Title: The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
Tagline: The girl who has it all?
Summary: The Unicorns have won a month-long membership at the hottest health club in town!
That’s right, and the club is famous for this really cool diet-and-exercise program led by spokesmodel Katherine Pierce. Katherine is gorgeous, graceful, and adored by every teenage guy in America—and I plan to follow in her footsteps.
Yeah, right. Like Lila could ever follow in Katherine’s footsteps. I’m the newest Unicorn and the most likely to be the newest Katherine Pierce.
If you ask me, there’s something fishy about this miracle program. I mean, if Katherine’s really the luckiest girl in the world, why does she look so miserable?
“Initial Thoughts” is a weird one, these days. We’ve all read so many of these books, we’ve all seen so much. On the treadmill that powers the Recap Empire, there’s barely any time for coherent thoughts before each book begins, never mind initial ones.
So for this recap, I’ll point out a couple of inconsistencies with the cover and the blurb. They can serve as Initial thoughts, in place of copperplate “look at these bellends” comments about the workout picture.
So! “The Unicorns have won a month-long membership at the hottest health club in town!” … No they bloody haven’t, they were bought month-long trial memberships by the insufferable newnicorn Rachel Grant.
And as for the picture? Rachel Grant is forever branded as a little larger than the other girls, and not “model material.” That’s fine. But on the cover of the book, she’s the thinnest of the thin. [Dove: Just like Lois Waller – the blundering blubbery whale that looks… exactly the same size as every other model on the cover.]
Is it too much to ask to have the book covers accurately reflect the characters and storyline within?
These are my Thoughts. They are Initial.
To the recap!
[Dove: Raven’s right. At this point, it’s hard to muster any initial thoughts on these, especially because they started so well, became so awful I went boom in the middle, and have just been petty, bitchy back-biting ever since. In fact, I think I speak for all of us when I say that generally our initial thoughts are always, “Urgh. Aren’t we done with this yet?”]
[Wing: Normally I agree with Dove and Raven; it can be difficult to come up with initial thoughts at this point, because I’m already braced for the Unicorn Club to infuriate me. This week is no different, I suppose. I’m braced. I also have initial thoughts, though: Sweet Valley takes on body image and potentially the damage that unrealistic standards can cause? DO NOT WANT. DO NOT TRUST THEM.]
Chapter one begins in familiar territory, albeit in a new location. Jessica is mooching from her rich friend. But this time, it’s not Lila’s mansion that houses said mooching. It’s the mansion next door, Chez Grant, and Rachel is providing the snackettes. They sit in the TV room, and eat popcorn.
We get the usual blurb about the Unicorns, popular and pretty and blah blah blah. This is coupled with a bit of Rachel backstory, in case the reader had not read the previous book in the series. For the cheap seats: Rachel Grant and her dad bought the mansion next to Lila’s after almost buying Lila’s mansion from Daddy Fowler first. The two little rich girls were at each others’ throats for the book, until the trite denouement in which Rachel is asked to become a Unicorn, an honour which she accepts.
Damn, I miss Team Boring and the real Newnicorns. I even miss Elizabeth. [Dove: Tell no-one I said this, but fucking hell, so do I. I really feel her sanctimonious absence.]
We also learn that Rachel and Jessica have just watched Jessica’s favourite file, Anthem High, starring the apparent Fresh New Thing, Katherine Pierce. Anthem High is around four years old, at which time Katherine would have been around thirteen, the same age as the Unicorns. So today, in the book, she’d be around seventeen. This is important later.
As Jessica selects another VHS from the Grant’s seemingly endless supply, talk turn to the décor at the mansion next door, Fowler Crest. Apparently it’s both shabby and “California”, which, according to Rachel, is totally not cool. Jessica, who has cut bitches for much lesser transgressions, is not happy with such proclamations.
When questioned on what’s wrong with California, Rachel explains badly.
“I thought California was going to be glamorous. Movie stars everywhere you look. Models. Great cars. Parties. So far, the only parties I’ve been to are Unicorn slumber parties.”
