Title: Boyfriends for Everyone
Tagline: Boys on board…
Summary: Wow, what a difference a week in the Caribbean makes! When my friends in the Unicorn Club and I first set sail on the Caribbean Queen, I was determined to find a boyfriend! Now, thanks to the Unicorns, I have four of them. See, Jessica, Lila, Mandy, and Kimberly each picked out the perfect guy for me, and their matchmaking totally paid off.
Hanging out with four gorgeous boys on a tropical cruise is definitely pretty cool—and takes up all of my time.
So why can’t I stop thinking about the one guy the Unicorns say is absolutely wrong for me?
Oh boy. This is, of course, the second part of the Caribbean miniseries that started with Raven’s delightful recap of Bon Voyage, Unicorns last time. The book was not good. The recap was excellent. I have very little hope for this book. Or, to be honest, for this recap, but we’ll see. At the very least, we’re still in third person, thank fuck.
[Raven: I just hope it’s a little less repetitive than the last.]
Ellen wakes to find Lila has gone off shopping and asked the front desk to hold all calls. Wait, cruise ships don’t have front desks — hey, wait a second, we are D O N E with the cruise ship already? What the fuck even is that.
Oh, right, this Dream Teen-sponsored Caribbean Teen Cruise is three days on the ship, three days in a plush resort hotel on St. Maurice, and three more days on the ship. [Raven: THIS WAS NOT MENTIONED IN THE OTHER BOOK… Or was it?] [Wing: If it was, I did not remember it nor was I willing to go back and check.]
The girls have kept their same sleeping arrangements so Ellen and Lila (“and Lila’s extensive (not to mention expensive) wardrobe” — ILU, Ellen) share one room and Jessica, Kimberly, and Mandy are across the hall.
Quick summary of the Unicorn Club itself, Ellen’s No Good Very Bad Bummer Year (divorce, tension at home, stressful time with her best friends on the cruise, too many boys), and then a breakdown of the Fairy Godmother Friends and their Bouncing Baby Boys.
Jessica = Sam Sloane, Lila = Jared Matthews, Mady = Jack, Kimberly = Peter (Healty Mind, Healthy Body). Way to drop those last names, especially when it comes to yet another Too Many Peters.
Ellen has “done her duty and romantically ensnared them all.” Oh, honey, this should not be about duty, and you need better friends, or at least friends who listened to what you wanted when you originally told them.
Even worse, her friends have changed her to fit their perfect boy. “She had to change personalities (not to mention clothes and accessories) for every date.” I’m not sure why, but I’m finding Ellen pretty damn charming right now. [Dove: That’s my default setting. She’s the best character.]
Ellen sees that there are messages waiting, so she calls the front desk and rambles her way through some real forced fairy tale metaphors. That poor concierge. Lucky us, though.
Ellen ran a hand through her tangled hair. “This is Cinderella, which prince called?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Ellen sat down on the edge of her bed. “Oh, excuse me. I forgot. This isn’t Cinderella. This is Snow White. You know, it’s so hard to keep these things straight when your life is one big fairy tale.”
“Pardon?” the concierge repeated.
“Would you believe, Little Red Riding Hood?”
“Who is this?” the concierge pressed.
“I wish I knew,” Ellen retorted.
Why do I find this so charming? I don’t know, but I do!
All the messages are tied to dates, of course: Jack and Ellen will go walking after lunch; Jared and Ellen will go to lunch; Peter wants Ellen to call him asap; and Sam also wants her to call him asap.
Ellen does nothing with any of those messages just yet. Instead she longingly looks out at the beautiful resort and wishes for some of the complimentary continental breakfast in the pool pavilion. (That doesn’t sound like much of a breakfast for a luxury resort, but okay, ghostie, I’ll roll with it.)
Ellen turned away from the window and opened the closet. “Let’s see,” she mused, staring at the collection of borrowed dresses, bathing suits, party outfits, and shoes. “Who am I this morning?”
No, really, I am loving Ellen in this book. What happened?
Jessica lounges next to the hotel’s pool which is shaped like a pair of dolphins [Dove: Even though this book was written in the 90s, that’s so 80s.] and watches Kimberly swim toward the pool bar. She’s very into swimming, you see, very athletic, great muscle definition, but she’s very, very grumpy right now. Jessica is normally annoyed when Kimberly is grumpy (can’t have anyone trying to steal her own dramatic limelight) but she understands this time around, because Jessica feels the same way for the same reason.
But of course.
Well, boys and popularity. Everyone wants to spend time with Ellen after she fainted during a private dinner party with the cruise ship’s captain and now everyone thinks she’s interesting and fragile and they want to be her friends.
Sickening, Jessica thinks.
