Title: The Twins Go To College
Tagline: Look out SVU! Romance and mystery at Sweet Valley University!
Summary: Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are off to SVU for a special two-week summer session.
Elizabeth is thrilled to study Romantic poetry. And when she meets Ethan Williams, a totally cute teaching assistant, she has the feeling the class will be even more romantic than she thought! But Ethan is a college student, way too old for Elizabeth. Or is he? [Wing: YES.]
Jessica thinks everything about college life is perfect… except for her obnoxious roommate, Susan Rainer. Jessica wishes Susan would get lost… and Susan does. In fact, she disappears from SVU completely! Did Jessica put a curse on her roommate?
Wait a minute… Elizabeth is hoping to date a college student? She’s twelve! That’s all manner of wrong. That’s a plan straight out of the Jessica Wakefield Playbook.
Oh, and Jessica puts a curse on someone? Standard.
[Dove: I kind of like this idea. I love summer camp stories, and this is the same kind of thing. Basically free from parents, with structured activities and free time for wacky hijinks. Bring it.]
We start with a post-mall stroll by Lila and Jessica, both blissfully contemplating the summer holidays which lay before the, As a man who’s writing this on the Saturday before a full week off work, I can totes relate.
Lila, of course, is looking forward to shopping at all the most desirable mall stores in the Valley, such as the marvellously-named shoe store Chez Foot [Dove: We have peaked on page one. Where do we go from here?], but Jessica, the poorer of the two, turns talk to simply enjoying doing nothing at all. They both bond over the fact that they will not have to be in school, doing that godawful learning that they each hate.
Apparently, the curriculum is useless to the modern pre-teen girl’s needs. They posit the idea of “shopping mall math”, suggesting price comparisons in stores and other such stuff. To be honest, I can sympathise here, as some more “real-world” lessons would have been great back in my school days. I was taught what an Oxbow Lake was, but not how to balance finances, or calculate my taxes, or start a business, and so on. Then again, I wouldn’t take a fucking macaroon from the fuckwits at SVMS, never mind financial advice. [Wing: I may have said this before, but you know what would have been useful to learn? Balancing a checkbook or cooking. What did Wing not learn in university-prep classes? Anything practical like that. What did Ostrich learn in his ‘no way he’s going to university’ classes? Everything practical.]
Deep in conversation, they walk straight past the Wakefield Compound, and accidentally barrel into the mailman in their haste to correct their path. He takes it with good grace, and has a few words, and is apparently a deep personal friend of the Wakefields having been their mailman since records began. The whole interaction is a bit pointless, and it smacks of “give your cousin a part in the film” demands made by a parent to a new filmmaker.
In helping gather the mailman’s dislodged letters, Jessica finds a letter from Sweet Valley University, addressed to Elizabeth and Jessica herself. Her blood runs cold. The summer programme!
I was so hoping it was some sort of acceptance letter into some sort to genetic experiments for twins at the University, and the whole book was going to be mad scientists and FrankenWakefields and evil geniuses. Ah well, c’est la vie.
[Dove: a la Too Many Pinkie Pies?]
Apparently, a few months earlier the twins had applied for a summer study programme at SVU. Naturally, Elizabeth had been the driving force behind this, while Jessica had largely been press-ganged into it at the behest of the Elder Wakefields.
Snapping to post-letter-open, we learn that the twins have got into the programme, which is of course only to be expected in a book called The Twins Go To College. Elizabeth is exultant, while Jessica is morose.
Elizabeth explains that the programme won’t be like the normal school experience…
Elizabeth sighed. “But this isn’t like regular school, Jess,” she explained. “It’s way better. You take only one class, and you get a long list to choose from. And you get to meet new people. They come from all across the country, practically, for the study program. And we’ll stay in the dorms…” Her voice trailed off. One look at Jessica’s face showed that Jessica wasn’t buying it.
Attagirl, Jess. Stick to your guns.
Lila laughs and mocks, while Elizabeth tries her best to convince her sister with a laundry list of possible courses.
“See, Jess? There are so many really cool courses you could take. Fun with Filmmaking… Principles of Engineering… Experiments with Blocks and Rubber Bands. Writing Children’s Books…”
Jessica is still unconvinced. [Wing: That Fun with Filmmaking class seems right up her alley, though. Poor Jess, too annoyed with school during the summer to think about her acting career.] She ruminates on the differences between herself and Elizabeth. And, as Dove as constantly requested that I return to this trope, I will ruminate on their differences too.
- Elizabeth is a fan of Amada Howard mysteries, while Jessica would kill everyone she knows for the chance to nibble one of Johnny Buck’s nuttiest turds.
- Jessica would slit your throat while you slept. Elizabeth would salve the wound with her healing tears, weeping at the woes of the world.
- Elizabeth frots herself to a frenzy against a threadbare and traumatised stuffed koala every night. Jessica’s favourite colour is purple.
[Dove: *applauds* If you like Raven doing these, comment. Because he thinks it’s just me that enjoys them.]
That night, Jess is adamant. She’s not going. Her father tells her to wind her neck in, as it’s a huge honour and she’s going. Mrs Wakefield agrees.
“It certainly is,” Mrs. Wakefield agreed. She sat cross-legged on the living room couch, playing solitaire. “Why, when I was your age, I’d have killed to get into a study program like the one at SVU.”
And I’d kill to stay out of it, Jessica thought, but she decided not to say so.
First up, Solitaire? Jesus, Alice, have some self re-cocking-spect. [Wing: Shut your goddamn face, Raven. Solitaire is a delight.]
Second, Jessica would kill to get out of the summer camp? Well, duh!
There’s some charming familial banter between the Elders and their psychotic charge, including a nice exchange in which Jessica, when cornered by Papa W, is asked whether she thinks Elizabeth is a Nerd or a Geek or a Loser…
“Well—” Jessica considered. Elizabeth could be a little goody-goody sometimes. And it was hard to deal with her when she did all the research for a report the day it was assigned, while Jessica sometimes waited till the very last minute. Or later. And it was annoying the way Elizabeth always seemed to understand what was going on in math class. Though Jessica had to admit that if she paid as much attention as her sister did, she might do just as well on the tests as Elizabeth. But a nerd? Not exactly. “No,” she said after a moment.
Sorry Jessica, you took too long to answer that with any real conviction.
Jessica puts her foot down, claiming she’s not going, and that the Elder Wakefields can’t make her. They calmly claim they can, because they’re both fucking off for a coke-fuelled sex party full of natural beauty at the Grand Fucking Canyon. And Jessica can’t come.
Jessica is furious.
She was being shipped off to the program against her wishes, and that was kidnapping, wasn’t it? Kidnapping or one of those other crimes that people got arrested for. Embezzling, or something. She vaguely remembered seeing someone get put in jail for embezzling on one episode of Homicide Plus!
I mean, that’s just glorious. Embezzling! [Wing: I love her.]
In desperation, she even suggests that she can stay home with Steven, which I’m sure we all acknowledge is a fate worse than a fate worse than death. Apparently, Steven’s going to Basketball Camp, so that’s also a Firm No.
That’s Steven Wakefield’s entire entry in this book.
One sentence reference, and bosh! Done.
That’s how it’s done, folks. Get him in the fucking sea (basketball camp).
This book is shaping up well.
[This Jamie is good. She hates Steven and thus far she’s used enough snark to show that she’s a little bored of Elizabeth’s perfection too. This is a good start.]
Jess tries her final gambit: she offers to stay Home Alone. This butters no parsnips, and the stage is set. The Wakefield Twins are heading to SVU!
Chapter Two stats with the sassiest Unicorn section since the time they pretended to fuck up their ice-skating fundraiser.