So, not content with dissing the state, she’s now dissing the Unicorns. Oh, if only Janet Howell were here.
Just as Jessica winds back her stabbin’ arm, the talk on the TV provides a distraction from homicide. It’s Katherine Pierce, with footage from her one-season flop sitcom from a few years back. The teenage supermodel-cum-crap-actress is advertising something…
The TV screen pictured Katherine Pierce in a great-looking pink, blue, and purple spandex outfit. Her socks and shoelaces were color coordinated. So were the terry-cloth sweatbands around her wrists and forehead. A quilted pink and blue leather water bottle holder hung from her hip. She smiled into the camera, removed the water bottle holder, and launched into an athletic aerobics workout. The word SLENDERELLA appeared across the screen.
“The Slenderella Spa Chain is pleased to welcome Katherine Pierce as our spokesmodel. She will be visiting all the new area Slenderella Spas. Sign up for a month-long trial membership, at the special new member price, and your name will be entered in a drawing. The lucky winner will enjoy two days of Katherine Pierce’s incredible lifestyle!”
[Dove: Ah. A great-looking outfit. Well, you know we love a great-looking sweater on this site. She’s clearly Unicorn material.] [Raven: Hah! I missed that!]
And here we have the rub of the story. It’s about Slenderella, an apparent chain of Spa facilities, for which this Katherine Pierce is a spokesperson. The Unicorns will obviously join this facility in order to attempt to win the prize of a weekend in Katherine Pierce’s company. With hilarious results.
Okay, now that’s established, can we skip the rest and do something else?
For emphasis, the TV screen then shows Katherine Pierce doing glamorous and model-like things, such as climbing into a sports car and exiting a nightclub on the arm of a famous actor (Tad Pinter, apparently. No, I’ve no idea either.)
Rachel immediately declares that she’s going to win that weekend. She calls up Slenderella, and purchases six trial memberships for herself and the Unicorns. Is this altruism? Nope. Apparently, it’s not the member that gains entry to the contest, it’s whoever pays for the membership. So in signing up the Unicorns, it seems that Rachel has snagged herself six entries to the contest.
That’s weird, right? Or is this method of contest entry actually viable?
I’d have expected the member would get the contest entry. Then again, I suppose that, usually, the member would be the person paying for the membership. Maybe Rachel is just taking advantage of a loophole.
[Wing: … I’m holding back another legal digression. I’M HOLDING IT BACK SO HARD.]
Either way, after a token effort to bat the gift away, Jessica eventually thinks that killing Rachel because of her disdainful comments about the Unicorns and California would now seem churlish, so the red mist subsides (purple mist). The Unicorns are going to Slenderella as fully-paid-up (trial) members. How fun!
Next, we’re at the Sweet Valley Slenderella Spa. The Unicorns are in the plush foyer. Lila is using this time to voice her suspicion at Rachel’s generosity, while Kimberley doesn’t give a fuck about the reasons.
Introductions are made to the reception staff.
“I’m Rachel Grant,” Rachel announced. “This is Kimberly Haver, Ellen Riteman, Lila Fow…”
“Rachel Grant! Of course. Welcome to Slenderella,” the woman said, cutting Rachel off before she could finish the introductions. Her eyes flickered briefly over the other girls before resting on Rachel. It was pretty clear that they were of no interest to her.
Okay, so this place is all about the money, baby. Standard.
The receptionist fetches the manager, as befits a guest with Rachel’s credit limit. Lila, watching on, is a little put out because it’s usually she who’s the centre of such fawning and transparent guffery.
“Ah! Rachel. How nice to meet you,” the woman. purred. “I’m Terry Malone, national promotion manager of the Slenderella Spa Chain. I’ll be officing out of this location until the end of the month.” [Wing: How convenient.] She smiled at the group. “What an attractive group of young women. Just exactly the kind of clientele we want to cultivate.”
Sucking up to the chequebook. Nice.
Lila ponders Rachel’s generosity, and concludes it’s likely because Rachel is new in town, and is using her riches as a Fast Pass to friendship. Lila herself has always reigned in the “treating thing”, to avoid being taken advantage of.