Ellen, you’d best keep an eye out. You may be far away from the Mercandy backyard, but Jessica has an entire island, ship, and ocean for body disposal. [Dove: Wing, please write that for me. I want to read a tense thriller, while everyone is trapped on a cruise ship with a murderous Jessica on the rampage.] [Wing: I’ve added it to my writing ideas document. We’ll see what happens.]
“I liked Ellen better when she was insecure and didn’t have any friends, besides us,” Kimberly grumbled. She threw herself moodily into the lounge chair, picked up a magazine, and loudly flipped the pages. “I refuse to watch Ms. Popularity work the crowd.”
“I can’t stop,” Jessica responded. “It’s like a car wreck. You hate yourself for watching, but you can’t help yourself.” She finished her drink with a thoughtful slurp.
Do you remember early in the Unicorn Club series when we thought this might finally be a series about friends supporting each other and working through their differences in mature, fun, interesting ways instead of hating on each other?
I REMEMBER. AND I WISH I DIDN’T. [Dove: All of this bitterness can be traced back to Kimberly’s return. I’m slightly tempted to re-write the Unicorn Club from that pivotal moment for this year’s NaNo. I have many ideas, but I’m not committed to any of them yet.] [Wing: DO IT. DO. IT.]
Fuck, I’m ready to be done with this book already and we’ve had only two scenes. No matter how charmed I am by Ellen right now, I have no interest in the rest of the “plot” I say using the term very loosely. [Raven: As much as I love to dogpile on Kimberly, I think that EVERY non-Ellen Unicorn in this books is a complete toxic mess. Even Mandy.]
Jessica explains she, and the rest of the Unicorns, banded together to get Ellen a boyfriend because (a) they wanted to have 10 fabulous romantic days, not hang out in a girl pack the way Ellen wants and (b) keep her away from Curtis Bowman who is a fake surfer boy and would make Ellen, and therefore the entire Unicorn Club, look bad.
Hence why Jessica found Sam Sloane. Too bad he was already in love with Ellen by the time Jessica realize she was in love with him.
Oh, the horror.
Over to Mandy. She’s shell hunting along the beach and trying to ignore all the couples from the teen cruise. She’s feeling catty and mean over the Ellen situation, and she hates it, but she doesn’t understand how she can help but feel that way. She made Ellen over into an artistic Mandy clone in order to impress Jack, and now Mandy’s depressed because she loves him and he loves Ellen.
Again, oh, the horror.
There’s something interesting here about emotions and how you can feel ones you don’t like, not just because they feel bad but because you think they make you a person you don’t want to be. Mandy doesn’t want to be catty and mean toward her friend, and she doesn’t know how to stop feeling this way. And that’s compelling! Most of us have dealt with emotions that we wish would go away, struggled with how to balance the person we want to be with the person we sometimes are.
Shame it’s buried in the rest of this shit.
Jack and Mandy run into each other without Ellen around, and Mandy thinks about how she wrote a poem about him at the dance the night before, while she watched him dance with Ellen: Jack is a dark silhouette against the sun. Bright around the edges and an eternal mystery.
Not sure he’s much of a mystery there, Mandy. You sure seemed to figure him out right quick when it came to turning Ellen into the kind of girl he wants. [Raven: Not much of a poem either. It doesn’t even rhyme.]
Jack is himself writing a poem, and for a terrible, breathless moment, Mandy thinks it might be about her — until he asks what rhymes with Ellen. While stroking Mandy’s hand. Who does that?
Back to Ellen. Thank fuck. Don’t let me down, girl.
Ellen’s exhausted at just the thought of continuing to pretend to be this person (or these people) that she’s not.
She runs into Peter, and he invites her on a two-mile hike to the top of Mt. Maurice late that afternoon for an evening yoga class on the mountaintop before dinner. She doesn’t want to go, but sees Kimberly glaring at her and doesn’t know how else to make Kimberly happy [Dove: Nobody knows that. Even Jessica is easier to appease.] than to agree to go on a date with the boy Kimberly chose for her.
USE YOUR WORDS, GIRLS. GODDAMN.
Next up is Curtis Bowman and his heavy California accent. As if the girls don’t also have some sort of Californian accent. [Dove: Someone from Kent once said to me, “Isn’t it funny how everywhere but Kent has an accent?” No hint of awareness. Nothing.] He’s been out swimming in the ocean and invites her to go bodysurfing with him and for a junk food and soda picnic. Ellen really, really wants to go with him, but her friends think he’s a dork, a phony, a surfer wanna-be.
I don’t understand this. They’ve surfed, haven’t they? And thought surfers were hot? Why this sudden hatred of a cute California surfer boy?
Ghostie, you make no damn sense. [Raven: Yeah, this is weird. The last book called him a phony in passing, as a generic insult of sorts, while this book is more specific in labelling him a liar. I mean, why?]