“You poor thing,” Mandy Miller muttered. She gave Jessica a brief hug and handed her a black-edged envelope.
That’s right, folks. The Unicorns, having heard of Jessica’s Summer Holiday Plight, visit the Wakefield Compound, all dressed in black, to deliver a card of condolence with their deepest sympathy. Now THERE’S a version of the Unicorns I can get behind! Excellent work, Ghostie. [Dove: This was epic.] [Raven: So good.] [Wing: This ghostie needs to write the Unicorns so much more often.]
Amy Sutton, on the other hand, is waxing jealous to Elizabeth as our saintly twin packs her case for college. She tells Elizabeth that she’ll be bored, and that the mall will be overrun with gaggling Unicorns as far as the eye can see. I sympathise with the lank-haired spunkwaffle, I guess. It’ll be hard on her without Elizabeth around to tell her what she should be thinking.
The girls discuss what course Elizabeth with be choosing. As of yet, the decision has not been made. Liz mentions Romantic Poetry, and Amy gently pokes fun at her friend. She tells Elizabeth that romance, without a capital R, may be in the air. After all, Amy’s folks met at college, in Logic Class.
Except they didn’t of course. According to Jumping to Conclusions, they met in High School, and bonded when they were both stuck atop a Ferris Wheel. And when talk turns to Alice and Ned’s first meeting, it’s revealed that it was at SVO, while they were students, which is again contradicted by Jumping to Conclusions, in which we’re told they met while Alice was a waitress and Ned was in Law School. [Dove: Which in turn will be contradicted again when we 1) get to SVH; and 2) read the Sagas.]
This book is full of bullshit.
Elizabeth tells her spunkwaffle pal that she’ll have no time for romance, as she’ll be working hard. Amy makes Liz promise that if a boy smiles at her in the lecture hall, she’ll flash him her best tit.
Back downstairs, the mourning Unicorns are setting in with a sorrowful Jess for a movie marathon., Jess pops a video in the VCR, and we get this baffling weirdness.
The television screen flickered and suddenly came to life. Pulsating music filled the room, and a cute blond boy a couple of years younger than Jessica pulled up to a fence on a shiny red bicycle. McKinley Carlson, of course—the actor who became famous for screaming.
I mean, what the actual fuck? This is actually a face-value Macaulay Culkin rip? That’s so random. [Dove: I hadn’t actually made that connection. I just thought it was a weird thing to put in. It now makes sense.] [Raven: Wow, I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on this, it leapt from the page for me.] [Wing: Same. Dove’s usually the one on top of things like this, too, and I’m the last to see it. Odd world right now.]
Back with Liz and Amy, the former promises to write to her friend. Spoilers? She doesn’t spend one fucking second even considering her bestie, let alone putting pen to paper for a missive. Selfish bitch.
Amy continues to mock her friend, claiming romance is in the air for Elizabeth and no mistake.
After the movie, the Unicorns sit and chew the fat. Mandy Miller, everyone’s favourite supplementary Unicorn after Ellen, spends the time reading the SVU course brochure. While Lila and chums brainstorm ways to free Jessica from her mall-free gulag, Mandy actually learns about the contents of SVU’s two-week learning holiday, and tries to convince Jess that it won’t be doom and / or gloom. After hearing about the university pools, and game room, and nearby shopping malls, Jessica is legit thrilled at the prospect.
Jessica felt a rush of confidence. This was going to be so cool. All she’d have to do was find the easiest course possible, and she’d be absolutely golden.
What does she settle on?
Ceramics. [Wing: Oh, Wakefield, it’s not that easy at all.]
YEAH! LET’S GET ALL SWAYZE IN THE MUTHERFUCKA!
The chapter ends with Elizabeth finally committing to Romantic Poetry, with one eye on the wordsmithery and one eye on the D.
Chapter Three starts with the Elder Wakefields walking the twins through their Alma Mater campus, [Wing: Have Alice and Ned ever lived anywhere but Sweet Valley? I’ve not given it much thought until now, but they seem very limited in their outside experience.] reminiscing in a cute and wholly irritating way. There are many stories, each one designed to bore their children senseless, and the twins are desperate to get out from under their parents’ feet and register for their chosen courses before signups close. And honestly, I get the twins’ issues with this. I understand that Ned and Alice are desperate to relive old times, but surely they can do that with a joss stick and a butt-plug on their Grand Canyon Sex Trek in the coming days. [Dove: This legit made me anxious. This is exactly the shit I cannot stand. The twins had to sign up for classes by a certain time, and instead of prioritising their kids’ actual scholastic pursuits, Ned and Alice are like, “Nah, do it later. Now let me tell you about the time I had a threesome with Dyan Sutton and George Fowler against the clock tower.” Seriously, your kids have actual deadlines to hit. Either let them hit them first, or remenisce without them.]
Amongst the many stories, we find one regarding a non-Ken-Matthews basketballing titch. Allegedly, Ned was playing a little one-on-one with Walter Egbert, at which time they were challenged and soundly bested by a three-foot-tall freshman who went on to be an NBA star.
I’m no huge basketball fan, but a claim like that cannot go unchecked. And yes, know the three-foot-tall thing is hyperbole, but even so, it’s checkable. The shortest ever player in the NBA was Muggsy Bogues at 5 foot 3 inches tall, drafted in 1987.
So. Let’s say this basketball game took place when Ned and Alice were both eighteen. If the action of this story takes place in 1990, which is generously late, then the basketball game would have taken place in something like 1972 (plus four years to 1976, when the Wakefields are 22 and have Steven, then three years later they have the twins, then eleven years later and it’s 1990).
Let’s say the basketballing titch is drafted to the Big League in 1975 (three years after the pickup game, seems legit). In that period, the only “short” NBA player was Monte Towe, who measured 5 foot 7 inches. He’s legitimately in the Ten Shortest Players in NBA History list. The only other player of that era that could be considered is the 5 foot 9 inch Calvin Murphy, but he was drafted in 1970 and he’s an inch taller than me.
I guess that at 5 foot 7 inches he’s very small for a basketball star, but it’s not like he’s an Oompa Loompa. [Wing: Ostrich would consider him an Oompa Loompa.]
Anyway, let’s move on.
The twins are bored shitless by this biographical bullshit, which is entirely correct for Jessica but very much outside Elizabeth’s operational parameters. I’d have thought she’d have loved seeing her parents caught in the throes of nostalgia, but apparently not. [Dove: But I can also see Liz being a stringent time-keeper. Being late would agitate her.] Instead, she’s just as mortified as Jessica as the Elders buy them chocolate chip milkshakes because they were their favourite when they attended SVU.
Eventually, Elizabeth manages to trick Ned and Alice into leaving an hour earlier than scheduled, thanks to a malfunctioning clock tower and a prior promise to drive Steven to Basketball Camp.
Right! It’s Chapter Four, and the parents are gone. The twins are at college, and the book can begin in earnest. Having both enrolled for their first choice classes, they are checking out their dorm rooms in Woodbridge Hall.
First, we meet Elizabeth’s roommate, one Marion Hobart. It seems that Marion is a cookie-cutter-copy of the Wakefield Twins. She’s nice, in a kooky way, but her resemblance to the twins is almost supernatural. Jessica is particularly creeped out. [Dove: Margo?!?!]
Triplets? Jessica stared at Marion’s eyes. The girl had a look on her face that—that looked like Elizabeth. Jessica’s heart gave a leap. “You aren’t serious, are you?” she ventured. A wild thought rose in her. Maybe there were three of us, really, and Mom and Dad couldn’t afford to keep us all, so they let Marion go and be adopted by some other family, and…
Lovely work there from the Ghostie. Of course Jess would be the one to skip the middle steps and leap straight to the most ridiculous explanation.
