why listen to reason when emotion is on the table?
Barbara is stunned as Jess hauls all her things out of the dry bunk and into the wet campground. When she tries to get back into the bunk, Jessica bars her way.
Finally, finally, Grace appears, leaning heavily on a stick, and clears everything up.
“No Jess, it’s NOT okay that Barbara has been kicked out.”
“No Jess, its’ NOT good that Barbara is going home.”
“No Jess, Barbara is NOT an arse, she saved my life.”
“No Jess, this cane is NOT a fashion accessory, and it would NOT look better in purple.”
Grace explains everything, and the book should now end, but because this fucking thing is apparently INFINITELY LONG, there’s time for Barbara to run away one more time (to hide in the stables), and for Grace to bring her back from the edge by telling her to be open about her family problems. Standard stuff, yadda yadda yadda.
So we end with the Boy-Girl Dance. And the news that Lila is having a SHOCKER in Paris with her grandmother. Apparently it’s all museums and no men, all culture and no cock. Poor Lila. [Wing: Lies, museums are full of cock and tits.]
Sandy dances with Jessica, and Barbara dances with Jerry McAllister. Everyone now loves Barbara, as she’s told everyone about her troubles at home.
And then the book ends.
I think I liked this book, when I first read it. However, when I recapped it, it seemed to go on forever. There was so much needless Camp crap, such as the horse riding competition and the stuff about Tina. To be frank, it felt like it was written as a normal SVT book that was extended to be a Super Edition without much care or forethought. [Wing: Aww, I like the camp stuff, but I love camp books in general.]
However, I did like Barbara, to a point. The stuff about divorce and warring parents was decent enough, and while I did miss Lila and the usual school setting, the Camp was charming.
My FINAL final thought? The book has SO MANY FALSE FINISHES. Seriously, I think this Jamie Suzanne was actually Vince bloody McMahon. Put a belt on it, I’m done.
[Dove: This was one of my frequent re-reads as a kid, and I’m not quite sure why. But I did love it. Massively. Maybe it’s because summer camp is just not a thing in England. (Well, “summer” is not really a thing in England. We have two settings: Winter and August.) It’s weird that Grace is shown as Elizabeth’s friend, when she’s been a Unicorn for months, but it appears that Jessica – who came up with Grace’s pledge tasks – isn’t aware of this. I don’t really blame Ellen or Kimberley Haver for not knowing Grace is ONE OF US. Ellen’s not very bright, and Kimberley is like the Kerry Glenn of the Unicorns – use her name when you need someone, non-Wakefield or Wakefield-adjacent, to say something.]
Looking back at things I’ve enjoyed, and smashing them to pieces with the Snark-Hammer. Lover of games of every stripe and hue. NOT A REAL BIRD.