Despite everything, Ellen thinks he’s cute, and nice, and he likes her for herself, whoever that is (she’s a little confused), so she starts to agree to go with him because it actually sounds like fun.
Jessica and Kimberly have a little fight over Jessica spilling sunscreen on Kimberly’s magazine and are loud and dramatic enough to catch Ellen’s attention. She’s certain they are doing it because she’s talking to Curtis and so she turns him down because she’s too busy. He takes it in stride but is clearly sad about it.
Lila’s turn! She’s angry they talked Ellen out of dating Curtis because anyone is good enough for Ellen, including Curtis. It’s not like she’s important or anything.
FUCK. YOU. LILA.
These fucking friends. Ellen, get away from them N O W. [Dove: I miss what we hoped this series would be.] [Raven: This book is just horrible.]
Lila’s angry at herself, too, for telling Jared that Ellen is an eccentric, aristocratic descendant of the Royal Family of Sabolaslavichnia. (Which I always read as Sloboslabichnia. Useful, brain.) She shouldn’t have. Ellen’s not nearly good enough for Jared.
WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK.
Only Lila is. They’re both attractive, rich, and snobby. Just right for each other.
Jared comes to ask Lila for help picking out a gift for Ellen, specifically candy. Lila tries to talk him out of it, first because Ellen is too “heavy” to have candy (fuck you Lila) and then that she’s worried about her complexion. Both times Jared insists Ellen is just fine as she is, which is funny considering all these characters she’s playing but also surprisingly sweet.
She talks him into getting Ellen a magazine about mutual funds because Ellen’s really smart and controls her own investments. Good lord, Jared, you were doing better on your own.
Lila thinks that she really has to get her designer dress back; when Ellen fainted, it and the shoes Lila intentionally broke so Ellen would fall were left behind in the infirmary.
THESE FUCKING FRIENDS. No, seriously, get away from them, Ellen. I’m amazed you made it to the island alive, but maybe they didn’t want the attention of someone going overboard, especially considering you already jumped once. [Dove: So… that fic is practically writing itself, right, Wing?]
Unfortunately for Lila, Ellen heard about mutual funds on the radio that morning while she was hiding from all the people she’s supposed to be and manages to talk to Jared about it in a way that is charming and flirty and infuriating for Lila. [Dove: So proud of my girl, right here!]
Get it, Ellen! I hate that you’re forcing yourself to be someone you’re not (someones you’re not, really) to get the boys to like you, even though it’s really driven by what you think your friends want of you. Even if they were being wonderful friends, this would be sad. Since they are being horrible friends, this is fucking terrible.
Ellen, you deserve better, sweetie. Tell the Unicorns to fuck off into the sea.
The Unicorns get together to complain about the situation they’ve put themselves in. Do they decide to talk to Ellen about how unhappy they are? How they like the boys? How she doesn’t need to change herself to make them like her, to make them happy to be her friends, to attract boys?
N O P E
Mandy cupped her chin in her hand. “She’s got to be made to understand that we don’t like what she’s doing. That she’s gotten way too impressed with herself. Ellen really wants us all to be friends, right? If we give her the cold shoulder for a while, she’ll get the message and straighten up.”
“Mandy’s right,” Lila agreed. “That’ll show her. It’ll be a very clear message that we made her and we can break her just as easily.”
Mandy took a deep breath. “Lila, leave Ellen a note. Tell her we’re all going to get together this afternoon for coffee after lunch. We’ll all talk, laugh, and leave her completely out of the conversation. She’ll clue in.”
ARE YOU MOTHERFUCKING KIDDING ME?! OF ALL THE GODDAMN PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE, ASSHOLE, BULLSHIT RESPONSES.
FUCK. YOU. ALL. FUCK OFF INTO THE SEA, YOU UTTER BASTARDS. FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU.
WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK IS THIS STORY, GHOSTIE?
[Dove: This is such bullshit. And – sorry, spoilers – what really bugs me is that by the end of the book, nobody says, “Oh, right, we should have told you what was bothering us instead of just freezing you out and expecting you to figure it out.” And this happens a lot in the entire Sweet Valley run, even by adults. And it’s why I had a very skewed idea of what was a normal dispute resolution until I met Raven. Books said this is how it works. Mother showed me this is how it works. Raven went, “Uh… no, use your words.” (Wing and I had never fallen out, so no opportunity for me to learn there either.)]
[Raven: I came to this series for the larks and sass. This book? It’s just depressing. Every single thing these non-Ellen Unicorns pull is prime selfishness and toxicity. While I appreciate it’s gilded a touch to allow for a meaningful face-turn, both the building horribleness and the reversal payoff are ineptly handled and trowelled thick. Atrocious.]
They do their plan, and sure enough, it hurts Ellen.
Of course, Ellen thinks it’s because they saw her with Curtis and feel like she’s being an ingrate after all the selfless help they’ve given her.
ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME.