Anyway, it turns out that Marion is actually a master of disguise, who can pass herself off as a Wakefield Triplet should the contrived need arise. Will the contrived need arise? You bet your sweet cheeks it will, baby!
While Elizabeth and Marion bond, Jessica nips away to meet her roommate, one Susan Rainer.
At first blush, she and Susan would appear to be two peas from the same pod. Admittedly, I’m basing this on the sole fact that Susan is reading More Beautiful You Monthly as Jessica enters the room. However, it’s soon established that Susan is a proper bitch, as all she can do is put down Sweet Valley’s resident sociopath with every word she utters. She denigrates Jessica’s clothes with a sneer, because apparently a t shirt and jeans combo isn’t cool.
Jessica is taken aback, and tries to rally, but the hits just keep on coming.
She narrowed her eyes, wondering if Susan was being patronizing to her. “I’m sure we have a lot in common,” she said.
“Yes, tons.” Susan’s eyes didn’t leave her magazine. “I know high fashion. You wear T-shirts.” She smirked. “I’m from L.A. You’re from the middle of the desert.”
The middle of the desert? “What are you talking about?” Jessica demanded hotly. “I live right here in Sweet Valley!”
“Oh please.” Susan yawned again and stretched. “Like Sweet Valley isn’t in the middle of the desert. The cultural desert, anyway. Where can you go to see a good French film with subtitles, or buy the latest Syrian bread? Have you ever eaten Syrian bread?” She flashed Jessica a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin. “I didn’t think so.”
I mean, I’m all for creating an antagonist, but we need some form of credibility. This is laid on with a fucking trowel. Although I may co-opt the putdown “have you ever eaten Syrian bread?” into my lexicon going forward.
[Wing: I love how Sweet Valley moves around from being a suburb of LA to being, apparently, in the desert too far to do things like watch a good French film with subtitles. Though if you really want to be a snob, Susan, you’d be watching them without subtitles.]
Susan, it seems, also loves Jazz and hates Johnny Buck. Even though I too have little time for Jazz – read my thoughts over at the 1000 Albums Project website, my personal and humorous music blog, specifically here and here – Susan can fuck off into space. [Dove: Jazz. Not my thing. Susan can keep it.] [Wing: I love jazz. Have some Nina Simone.]
Apparently, Susan ain’t at college for study. She’s there FTB… For The Boys. Jessica smiles, thinking they may have common ground, but Susan doubles down on the hatred for Jessica’s wardrobe, and that’s that. Bad move, Susan, poking this particularly fashion-conscious bear. I predict you’ll be found in eight pieces, scattered around campus.
Back with Elizabeth, we learn more about the master of disguise Marion. Apparently, she’s there to study criminology, as both her parents are police detectives. As opposed to what? Store detectives? Pidgeon detectives? She can also pick locks and get out of handcuffs, and I’m thinking she’ll be a rather entertaining MacGuffin, or Marion Ex Machina, should the plot require it. She and Elizabeth sort-of bond over the Amada Howard Mysteries series of books, which Elizabeth adores but which Marion pokes holes in from a seasoned criminologist’s perspective. [Dove: These small asides from Marion are a fucking delight, as she off-handedly explains why a key plot point wouldn’t work. To paraphrase CinemaSins, Marion would be excellent at SweetValley.Online.]
This doesn’t phase Elizabeth as much as Susan’s outright hostility phased Jessica, and the two girls head off to the snack bar. There, they are joined by a seething Jessica who -surprise – suggests that she and Elizabeth switch rooms.
Elizabeth laughed. “You don’t really expect me to jump at that offer, do you? If you don’t like her, how do you expect me to like her any better than you?”
“Because—” Jessica considered. “Because you always see the good side in everybody.”
Nice work, Ghostie, lampshading what all the readers know and have known since book one.
Randomly, as the girls chat, they are joined by a kid called Mike, who is a Nature Scout, and has the softest brown eyes Jessica has ever seen. As he and Jessica start schmoozing it up, in that cute way – “We scouts are going canoeing soon, but we’re around for a few days until we go, teehee!” … “I’m doing ceramics, and in my hands you’ll be a pliable and supplicant as wet clay, baby!” – who should arrive to shit in their yoghurt but the dreaded Susan. Immediately, Susan starts elbowing into Jessica’s Mike Time, using every opportunity to big herself up and put Jessica down in the process. Jessica fights back, valiantly, but it’s no good. Susan and Mike sashay off to a private table.
Jessica is gobsmacked.
“Amazing,” Marion said with a snort. “What a jerk.”
“I—I can’t believe she did this to me.” Jessica shook her head, tight-lipped. She had never felt so completely put down in her entire life.
Elizabeth toyed uneasily with her straw. “Come on, guys, don’t be so harsh. She must have some nice qualities.”
Absolutely PERFECT Elizabeth line there. So pious! [Dove: So swap rooms, Saint Elizabeth!]
After dinner, Elizabeth explores the campus, happily without her interfering parents. She loves what she sees, and she’s giddy for her poetry class the following day. Eventually, she winds up on a footbridge near the clock tower. She recalls a line from a Romantic poem – “I stood on thew bridge at midnight, when the clocks were striking the hour” – and, in the spirit of reinvention that coursing through her college-addled mind, she decided to yell it out like some sort of unhinged artisanal.
After she does so, she’s surprised by a voice behind her. A voice who knows his poetry.
A boy was standing there in the darkness, a boy with light hair and an engaging, slightly toothy smile. “Longfellow,” he said pleasantly. “The poem you were quoting just now. It’s by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, isn’t it?”
The pair then bond, shyly, over their shared love of, I dunno, iambic pentameter or somesuch. Cute, I guess. They talk about other poets and poems in a wholly believable way, which suggests the Ghostie actually did some research for once. Shiny.
Eventually, the conversation dies a natural death as the boy demonstrates his knowledge of the form is a little greater than Elizabeth’s, and they part company without sharing names or other pertinent details.
So this is the love interest for Elizabeth… While it’s cute here – SPOILERS – it doesn’t remain cute for very long.
Back with Jessica and Susan, our tried-and-true sociopath is ripping a shade of shit out of the new sociopath, who doesn’t give a pimply fig. While Jazz harrumphs in the background, Susan rebuffs all of Jessica’s complaints with yet more snide vitriol. We’re reminded that both these girls are actually twelve, even though Susan comes over as much older. Susan, naturally, wins the battle here, because we all know she’ll lose the war somewhere down the line. [Dove: This bitch isn’t good enough for the Mercandy backyard. Jessica’s going to chop her up and serve her up in Alice and Ned’s beloved milkshakes.] [Raven: *shudder*]
Cutting to Marion and Elizabeth, we have Elizabeth waxing lyrical about her newfound love. That’s right, fuck Todd Wilkins, the unpoetic twat. She believes the bridge scene was straight out of a Romanticpoem, while Marion wants to tail the kid and get some info on him, like a born gumshoe or flatfoot. She also claims that the police force grease the palms of their informants with tens and twenties, which makes me think her idea of her chosen profession is likely cribbed from the movies. A nice touch.
Jessica strops in, and complains that she can’t get reassigned a new roommate as there are no rooms available, according to her RA. I’m, guessing that’s Resident Adviser? We don’t have them in the UK, I think. Then again, I’m twenty-six years out of University, so my knowledge is likely archaic. [Wing: Yes, resident adviser. There’s always stories about bonding with them in university stories, but I can’t even remember meeting any of mine and I lived on campus three out of four years during undergrad.]
Jessica, however, has a wild idea that might just work…
She leaned forward and her eyes took on a sudden gleam. “But, see, I had this idea.”
“Uh-oh.” Elizabeth groaned. “This is what it’s like to be Jessica’s twin, Marion. She always has some wild idea or other.”
“Never a dull moment,” Marion observed.
“Well, I wouldn’t call this one a wild idea, exactly,” Jessica protested. “It’s just that—well—Elizabeth, change rooms with me already!”
“Oh, Jessica.” Hadn’t they already been through all that at the snack bar? Elizabeth sighed. “I’m not going to switch, and that’s final.”
Hahaha, straight up amazing. Her “idea” was simply “ask Elizabeth again in a more pleading and desperate tone.” Completely genre-savvy from the Ghostie, written with some actual thought. Loving it!
Next up, it’s the first classes, with Elizabeth’s first Poetry and Jessica’s first Ceramics! I predict things will not go well.
Before we watch the clay and couplets fly, let’s soothe ourselves with some satisfying expertise.
[Wing: I CAN DO THOSE THINGS!]
Jess’s class starts well. There are three good-looking guys to every girl. All, apparently, with eyes on her.
Elizabeth’s class starts slightly less weakly. First, she’s sat next to an airhead who is expecting, I suppose not surprisingly, Romantic Poetry to be Hallmark Mills & Boon style schmaltz. Her favourite poet is “any poet, as long as the guy is foxy.”
Foxy? Elizabeth frowned. “Well, like, how do you feel about Keats?” she asked.
“Keats?” The girl looked blank. “What are Keats?”
… Ellen, is that you?! (Loving it, proper lol.)
The airhead then shared her boyfriend Marty’s doggerel love poem, and Elizabeth hasn’t the heart to slap that silly cow down. The airhead then offers this line:
“Wait till you see the poem my other boyfriend sent me. His stuff doesn’t have the same zing as Marty’s, but his rhymes are better.”
Then, the teacher enters… and he has a familiar face and voice.
That’s right, folks. Elizabeth’s love interest is Ethan Williams, class professor for her Romantic Poetry course.
It’s Pacey and Ms Jacobs all over again! [Dove: *gawps* How on earth do you know about Pacey and Ms Jacobs? EXPLAIN RIGHT NOW.] [Raven: I’m sorry, but a verbal magician does not reveal his secrets.] [Wing: I was going to say Aria and Ezra Fitz, but fair play on Pacey. Also, I hate hate H A T E teacher/student stories, even where it’s clear nothing will happen, even a one-sided crush, enough so that though I love the premise and really enjoy a lot of the details of this book, reading this wasn’t a rollicking good time for me.]
Back at the potter’s wheel, Jessica is informed that Ceramics is no easy A. To complete the course, she needs to make a plate, two bowls, two pots, and three mugs. I’ve a feeling Jessica and Elizabeth have long made three mugs out of us recappers, but I digress.
[Wing: …in two weeks? That’s a fairly intense timeline if those things are meant to be actually decent and not just wobbling bits of clay.]
After a little terminology confusion, the class is shown how to throw a pot. Jessica comments that it looks easy, and is thereby co-opted into being the sacrificial guinea-pig, which is like a sacrificial lamb but with considerably more lettuce. She steps forward, gamely.
Back at the Rom Po class, there is incredulity as to the teacher’s age. He reveals that during the academic year, he’s a student and TA, with part of his remit being the teaching of enrichment classes such as these. [Wing: Wait. If he’s eighteen, unless he’s some sort of genius, he’s had, at most, one year at university and more likely no years, so how exactly is this supposed to be possible, ghostie. Also, how the fuck didn’t Liz realise he was quite a bit older when she met him?]
So. He’s eighteen. And he’s Elizabeth’s love interest.
PAEDOPHILE KLAXON! PAEDOPHILE KLAXON!
I wonder what the Paedophile Klaxon would actually sound like? Maybe just a repetitive “Now Then Now Then” aka Jimmy Savile, or maybe just a random Lostprophets song.
Also, PAEDOPHILE KLAXON? New tag.
(SPOILERS – he’s not actually eighteen, but we’ll get to that later.) [Wing: Yes, yes, yes, but still.]
As Ethan debunks the airhead’s notions of what Romantic Poetry actually is, Elizabeth decides that to win his favour, she must channel Jessica at her most ludicrous and sublime. To catch an eighteen-year-old, she must become an eighteen-year-old…
Was there a way to make Ethan think that she was a lot older than she was?
What the hell has the Ghostie done with safe and stolid Elizabeth? Enquiring minds want to know!
Back with Jess, and she’s throwing her pot with confidence. At first, she starts with too much clay, and then she struggles to get the wheel moving at all.
Soon, however, she gets the wheel turning, and she’s triumphant. The teacher warns her to slow her flow and be less heavy-footed at the wheel, but she’s having none of it.
Jessica snorted. After she’d worked this hard, he was telling her to slow down? I don’t think so! she thought, giving the pedal another kick. The clay did seem to be moving, so she pressed down even more firmly against it—
Like a sudden reverse tornado, the slick wet clay funneled up between Jessica’s fingers. Bits of slimy stuff pelted her face and stuck to her clothes.
“Help!” she shouted—and gagged as a particularly big blob caught her in the mouth.
Covered in clay, clothes ruined, the rest of the class laughing at her… Jessica was not best pleased. Aa a reader, however, this was expected, and delivered. Nice work.
After class, still gunked to the gills, Jessica wends a weary way back to her dorm room, lamenting her luck at every step. She has the sense to snipe at the perfect prissy Elizabeth too, which definitely convinces me that this Ghostie is Team Jessica through and through.
She stops abruptly, suddenly aware that she’s lost her bearings and stumbled into a gallery of sorts. A sign reads Folk Art of the Southwest, and the shelves are full bowls, masks and figurines. Jessica’s eyes are drawn to a crude pot off to the far right.
The pot looked poorly made, almost childish, with bulges on both sides and a top that didn’t seem quite even. Still, there was something about the pot that seemed to pull her in. It was brownish red, with a flared opening and a surprisingly narrow neck. Etched into the side of the pot were strange, unfamiliar symbols. Jessica frowned, wondering what the symbols signified.
As Jess muses over the pot, she bumps into a stooped hag of a woman, who’s wearing a black and white dress with a black cape.
In traditional Creepy Old Ghost Lady style, tells Jessica the provenance of the slightly disquieting pot on the far right. Apparently, it’s a curse pot, which can be used to rid oneself of one’s enemies.
“En-em-ies,” the woman repeated, drawing out the word. Jessica could feel her hot breath on her cheek. “First, create a pot—any kind will do so long as it’s imperfect. Next, etch in the face of the one to be cursed.” Her grip tightened on Jessica’s shoulder. “Then draw in the evil signs while the clay is still wet. Yes. And when the pot is fired, the spirit of the enemy—”
She paused. Jessica waited, scarcely breathing.
“—the spirit is caught inside the pot,” the woman went on with a low throaty laugh, “and the enemy is yours. Just like that poor man, there.” She jabbed a stubby forefinger through the air at the display case.
Creepy-ass shit, and a certain precursor to Jessica throwing a curse pot dedicated to Susan Rainer. Jessica is understandably freaked, and closes her eyes tight in horror. When he opens them, the mysterious woman is nowhere to be seen.
Fucking hell. This isn’t a Super Chiller, Ghostie. No need to lay on the clichés quite this thick. [Dove: I am astounded that Jessica hasn’t heard about cursed pots before, given her adoration for all sorts of things like voodoo, hypnosis, past life regression, etc. And also, obviously, because she has more enemies than free time.]