She’s determined not to cry and decides she’ll make them happy again by working even harder to impress the boys because that’s what her friends want.
She would read that mutual funds magazine from cover to cover. She would actually pretend that gaggy poem Mandy scripted for her and tucked into the pocket of her jacket was something she had written for Jack. She would go on a two-mile hike with Peter. And she would dance the night away with Jared.
She would make sure that her friends knew she was trying. She couldn’t just keep taking, taking, taking without giving something back.
JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, ELLEN, YOU ARE BREAKING MY GODDAMN HEART. [Dove: This is peak Ellen. She’s sweet, well-meaning, and utterly naive. This is why she’s my favourite. And why everyone should treat her like the queen she is.]
Should Ellen have gone along with her friends pushing her to change in order to impress boys? No. Should she have allowed her friends to dictate which boys she should like? No. Should she give up what she wants from this cruise, time with her friends, in order to go along with what they want, which is boys boys boys? No.
None of that fucking matters, though. Ellen is trying so hard to be a good friend, to make sure her friends know she appreciates them, to make them happy. All she wanted from this trip was time away from the stress of the divorce, time where she could be with her friends and they could all be happy and have fun AND THIS IS WHAT HER FUCKING FRIENDS ARE DOING.
I have never hated the Unicorn Club more.
We are three chapters into this book. I’m not sure I’m going to survive it.
Mandy: Ellen has given Jack a poem. The poem Mandy wrote. The poem Mandy gave her to give to Jack. Mandy mocks it, tries to trap Ellen into admitting she doesn’t know what a haiku is, and fails miserably because Ellen continues to be kind and friendly, and Jack likes that about her. [Raven: I do like the fact that Jack also doesn’t know what a Haiku is, apparently.]
Ellen, meanwhile, is bored bored bored, but can’t drop Jack because it would hurt Mandy’s feelings.
Kimberly: Gets caught playing cards instead of being athletic; she said it was too hot and she was too tired to go parasailing, swimming, hiking, whatever. Peter, of course, shames them (in a fairly teasing way) for sitting around on a gorgeous day. Kimberly tries to trick Ellen into playing bridge because she always gets distracted during card games, but Ellen says she has to go meditate for awhile. Peter is deeply impressed and takes her as a good example.
Ellen, meanwhile, is exhausted from their two mile hike and hates that he talks about exercise all the time. She has to stop seeing him even if Kimberly never talks to her again. Except then she finds some pictures of the girls all being friendly in front of Lila’s dad’s limo and she knows that she can’t hurt Kimberly’s feelings or make her angry, because Kimberly is a fun, funny, good friend (when she’s in a good mood and not grumpy). How can Ellen hurt her?
FUCKING FUCKITY FUCK.
On top of all the other things I’ve GONE BOOM over, here’s yet one more: Kimberly takes her bad moods out on her friends and is only good to them when they’ve done enough to make her happy.
FUCK OFF INTO A GODDAMN CONFLAGRATION, KIMBERLY, DROWNING IS TOO GOOD FOR YOU. [Dove: Honest question: is Kimberly the worst character in the series? Because even I hate her more than the worst versions of the twins combined. Because I can think of at least three times when I’ve genuinely supported Elizabeth’s decisions/actions, and Jessica might be terrible, but at least she has her good moments too. Kimberly is awful all the time.] [Raven: She suffers greatly in the Unicorn Club because she seemed to be the catalyst which turned this series from fun to absolute boredom. What was shaping up as an interesting plot line turned into a big old turd emoji of sameness when she rocked up. But worst character in the series? Nah. Fuck Madame Andre.]
Jessica: She and Sam joke around by the pool, and she’s pleased that he is always genuinely interested in everything and everybody. (This appeals to Jessica? (a) She doesn’t give a fuck about anyone else most of the time. (b) She wants to be the center of attention. Wouldn’t all of that just distract him from her?) Jessica tries to make Sam angry by telling him that Ellen’s spending a lot of time with other guys, but he likes that she knows how to flirt and have fun with a lot of people, that’s what he’s like, too. Jessica thinks he’s about to kiss her when Ellen comes up and has no idea that she’s ruined anything. They go off to play water polo, and Jessica hates her for it.
Kimberly runs into Captain Jackson who talks about the possibility of a tropical storm and how he must coordinate efforts with the hotel manager and the island Rescue Patrol just in case.
Oh, good, the storm will bring them all back together, and I will be left with nothing but my R A G E.
Another Unicorn meeting. Kimberly tells them about the tropical storm and thinks that they are all sounding like losers. They had to snap out of it and take drastic action. They have to tell the truth.
To Ellen? Oh hell no, of course not.
To the boys. To make it seem as if Ellen is playing them all.
I HOPE YOU ALL FUCKING BURN. [Dove: This story only works if everyone’s an idiot. And I don’t like it.]