Back with Elizabeth, and our groomed twin is grilling Marion for tips on disguise.
For some reason, I thought at this point that Marion is the haggard old crone that Jessica interacted with at the gallery.
Spoilers? She’s not.
Would have been fun though.
Elizabeth is being cagey with her questions, and she does extract some good advice along the lines of “buy new disguise clothes,” “stand up straight to make yourself taller,” and “pick a false name so you’re not caught unawares.” Elizabeth takes notes, without revealing that she’ll be using this information to become an older version of herself, called Geraldine, in order to win the heart of her poetry tutor. Marion knows the score, of course, and figures Elizabeth is up to something.
Back at the gallery, a visibly distressed Jessica dashes from the gallery, heart pounding. In doing so, she caroms into her love interest, another SVU employee, the boy who moves the cart with unfinished pots on them. Predictably, the unfinished pots go flying, and a number of them smash. Jessica is apologetic, but the boy snarls in anger as he gathers up the broken pieces.
Jessica leaves. And yes, I know this doesn’t seem like an auspicious start for any budding romance, but I’ve seen enough Hentai to know where this is going. [Wing: Enemies to lovers is a popular trope for a reason.]
Next, it’s Elizabeth, outside somewhere called Le Boutique de Trés Chic. She stares at the clothes that will apparently help her become “older”, like shimmering ball gowns and spiky high heels. She almost balks at her plan to become Geraldine Wakefield, Destroyer of Poetry Professors, but as she’s already come up with some expcellent expressions for Geraldine to use, namely “My, my!” and “Indeed!”, she posits that she’s in far too deep to back out now.
Girding her twelve-year-old loins, she opens the door and steps inside.
Suddenly, we’re back with Jessica! She’s back at her dorm room, facing the withering glee of her roommate Susan.
“What happened to you?” Susan said, her mouth twisted into an unpleasant grin. “Did you bathe in the clay instead of making a pot?”
“Shut up, Susan.” Jessica savagely pulled a drawer open, looking for a new set of clothes.
Yeah, shut up Susan. And FUCK YOU, TAMARA CHASE.
Susan like potter’s clay, lays it on thick, and Jessica comes up with what I’m informed is Dove’s favourite PG insult…
“Walk west till your hat floats.” Jessica hated Susan worse than ever.
[Dove: Gotta love the way you can now say “fuck off and die” or “get in the fucking sea” in polite company. I’m going to use that at work. I’m also going to check where all of our offices are in relation to the sea, so that I can customise it for each office.] [Wing: What … what even is that insult? Just tell her to get into the darn sea already. Hat floats. The fuck.]
Excellent. Let’s see if we can come up with some PG Insult contenders of our own.
- Go boil an egg, Underpants-Head!
- Don’t look both ways when crossing the street, Doofus!
- Choke on cock, you shit-spackled blundercunt!
Erm… apologies, I think the algorithm malfunctioned for the third one.
After this altercation, Jessica goes Full Popeye. That’s all she can stands, and she can’t stands no more. She packs up a duffel, and proceeds to run away.
SNAP! Back at Le Boutique de Trés Chic. Elizabeth is trying on earrings. The clerk, having been informed that “Geraldine” is eighteen, is applying the sales flannel. She eventually buys a “grown-up” dress, some cosmetics, some hideous earrings, and high heels. None of these things are particularly Elizabeth… but she was certain they are definitely Geraldine.
BOP! We’re back with Jessica. She arrives at the bus station to find it’s a three-hour wait for the next vehicle to her neighbourhood. Three hours?! Perhaps Susan’s digs that the Wakeys live in the middle of Buttfuck Nowhere are actually on the nose. [Dove: No, no, no, you misunderstand. There are no buses in Sweet Valley because otherwise kids would run away. Have you noticed that runaways only get as far as the bus station before their parents and/or Elizabeth Wakefield catch up with them and implore them to stay. And it’s all thanks to no buses running that these kids don’t make it to LA. Might be better for the town infastructure if parents learned to parent, but why fix what’s working fine?] However, while she’s waiting she spots a familiar face in a shop across the road.
Through the window she could see someone—familiar.
Someone wearing high heels and what Jessica could only describe as a grown-up dress. Not to mention a ton of makeup.
Someone wobbling precariously toward the door while a salesclerk waved good-bye.
Jessica’s eyes grew big, and she darted out of the doorway.
Forget going home, she told herself.
It would be much more interesting to hang around and see what Elizabeth was up to.
Amazing. I love the fact that Jess has just ditched her own woes after stumbling across something juicy involving her sister.
The second half of that chapter galloped along at quite a pace, switching scenes and viewpoints at a whim. It was quite a ride. Personally, I enjoyed it, but I can appreciate it might come over as overwhelming.
YMMV, of course.
Chapter Eight begins with Operation Geraldine in full swing. Elizabeth, garishly “disguised” as an older version of herself, totters around the snack bar in the hopes of encountering Ethan. Happily for her sanity and her ankles, she spots him first try. She introduces herself as Elizabeth’s sister Geraldine, and piles on the Indeeds and My Mys. She’s also very particular to tell him that she’s eighteen.
Ethan, it appears, is duped by this obvious chicanery. And he’s also more interested in discussing Elizabeth than he is in learning about the nonsensical Geraldine. He tells “Geraldine” that Elizabeth is quite a kid, asks if Elizabeth writes poetry, and suggests that if she does, it’s bound to be better than his.
Dude… she’s twelve. [Dove: This is so uncomfortable.]
They awkwardly arrange a date of sorts, to share their poetry. Ethan makes it clear that he wants Elizabeth to come too, as he’s smitten with that kitten, but “Geraldine” manages to deflect his creepy obsessive attentions. Ethan is disappointed, but still agrees to meet “Geraldine” at the snack par that coming Wednesday.
We cut to Jessica’s POV, who’s been trailing her sister from the bus station to the snack bar, and has seen, if not understood, everything that’s happened. Eventually, she pounces on Elizabeth and demands answers to the myriad of questions that Elizabeth’s conduct has risen.
“Someday I’ll give you a lesson in how to wear high heels,” Jessica said. “You look like a doofus. And as for that makeup, well…” She left the sentence unfinished. “But seriously, Lizzie,” she went on, giving her sister a hard glare, “what’s up? What’s with the getup? And who’s the guy in the snack bar, huh?”
Elizabeth drew herself up to her tallest height and scowled down at Jessica. “I’m not going to tell you,” she said simply, and with that she wobbled through the door and toward the stairway.
YOU GO, ELIZABETH! Brilliant. [Wing: Was that .. was that a spine?! Who are you and what has the ghostie done with Elizabeth?]
It’s the next morning, and Jessica is garnering praise for her newly thrown pot. She’s actually proud, and happy, and this is the Jess we know and love. Jess being creative and doing things and generally being excellent. [Wing: YES GOOD. Pottery and Jess at her best. I’m such a fan of this part of the story.]
The teacher then suggests that Jessica decorate the pot as she pleased, before it gets fired in the kiln. Predictably, and entirely expected from Jessica, she decides to decorate it as a curse pot, with Susan Rainer’s patronising face.
THIS DOES NOT BODE WELL FOR SUSAN, DEAR ME NO.
[Dove: Why is everyone channeling Aunt Martha?
Snapping to the Poetry Class, Elizabeth is approached by Ethan as she makes to leave. He shyly compliments her on her excellent essay. Shyly?! Keep it in your fucking trousers, mate. You’ll go from taking a register to being on a fucking register in no time flat.
He also mentions that he bumped into Geraldine the previous day. There’s a little bit of cuteness that’s actually gross if you consider their ages, before Ethan then does his best to persuade Elizabeth to come to coffee with Geraldine the following night.
She shoots him down, of course.
After the Ceramics class, in which Jess stayed late to decorate her curse pot, she bumps into the pot-trolley guy she sent flying the day before. There’s some more cute exchanges, and we learn his name… it’s Bernard.
I know this is a US book, and the name is pronounced BurnAHD over there, [Wing: I’ve also heard it BurnAHRD.] and comparative youngsters like the head elf from The Santa Clause can sport it, [Wing: I don’t know how or why, but I had such a crush on him the first time I saw The Santa Clause.] but in the UK? It’s pronounced BURNud, and it’s your fucking grandad.
This guy is Bernard. Bernard Breslaw.
This guy is Bernard. Bernard Matthews.
THIS guy is Bernard. Bernard fucking CRIBBINS.
If you’re from the UK, there are NO young Bernards. None. None at all.
Anyway, back to the plot. During their cute bonding session, Bernard invites Jessica to come watch him load the pots, including her curse pot, into the kiln. She’s right up for it. Excited and Involved Jess is #BESTJess. [Dove: I am loving CreativeJess. She’s just awesome.] [Wing: Useful for being artistic, also useful for having access to incredible amounts of heat that may or may not be used to get rid of evidence.]
Next, it’s dinner. Jess, Liz and Marion eat food. Mmm, food.
Talk tuns to the absent Susan, a fact that pleases Jessica.
Susan hadn’t shown up all afternoon, which had made Jessica one happy camper. She sipped her milk and grinned. With any luck Susan was lying bruised and bleeding at the bottom of a cliff somewhere.
Well… that sounded a little harsh. Maybe bruised and bleeding at the bottom of a flight of stairs instead.
Jesus Christ, this Ghostie knows our cheery little sociopath well. We also learn that the Nature Scouts have all fucked off camping, and won’t be back until Friday, so the cafeteria is pretty empty.
Bernard, the kiln guy, approaches with his food tray. He joins the throng, and complements Jessica on her excellent pot, with its evil face, fresh from the fires of Mordor. [Wing: Damn, that was a fast firing.]
Jessica considered her changing fortunes.
It was strange, she thought happily. Just twenty-four hours earlier she’d almost run away. Now her point of view had changed one hundred percent. She’d met Bernard, she’d beaten the potter’s wheel. Dinner was tasty and Susan was gone.
She hummed to herself, watching Bernard eat. All she had to do was find out what Elizabeth was up to with the fancy clothes, and she’d be golden.
On the way back to their dorm, Marion manages to wheedle information from Elizabeth about the object of Geraldine’s attentions. Cornered and embarrassed, Elizabeth does her best to style it out, but it’s too late. Good job that Marion appears to be a force for good.
Next morning, while walking to classes, Jessica casually reveals that Susan hadn’t returned to their dorm room the previous evening. The twins discuss the possible reasons.
Eventually, Jessica wonders if they should tell an adult, and Elizabeth suggests there’s no real need, that Susan was likely just at a slumber party with friends or something, because apparently up is down, dark is light, Nickleback are music, and it’s fucking Opposites Day.
After Jessica’s pottery class (wow, this book is barrelling along), Bernard presents her with her freshly-fired curse pot. It’s epic. Bernard asks her what she’ll use it for, and says that the cool thing about pottery is that it was art with an actual use, which is charming, so nice work Bernard.
[Wing: I cannot imagine Jess wouldn’t want colours in her curse pot, and she’d likely need two firings to do so, and why am I overthinking how quickly her curse pot is ready? IT’S A GODDAMN CURSE POT IN SWEET VALLEY, LET IT GO, WING.]
After Poetry class, Ethan confirms the triple-tryst “date” with himself, Geraldine and Elizabeth, set for that evening. Elizabeth bigs up “Geraldine”, but Ethan is clear that he’;s not really bothered. HE tells Elizabeth that Geraldine says My My and Indeed too much,and that her poetry likely sucks a big fat donkey dick. HE conclused with a transparent play for Elizabeth, and breathlessly invites her to lunch.
Duuuude… she’s TWELVE.
Elizabeth turns him down, ostensibly so he’ll concentrate his attention on Geraldine. I really don’t understand Elizabeth’s plan at this stage, all she’s doing is putting barriers in her own path.
We also learn that Elizabeth has been working on two poems for their date that evening. One is good, about a Romantic hero, written by Geraldine. The other is crap, about a rabbit in a forest, written by Elizabeth.
Seriously, this subterfuge is exhausting, and it’s only at Level One.
The chapter ends with Jessica and Bernard having lunch in a hectic cafeteria, during which Jess was jostled in the crowd.
After dinner that evening, Jessica reflects on her excellent day. Good pottage. The mall, the pool. Lunch with Bernard. No Susan.
When donning her jacket and heading out, she finds something in her pocket… it’s a poem, called Ode to Blue-Green Eyes.
Jessica’s heart skipped a beat. “My eyes are bluish green,” she said half to herself. She scanned the sheet for the name of the poem’s author, but there was none.
She’s charmed, presuming it’s by Bernard. Oh, how the plot thickens!
The poem is obviously by Ethan, destined for Elizabeth’s pockets and not Jessica’s.
Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door! It’s the RA, looking for Susan. Jessica tells her about Susan’s mysterious disappearance, having not seen her since yesterday morning, and the RA is legitimately fuming.
“Yesterday morning?” The RA’s face froze. “You’re kidding.”
“Um—no,” Jessica admitted. “I—I just figured she could take care of herself. See, my sister and I, we—we decided she’d gone to some other room and slept over there…” Her voice trailed off.
“Maybe she did.” The RA’s mouth was a tight line. “Or maybe she’s fallen down a flight of stairs or gotten lost in the woods, did you ever think of that?”
Several times, Jessica thought. But all she said was, “Really?”
Love the sassy Jess here. Also love that the RA is being responsible, and is not simply hand-waving things away for plot reasons. [Dove: “Not so much thought, more like fantasised, does that count?”] [Wing: SEVERAL TIMES.]
After further admonishment, Jessica is left to stew in her room. She feels the walls of guilt drawing in, and the malevolent presence of her curse pot taints the air and blacks out the sun. Eventually, Jess can’t take any more, and dashes off to see Elizabeth, questing for a light in the darkness.
She catches up with Elizabeth in the snack bar, where she’s having coffee with some guy. Elizabeth was also glammed out, dressed to the nines, but Jessica didn’t care. She dashed to her sister’s side.
“Elizabeth?” The guy turned to look. Setting down his coffee cup, he grinned at her. “Good to see you!”
“Elizabeth?” Elizabeth said—only her face bore a look of astonishment rather than pleasure.
“Elizabeth?” Jessica skidded to a stop. “What are you—”
“Oh, Elizabeth,” Elizabeth said reproachfully. She folded her arms and wrinkled her nose. “What a joker, ha ha ha. I was just showing Ethan, here, some of the poetry you wrote.”
Oooh, this is new! Enforced non-consensual Twin Magic!
Ethan tells Jessica that he likes her poem about the rabbit, and explains that Geraldine told him it was one of her earlier works. Naturally, Jessica is as confused as fuck, but can see that her sister is mouthing “play along” with a frantic look in her eye.
I mean… this is bread and butter to Jessica, right?
Play along. Well—why not? “Um—thanks!” Jessica said brightly. “That was an easy one to write. Tossed it off in a couple of minutes.”