Jared tells Ellen that he knows she has other boys in her life but he wants to make sure he stays in the lineup. She’s disappointed because she thought he was going to break up with her. Just as she’s going to do it herself, she hears her “friends” laughing and promises him that he’ll have a place in the lineup. After all, she can’t let Lila down, or any of her friends. “Girls who sacrificed their own fun and romantic dreams to make hers come true.”
E L L E N. N O.
He gives her an expensive tennis racket, the best one he could find on the island. She tells him she can’t accept it. Really it’s because she can’t take anything that expensive from him, though she realizes that someone who is supposed to be as rich as she is wouldn’t care about that, so she says it’s not the right weight. He’s very disappointed, but she reassures him that it was very special and she thinks he’s nice for thinking of it. And he kisses her.
Lila, of course, opens the door to see them.
She waits until Ellen is gone and goes to talk to Jared about the truth.
Mandy meets Jack down in the lobby. The weather has turned and dark clouds cover the full moon, the wind is harsh through the trees and the open lobby, and everything is kind of spooky.
Where the fuck is a werewolf ravenous for human flesh when you need one?
Jack thinks Ellen sent Mandy to let him down gently but Mandy tells him that Ellen is only putting on an act to impress him, she’s not into art, etc. Jack then hugs her and tries to comfort her because it’s obvious that Ellen is everything Mandy wants to be, he’s noticed how she tries to dress like her, imitate her, etc.
I cackled here. Fair fucking play, ghostie. Fair fucking play.
Kimberly meets Peter in Cafe Misto for decaffeinated lattes. (What the fuck is even the point of decaffeinated caffeine drinks?) [Dove: Some of us have to eradicate caffeine. Raven and I are caffeine free. Not by choice. And, as you have witnessed first-hand, I fall apart without tea.] [Wing: This is a good point, and I should not have been so judgmental.] She tells him that Ellen doesn’t like sports, doesn’t like meditation, and doesn’t like him, and admits that she was the one who told Ellen to pretend to be interested in everything he did or said. Peter decides that she’s jealous of Ellen and that’s why she’s doing this terrible thing.
He shook his head as if he were deeply disappointed. Then he stood. “You say you’re her friend? Wow! With friends like you…” Peter didn’t bother to finish. He just sort of sneered before turning away and walking toward the door.
AHAHAHAHA, YES, GOOD. It’s nice to see a little of my own anger reflected in the story.
I still hate this thing, but this part is making me laugh. [Dove: I kind of love this. My experience with teen boys was not this. Their reaction would have been more akin to “OMG, that lying slut! I’m going to tell everyone I’ve ever met what a bitch she is.” (Obviously #NotAllBoys, just the ones I met were assholes. And it’s very satisfying to see the Unicorns be told they’re terrible friends, even if the boys are uninformed about the actual reasons why this is true.]
Jessica meets Sam on the dessert court. Sam’s enthusiastic about everything, Jessica tries to focus on telling him the truth about Ellen, frustrated that he’s so happy about so many things and not listening to her (called it), and Sam decides this is “some kind of girl thing” (fuck you, Sam), and she and Ellen are fighting and this is how Jessica settles the score. Jessica tells him that she’s not trying to insult Ellen, she’s just trying to explain that she, Jessica, is the upbeat and positive one, but Sam shuts that down.
“I don’t know what your problem with Ellen is,” Sam broke in quietly, “but this isn’t a good way to handle it. I don’t like being used like this. I don’t think you would either if you were me.” He stood up and dropped his napkin on the table. “Good night, Jessica.”
Oh god, this is great.
[Raven: I did enjoy the boys rightly pointing the fingers at the respective girls and their “friendship”, but I still hated the Unicorns’ tactics and justifications here. When they say they’d be tackling the issue with “the truth”, I hoped they’d be speaking the truth to Ellen, rather than just being hideous friends and shitting on Ellen’s character and reputation behind her back.]
Ellen is alone and mortified by all the things she’s done to keep the boys interested so her friends will be happy. She wishes they would find boys of their own, because she’s not interested in any of the boys they found for her, and if they were distracted, she could break up with the guys.
Except then they wouldn’t want to hang out with her and she’d miss them. Not that she doesn’t miss them now, since she never sees them and they’re always off together without her.
Lila meets Jared in the lobby (look, the lobby was already used, find a different place, ghostie, damn), and he is furious that Lila would be such a terrible person, an opportunist who wants to use people like Jared and Ellen for their money and their position, a spiteful person who is jealous of them for what they have and who they are, and she pretends to be a friend when really she’s just a back-stabber, a user.
OH MY FUCKING GOD, I LAUGHED SO HARD HERE.
LILA. FUCKING. FOWLER. CALLED AN OPPORTUNIST AND JEALOUS OF WEALTH AND STATUS.
This is the greatest response yet.
I’m sure you are shocked to learn that Lila decides this is all Ellen’s fault.
Oh, good, right back to my R A G E.
Ellen dresses as herself the next morning, leaves the girls all sleep, and heads down to the breakfast buffet for muffins and yogurt. She’s glad to have no one around to impress, no one around to stare at her, no one around to make her feel tense.
Though when Curtis shows up, she thinks he’s probably the only person she could handle being around right then, the only one who doesn’t need her to be anyone in particular.
They don’t get to spend much time together before Jack rocks up to talk to her. He pretty much orders Curtis away, Ellen calls him on being rude, and defends Curtis when he says Curtis is nothing but a macho phony. He tells her that Mandy is not her friend, she said things about Ellen behind her back, and he wanted to warn her not to trust Mandy. He kisses her cheek, looks like he’s going to cry, and leaves quickly.
Ellen thinks he must have misunderstood Mandy, she would never do something like that to a friend.
Peter’s next to do the same thing about Kimberly. He, too, won’t repeat what she said, he doesn’t even remember most of it he claims, but he wanted to tell her that Kimberly thinks she’s a big phony and isn’t acting like a friend at all. He hugs her and tries to cheer her up, but she slips away.
Sam corners her next and tells her that she’s great and deserves a better friend than Jessica (preaching to the damn choir, Sam). He’s angry, and Ellen is shocked that Sam who is always happy and excited can be mad at someone. He wants to warn her because he’s too trusting, he knows, and he thinks she is, too, and Jessica was talking badly about her.
Ellen freaks out and is heartbroken that the guys would do something like this to punish her, would try to take away her friends. She tries to get away, but the elevator won’t come, and when she goes to take the stairs, she runs into Jared. He holds her while she cries and she’s so grateful to have someone on her side — until he says that Lila is a backstabber and a phony and a terrible friend to Ellen.
Ellen defends her friends, tells him to stop saying horrible things about Lila, and accuses him of playing some terrible joke on her. [Dove: Ellen is too good for this sinful world. And I actually really liked reading Ellen throughout this book. But the rest of the Unicorns were terrible.] [Raven: Agreed.]
Right up until he shows her that the shoes Lila loaned her had heels sawed almost halfway through. Lila was trying to embarrass her and make her look foolish.
Or, you know, break her neck, not that anyone seems to think about that part.
Ellen is determined to talk to her friends and runs off to find them. They are, of course, badmouthing her and the boys, calling her an idiot, pretentious, phony, imitative, talking about how much they hate her, trying to figure out how to get Ellen out of their lives, etc., when they hear a door slam.
Lila thinks it was the door to her room, the one she shares with Ellen, and Mandy finds their door open a crack so that if it was Ellen, she would have heard them. Jessica snaps that if she heard anything, it would serve her right for eavesdropping.
They all (except Kimberly) know that they’re being terrible to Ellen, but they don’t give a fuck about it.
I HATE YOU ALL.
Mandy finally drags them across the hall and they find all of Ellen’s things gone. Jessica feels guilty, but chokes it back down.
FUCK. YOU. ALL.
Ellen tries to get a taxi to the airport, but of course everything is being shut down because of the tropical storm. The concierge tells her that as long as she stays indoors and follows instructions, she’ll be fine, but she swears she’s not afraid of the storm. He tells her there’s no airport anyway, just a small airstrip on the other side of the island.
Ellen is determined to get there, and she’s certain she can if she cuts across the pool area, away from the shoreline, and kept going straight. As long as she walked long enough, she’d get there.
The storm is getting worse, Captain Jackson tells the girls to listen to the hotel manager, stop using the elevators, and not leave the resort. He’s going to move the ship out several miles to avoid damage to the dock, and the passengers are now under the authority of the Coastal Patrol and the hotel manager.
Ellen quickly gets lost because St. Maurice is a volcanic island with a thick jungle and it’s not so easy to simply walk in a straight line.
(Good to know about the volcano. We can toss the Unicorns inside.) [Dove: I was promised by That Long Haired Creepy Guy that there is a volcano in Sweet Valley High. I’m now very excited. It might’ve been hyperbole, but I’m just praying for a volcano. Because why not?]
She keeps falling, hurts her ankle, and decides to go to the ship to take refuge there because she knows she won’t be able to walk all the way to the airport now.
The hotel manager tells them they must not leave the hotel for their own safety. The asshole Unicorns are freaking out because Ellen’s out there, alone, on foot, and they all suddenly admit to how terrible they feel.
Kimberly says that none of them have been thinking clearly except for Mandy.
FUCK. YOU. ALL.
AND FUCK MANDY TWICE FOR GOOD MEASURE.