There follows a fun three-way conversation in which Jessica makes an appalling poetry-obsessed Elizabeth, and in which Jess realises that “Geraldine” is Elizabeth in a posh frock. “Elizabeth” also tells “Geraldine” that she received an ode of her own that day, that someone had dropped into her jacket pocket.
“Well, of all the nerve!” Ethan said, but he seemed to be holding back a grin. “Was it, um, an ode to something in particular? Like eyes, for example?”
Confirmation, if needed, that Ethan was behind the love note. To one of his twelve-year-old students. This is all very Game of Thrones.
As things threaten to unravel, “Geraldine” drags “Elizabeth” to one side for a family chat. When alone, the real Elizabeth admonishes Jessica for being a terrible Poetic Elizabeth, which Jessica tells Elizabeth about the RA and the curse pot and the Case of the Missing Susan.
Jess pleads with Liz to come help her find the weird old lady from the art gallery, as maybe she’d have some insight into what to do. Elizabeth flat-out refuses, but changes her tune when Jess threatens to blow the Geraldine cover to a confused Ethan. That’s the Jess we all know.
So, the twins head off to the gallery, and are randomly joined by a following Marion, who proves to be an excellent MacGuffin and enables their ingress to the building by picking the locks. [Dove: And slights Elizabeth’s beloved Christine Davenport for using a skeleton key. Again, her endless jabs at a long-running series with multiple ghosties is a fucking delight. Especially because it’s not actually that long-running; in multiple books Amy and Liz are anxiously waiting for the next installment to be released, which won’t be for months/years. Also, they’ve met Amanda Howard.]
The gallery is dark, deserted and spooky. The trio head to the exhibition hall, and Jessica points out the original curse pot. As they all contemplate the evil that’s on display, they are startled by the voice of a male security guard, patrolling the building. Luckily they manage to hide and remain unnoticed, but it’s a close call.
Relieved, and realising that searching for a mysterious clone in a locked building at the dead of night is actually a fucking asinine plan, the girls head back to their dorm hall.
Yeah, that whole section felt pointless at worst, and really fucking weird at best.
It’s the next morning, and it’s Ceramics class! Jessica smiles at Bernard, hoping for another poem, when he spills the beans… someone had broken into the gallery the previous night!
Jessica presumes the jig is up, but it appears that the real issue with the previous night’s break-in was that something was stolen.
Yup, you’ve guessed it. The original curse pot has been half-inched by a person or persons unknown.
As Bernard explains the events, and the chain of custody, Jessica takes a chance and pumps him for information on the wizened hag that frequented the exhibition hall. Apparently, she’s an offbeat local artist and potter that lives near a local river. Jess presses for more information, like GPS coordinates, and Bernard offers to come good if Jess will have lunch with him later that day. She agrees.
At her Poetry Class, Elizabeth does her best to extricate herself and apologise for the previous evening. Ethan is magnanimous and understanding, and he tells her he enjoyed her poetry… and he hopes that she liked his.
“Yours?” Elizabeth frowned. She thought back. When had he told her about his own poetry? At the snack bar once, but that was when he thought she was Geraldine. She’d certainly never seen any of his poetry. Not that she could remember anyway.
Oh, the farcical elements of this story! Classic Wakefield confusions.
Eventually, Ethan tells her he has tickets for a concert that evening, and that’s he’s inviting Geraldine AND Elizabeth. Flustered, Elizabeth does her best to persuade him that Geraldine is all he needs, but she eventually caves under his refusal to take Geraldine unless Elizabeth attends too.
Elizabeth caves, noting that she’ll owe Jessica big-time for the obvious shenanigans that promise to ensue.
We then snap cut to Jessica asking for Elizabeth’s help in visiting Hatta McMurty, the riverside-dwelling wizened hag from the gallery. Bernard has come up trumps with the witchy woman’s address, and the bus leaves in ten frickin’ minutes! [Dove: See? This bus exists because the plot needs it and there are no runaways waiting for it.] [Raven: You wait half an hour for a plot device, then three come along at once.]
Elizabeth promises that she’ll come along, but makes Jessica promise to be “Elizabeth” at the concert date that evening. Jess agrees.
Chapter Twelve begins with the twins on the bus in the centre of Absolutely Fucking Nowhere, Idaho. They bicker, but eventually arrive at the wizened hag’s house… and it’s a sight to behold.
Hatta’s house—if it was Hatta’s—looked a little creepy, Jessica thought. The roof tiles were a crazy quilt of colors. The front door was a luminous black, and the only window was a huge circular one right next to the road. A low stone wall surrounded the property. Strange-looking planters sat on the wall. Planters with huge ungainly flowers growing in them like weeds. Planters that were—wait a minute—
Sinks. Jessica started in surprise. The planters were definitely kitchen sinks. Except for one which was—
“That’s a toilet,” Elizabeth said, rubbing her eyes. “She’s planted marigolds in an old toilet!”
Looks like Hatta is a quirky artist.
Hatta appears, and invites them in. She plies them with stale cucumber and mayonnaise sandwiches, and something called Lacy Cookies. She’s an eccentric artist, and reveals that it was she who stole the curse jar. She’d made it, after all. Her reasoning? Because she had a feeling about the pot, a feeling that it might have been giving young’uns the wrong idea about art. Art should be a force for good, apparently.
Jessica is nonplussed. She confesses her secret, telling Hatta that she made a curse pot of her own, targeting Susan, who’d now disappeared. Is there a reversal? Hatta is unsure, but she vows to ruminate on it.
Back at the dorm room, the twins and Marion discuss Jessica’s plight. Elizabeth is trying to be the voice of reason, with scant success. Marion’s sleuthing has placed Susan as Last Seen With Mike, the Nature Scout that Susan stole away from Jessica back on the first day. Jessica asks Marion what she thinks is happening…
Marion narrowed her eyes. “Well, murder’s always a possibility.”
Jesus, that’s darkened the mood. Keep it light, love. [Dove: MARGO?!?!] [Wing: I love Marion and would like her to show up in future books. I’m certain she will not.]
Jessica remains convinced that it’s all down to the curse pot, but soon the talk turns to the concert date that evening with Ethan. As Jessica explains the intricacies to an amused Marion, the phone rings. Elizabeth answers. While we only hear one half of the conversation, it’s obvious it’s Ethan. And as luck would have it, he has a FOURTH ticket from the concert, and would like to extend an invitation the Jessica too.
Valiantly, Elizabeth tries to rebuff him, but it’s now working. Eventually, Elizabeth asks the question to an open room while Ethan listens on. And as Jessica wonders how on earth she’ll manage to play both Jessica and Elizabeth at one, Marion the Master of Disguise steps in to save the day.
“Why, I’d love to!” Marion exclaimed brightly. Jessica blinked. So she was going as Elizabeth and Marion was going as… Jessica?
So. Twin Magic, but cubed. It’s not only shenanigans, it’s shenaniganigans. I’m looking forward to it. [Dove: This is the weirdest twin switch so far, but I’m into it. It’s not daft like the Twins in Love one, it’s ridiculous but fun.] [Wing: This strange twin switch with a not!twin has actually made me like the book despite it being about a student/teacher flirtation.]
We cut to the concert date, and Ethan warmly greets Jessica. Who is, of course, played by Marion. Marion vamps spectacularly, and I must say I like this girl. She’s spunky, and exactly the right amount of irreverent.
Ethan then greets Elizabeth, which is, of course, Jessica. Jess’s first line is straight out of the David Brent playbook.
“Hi, Ethan,” Jessica said shyly, trying to imitate her sister. “Wasn’t it a shame about poor John Keats? I’ve been brooding about him all afternoon,” she went on sadly. “Such a great poet and dying when he was less than thirty…” She might as well make use of all the knowledge that her sister had drummed into her.