She’s been just as bad as the rest of you. [Dove: This. This is what validation feels like. By the end of the series, everyone will hate her. I think I hate her more than Sandra Ferris.] [Raven: Meh. I still like Mandy. She’s the best of a bad bunch here, but these things shall pass.]
The girls try to get help from the hotel manager, but he’s certain that even if she did leave, she would have come straight back once she saw the storm. They tell him that she gets lost easily, when she’s upset she doesn’t think clearly, etc. The hotel manager refuses to take them seriously, because yeah, of course, he’s just been put in charge of several dozen teenagers on a luxury cruise and so therefore likely well off if not rich. I’m sure he’ll just waive away any concerns. Totes believable. [Dove: That you, Francesco Schettino?]
They go looking for her around the resort just in case and run into the guys who are furious with them still.
Ellen is terrified, limping and soaked with rain, and barely able to see, and completely lost. The wind is strong enough to blow her around, and she sees the ship leaving, which was her last hope. The waves are getting bigger and bigger, and she’s certain they’ll eventually be big enough to reach her inland and wash her away.
The Unicorns and the boys team up to find Ellen. Mandy, at least, is ashamed of what she’s done and can’t even look at Jack.
FUCKING GOOD. YOU HAVE BEEN A SHITTY FRIEND.
Ellen is staggering and trying to make her way to the hotel, somehow, even though she’s lost, when someone grabs her and they both go tumbling across the ground.
The security guards won’t let Team Teen Rescue leave the resort, so they decide to cause a diversion.
It is, of course, Curtis grabbing Ellen, and the two of them end up in a cave. He was out surfing but the waves got too big, even for him.
Said diversion is some of Ellen’s new friends freaking out over the storm and how they are too young to die.
Team Teen Rescue slip away from the resort and notice how cold it’s getting, which will just make things worse for Ellen.
Curtis and Ellen talk about surfing; he’s the North American champion in his age group two years in a row. He loves surfing right before a storm, even though he knows it’s not a smart thing to do. Ellen tells him that her friends thought he was a phony, and he can’t imagine why anyone would think that.
She tells him that most people are pretending to be something they’re not, and she especially is. She’s not popular or smart or artistic or rich or anything special at all.
Curtis says he thinks she’s great and that’s hard to fake. He leans forward, about to kiss her, but then the wind dies and catches their attention. Ellen is thrilled because that means they are safe, but Curtis says it’s only the eye of the storm and the worst is yet to come.
Team Teen Rescue: Mandy and Jack bond over finding the shawl Mandy made Ellen; Kimberly and Peter bond over how strong they are and how much they would enjoy this kind of hiking if Ellen wasn’t at risk; Jessica and Sam bond over being determined to keep looking even when they’ve covered a mile of ground and the perimeter of the hotel; Lila and Jared bond over Lila being fucking rich — but she also apologizes, which shocked the hell out of me. More on this later.
OH FUCK NO I KNEW THIS RECONCILIATION WAS GOING TO BE TOO EASY. [Raven: This was my biggest issue with this book. The brush strokes were too big. The girls were too bitchy, and so the face-turn and reconciliation was too hasty, and (spoilers) the fact that they didn’t even APOLOGISE to Ellen really sticks in my craw.] [Wing: That is by far the worst part of this for me, that they don’t apologize to her, among a miasma of horrible things.]
Can’t wait until Ellen easily forgives them for being THE FUCKING WORST.
Curtis shows her a quick, excellent view and they talk about divorce and how hard it is when life changes. It’s sweet, but also written as if neither of them know a single other person whose parents divorced.
Team Teen Rescue meet up inside the hotel again. No one found Ellen and now there is a flash-flood warning and the Island Patrol is evacuating residents, bringing them to shelter in the hotel.
Lila tries to tell the hotel manager about Ellen, and he once again ignores them because the captain warned him that they were quarrelsome and overly dramatic.
YES. OF COURSE. OF COURSE HE WOULD NOT TAKE THIS CLAIM SERIOUSLY. OF COURSE NOT.
Lila grabs the phone from the hotel manager and calls her father, of Fowler Enterprises. You know, the Fowler Enterprises that owns the hotel. How very fucking convenient.
This is, of course, enough to get the hotel manager to take them seriously.
Shortly after this comes Lila’s apology, and it is actually kind of great: “I’m rich and spoiled and shallow. Sometimes I’m a bully. And I can be totally insensitive. But I know I hurt Ellen and I feel horrible. I know I hurt you too. What can I say? As usual, I wasn’t thinking about anybody but me. But I’m sorry. And if I can put things right, I will.”
Okay, Lila, I won’t toss you into a volcano just yet. This is a decent start. (Not that I think it will stick. God forbid we have consistent character growth.)