So cringeworthy… loving it. [Dove: “I’ve been brooding about him all afternoon.” Fucking awesome.]
Geraldine, aka Elizabeth, tries to insinuate himself into the conversation, but Ethan only has eyes for Elizabeth, aka Jessica, and at this point I’m already slipping into the future.
The group take their seats, where Ethan finagles a spot between Geraldine aka Elizabeth and Elizabeth aka Jessica.
There’s some odd banter about schools, at which point Ethan seems ready to confess something, and then the talk turns to Shakespeare. Geraldine tells “the twins” that they will learn all about Shakespeare in school in a few years, which irritates Jessica, and also me.
Jessica rolled her eyes. She did too know about Shakespeare. He’d written Romeo and Juliet and… and… and a bunch of other things, and his first name was William—well, William or Henry or George, one of those.
Sorry, but considering Jessica has actually PLAYED JULIET in Romeo and Juliet, I’m pretty sure she’d remember the playwright’s fucking name.
Ethan continues to chat to both Elizabeth and Jessica, aka Jessica and Marion, and it’s all very cute and confusing, but it’s well written and engaging and enjoyable. It’s obvious that he only has eyes for Elizabeth, aka Jessica, and that Geraldine can go piss up a fucking rope and die. He also manages to slip something into Elizabeth’s jacket pocket, aka Jessica’s jacket pocket, which at this stage we can assume is another poem and not a dick pic.
SHIT GETS REAL.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” a familiar voice asked. “Hey, Eth!”
“Hey, Bernard! Fancy meeting you here!” Ethan replied, a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin on his face.
Jessica (the real Jessica) concludes that this is a double-date set-up by Ethan and his friend Bernard. Make sure Elizabeth comes along, and make sure Jessica comes along, and sure, I guess Geraldine can chaperone. Ethan, of course, has no idea that his Elizabeth is actually Bernard’s Jessica, and Bernard’s Jessica is actually the Police Force’s Marion, and that Nobody’s Geraldine is actually his Elizabeth. And if you’re following this, have you considered joining MENSA?
Introductions begin, and the tapestry starts to unravel. Ethan introduces Jessica as Elizabeth, and Bernard laughs in his face. He points to Jessica, and calls her Jessica. Ethan, confused but jovial, begs to differ. Grab the custard creams, folks, it’s all kicking off!
Jessica looked frantically at the others. This wasn’t going well. There was only one thing to do under the circumstances.
“Oooh!” she moaned, doubling up in sudden agony.
Go Jessica! Always an out, no matter the predicament.
The other girls feign stomach cramps too, which is laying it on a bit fucking thick. They dash for the exit with a cheery wave as the lights dim and the concert begins.
That was a journey.
Back at the dorm, the three girls deconstrucxt what happened, and piece together what’s going on in this convoluted tryst. Again, it’s written with sass and style, but brevity dictates I sum up their findings thusly:
- Everyone thinks it’s a disaster.
- Everyone now knows about Ethan and Bernard.
- Jessica discovers another poem, ostensibly from “Bernard”.
- The poem mentions the Romantic Hero meeting his love on a bridge.
- The girls realise the poems are from Ethan, to Elizabeth.
- Marion checks the handwriting, comparing it to one of Elizabeth’s essays, marked by Ethan. It’s a match.
- Marion convinces Elizabeth that the creation of Geraldine was a colossal mistake.
- Elizabeth is loved up… Ethan likes her!
Also, I can’t pass this section without commending this particular nugget:
“Ode to Blue-Green Eyes.” Elizabeth bit her lip. This isn’t making any sense. “Listen… Bernard didn’t write these poems. Ethan did.”
“Get out!” Jessica snorted. “How could he? He doesn’t even know me!”
Suddenly, it’s Friday after class. Ethan is talking to Elizabeth about his feelings for her, and his lack of feelings for Geraldine. Apparently, the eighteen-year-old Geraldine is too old for Ethan, who’s coming across more and more like Jerry fucking Lawler every second. Ethan now confesses that he’s actually a freshly-tuned-sixteen child prodigy. So he’s only four years older than Elizabeth. [Wing: On the one hand, I’m glad to see my logical criticism the first time around held firm. On the other hand, SHE’S STILL FUCKING TWELVE.]
And that’s alright, is it? Geraldine is too old for Ethan, but Ethan is Just Right for Elizabeth? Get to fuck, this is squicky.
They bond, it’s cute, but it’s also criminal. [Dove: I can’t even with this plot point. Squicky as hell. In no way ok. Step away from the underage girl, Ethan.]
In the mirror of this scene, Jessica and Bernard apologise and make up too. And I suppose this begs the question… how old is Bernard? I guess if he’s working as the kiln monkey at SVU he’s also eighteen, or more generously sixteen? I can’t see him being any younger. Have I missed something?
The two loving couples then pile over to Hatta’s house with Jessica’s curse pot. Over a plateful of stale cucumber sandwiches, Hatta declares the curse can be lifted only by smashing the curse pot into a myriad of pieces. Apparently, it’s made from special riverbank clay, which could explain its mystical qualities. I mean, what the fuck?
So, the gang head down to the riverbank, and Jessica smashes the pot. And lo, as she does so, who should immediately appear, but Susan “have you ever eaten Syrian bread” Rainer, grimly canoeing down the river with a bunch of dishevelled Nature Scouts.
Standard. [Dove: You made it sound like she’s spent the past week servicing all of them.] [Raven: “Have you ever sucked a Nature Scout’s cock?”] [Wing: I’m pretty sure ghostie made it sound like she’s spent the past week in an orgy.]
For the final chapter, everything is neatly bowed and packaged. Marion informs us that Susan Rainer had disguised herself as a Nature Scout in order to go camping with her scouting beau Mike, although Jessica and Elizabeth are adamant that her reappearance was down to the curse being broken. And that Friday evening, at the summer programme dance, Ethan finally decides that he really shouldn’t be pursuing a twelve-year-old student, and they part on friendly terms. Yeah, it’s probably best if we just gloss over that whole Operation Yewtree subplot, k?
Then the book ends.
I really enjoyed this book!
It’s written with fun, and sass, and passion, and research, and general joy. Both Elizabeth and Jessica are absolute delights, as are every single supplementary character. Yes, even Paedethan. Even the Elder Wakefields had their moments, and the tiny Unicorn cameo at the start presented them as the fucking Queens they are.
The single pube in the moussaka is the whole age thing I found it pretty goddamn creepy throughout. If they’d somehow reworked the plot to have both Elizabeth and Jessica fall for more age-appropriate boys, then I’d be all over it. I don’t know what would become of Geraldine in this case, but all the evidence points to the Ghostie being skilled enough for me to have faith that the replacement plot would work too.
Overall, it’s one of may favourites in the series thus far. I would read any further books written by this Ghostie, no questions asked.
[Dove: This was ridiculous fun. And aside from the fact that a sixteen year old was romancing a tween, everything was so much fun. Marion was a pure delight, and the fact that every one of her appearances were punctuated with a jab at Amanda Howard was just icing on the cake. Jessica was a joy. I love it when she gets creative. I love it when she’s evil. I love it more when she’s both. Even Elizabeth was good fun. I love the idea that she thinks being eighteen is largely wearing heels and saying “indeed”. This was a win all round. Will read again.]
[Wing: Like I said earlier, the weird use of Twin Magic saved this book for me (and Raven’s recap made it even better). The whole student/teacher angle, no matter the age difference, is a problem for me, always, and the age difference is still too much when he’s 16. But the rest of it was an A+ delight.]