Ellen and Curtis are trying to create a swing to keep them up off the ground because it is flooding, but it is going slowly. Eventually they finish it, Curtis climbs the cave wall, nearly falls, manages to get the swing in place, and pulls Ellen up into the air with him, swinging her toward the cave wall. He knows the trapeze from circus camp, he says, and makes her smile. They manage to swing back and forth until Ellen has the momentum to bring her legs up so he can pull her up to sit next to him. The floor of the cave is absolutely flooded now, with terrible currents. [Dove: I feel obligated to ask, but what are the cave’s dimensions?
Team Teen Rescue decide to head out and look for Ellen again, but before they can, there’s an explosion. The boys comfort the girls and have their own thoughts: Jessica thinks of Elizabeth whenever she’s terrified or in trouble because Elizabeth always saves her; Lila wishes she’d been nicer to her dad, to everyone; Mandy protects Jack’s head from flying debris because she failed as a friend to Ellen and maybe she can make up for it by protecting Jack (FUCK NO).
Ellen and Curtis talk to distract each other. Curtis is also a national honor student. He tells her that she’s smarter than her friends because she saw past the hair and the accent, and she’s also brave to come out in a bad storm. They laugh together, sing tv theme songs, and it’d be pretty great if not for that storm. Curtis even calls it the best date he’s ever had, and as the storm ends, they kiss.
Team Teen Rescue Minus Kimberly (thank fuck, let her stay gone) goes out one more time searching for Ellen; Island Rescue patrol boats search the shoreline. They haven’t been out long when they hear Ellen answering their shouts.
She’s with Curtis, of course, and Jessica, Mandy, and Lila tackle Ellen in a giant hug.
Fuck. You. Three.
Back at their rooms, which are untouched, of course, Ellen tells them that she likes Curtis and she’s not going to be the different people they’ve tried to make her and the boys are going to have to get over it. Ellen is still terribly worried that she and the girls won’t be friends if she breaks up with the guys, and they say they will.
WHERE THE FUCK IS A FUCKING APOLOGY YOU FUCKING JACKASSES?! [Raven: THISTHISTHISTHIS.]
FUCK. THIS. BOOK.
Curtis teaches Ellen to surf, and they talk about how nice it is that they like each other without having to prove themselves to the other. They just accept each other, and it’s actually very cute and sweet.
Back on the ship again, the Unicorns are invited to the captain’s private deck to watch the departure, and they can bring one guest with them. They, of course, are going to take the boys. Ellen and Curtis aren’t on board yet, but surely they know when the ship is leaving, right.
Except that Ellen’s watch isn’t waterproof and she and Curtis totally miss the ship sailing. Ellen thinks her friends are going to be awful to her about it (AND THEY ARE BECAUSE THEY ARE FUCKING SHITS), but Curtis is very calm about it and they go back to hanging out and surfing.
Book ends with a brief setup for the next book, which is that Lila’s father called to check on her and told her that when she gets home, they’re going to make some lifestyle changes. Who fucking cares.
It has been a long time since one of these books filled me with this much INCANDESCENT RAGE, but congratulations, ghostie, you pulled it off. The Unicorns were HORRIBLE to Ellen, and they never really fucking apologized, and Ellen was trying so hard to be a good friend, and FUCK YOU ALL FUCK OFF INTO THE FIRE DROWNING IS TOO GOOD FOR YOU.
EVEN LILA’S FUCKING APOLOGY WAS TO THE BOY AND NOT TO HER ALLEGEDLY GOOD FRIEND ELLEN WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK.
FUCK THIS BOOK FUCK THE UNICORNS FUCK THIS SERIES FUCK SWEET VALLEY FUCK IT ALL.
/B O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O M
[Dove: If this book was just about Ellen and Curtis, I’d have enjoyed it. It would have been very sweet. But in order to make that plot work, you had to have the Unicorns being as toxic as possible, and that’s just the worst. I don’t understand why being a Californian surfer is now the worst thing ever, when Janet Howell, Queen of the Unicorns, was utterly besotted with Denny, who nearly died surfing. It was massively lazy to have the Unicorns decide that the only way to convey to Ellen why they were pissed off was to not tell her. I’ll admit, I liked the way that choice kept Ellen from turning into a big-head over her new popularity, but they could have at least acknowledged that they should have talked to her about their issues with her. This one was a bit of a letdown. But I will give it points for adding a natural disaster. For some reason, I respond quite well to flooding, even if I cannot comprehend caves.]
[Raven: I wasn’t expecting much after the rather boring first book, but this one didn’t even reach the giddy middle-of-the-road “heights” I’d built up in my mind. The non-Ellens were actively appalling at every step, so much so that I found myself longing for Elizabeth and the Angels for something actually nice for once. Ellen was legitimately lovely, as was Curtis, but the shittiness was too strong to let that shine through. And no apology at the end? I mean, what the fuck?!
I definitely did enjoy Wing’s BOOM, though. Replacement CAPSLOCK required, for sure.]