Of course, the kicker is soon revealed.
“Just as you requested, we have placed six contest entry forms with your name on them in the basket,” Ms. Malone told Rachel.
“Entry forms?” Ellen Riteman asked. “What entry forms?”
“To win a weekend with Katherine Pierce,” Ms. Malone explained. Buyers of every new membership are eligible to enter. As the purchaser of six memberships, Rachel receives six entries. There will be a drawing here at the end of the month.”
Lila realises that Rachel’s generosity was manipulative. Which is something she herself could definitely understand. Rachel wants the weekend with Katherine.
As the Unicorns check out the gym facilities, with a small scene that demonstrates Ellen’s supposed ditzyness, who should rock up but Katherine fucking Pierce herself.
The group is starstruck to an appropriate degree (like, 3.5 on the scale).
Let’s interrogate some of Katherine’s comments in this wholly odd interaction.
“I’ll be visiting the Slenderella Spas all month. Leading aerobics classes and giving health and beauty tips,” Katherine answered. “Slenderella is a second home to me,” she said with a dazzling smile. “I just love the spas. And all the amenities. Have you visited the Slenderella Workout Wear Shop?”
Looks like this spokesmodel for Slenderella is piling on the sales pitch in spades. “While you’re here, can I suggest you just empty your purses into this bucket? Thanks muchly.”
“You can’t believe how busy I am. And if it weren’t for my Slenderella routines,” she added with a laugh, “I wouldn’t have enough energy to do it all.”
That’s it, Kathy. Steer any and all conversation back to the matter at hand. Slenderella, Slenderella, Slenderella. [Dove: It was about here that I honestly thought her “diet” was speed. It explains the thinness and the ability to keep going. I spent the rest of the book genuinely wondering if every time she had this conversation (and she has it a lot) we were building to a Very Special Episode about drug use to maintain low weight. Spoilers: of course not.]
“I’ve entered the contest,” Rachel said, standing up straighter. “In fact, I have several entry forms.”
“I know,” Katherine said. “Ms. Malone told me. That’s one reason I wanted to come over and say hello. I hope somebody like you wins. Somebody young and hip.”
Spreading the complementary complimentary bullshit thick, like a ganache.
I hate this insidious corporate hard-sell crap.
Don’t get me wrong, the book is doing it well, so far at least. I just hate it anyway, and as it looks like the book will be focussing on that I doubt I’ll get much pleasure from the story.
Nothing new, I guess. This whole run is now getting on my tits. So much potential, tossed into the sea.
Katherine then goes off to run an aerobics class, apparently. The Unicorns join it, and do well. Rachel, especially, believes that Katherine thinks she’s the best.
We start Chapter Two with Lila trying to sour the Unicorns to Rachel’s “generous” gift, by declaring that it’s all about contest entries and not about friendship. The Unicorns don’t care.
“Duh,” Mandy responded. “I’d do the same thing if I could. Katherine Pierce! Wow! That’s amazing! Can you imagine getting to spend a couple of days hanging out with her?”
As the non-rich Spikeheads babble about Katherine’s lifestyle, Lila is listless. She thinks that the Unicorns are no longer enthralled in the Fowler lifestyle, and her joy is diminished because of it. Rachel and her riches are taking front and centre. She’s got the bigger TV, the VHS selection, the fucking popcorn maker.
Who cared about popcorn? And besides, Rachel didn’t need any popcorn. She was a pretty girl. But in Lila’s opinion, she was definitely a little full figured. Girls like that needed to be careful about junk food.
I mean, I love you Lila, but that can fuck off right there. “Girls like that” … behave yourself. [Dove: Rachel is clearly their diversity hire. She’s black and heavier than the others. And she’s clearly just making up the numbers, because even though the last book ended with hugs and friendship, everyone hates her. Thanks, book, we hate it. If you wanted diversity, maybe don’t write out Maria.]
[Wing: Maria, I miss you so. Give me that friendship, books, Rachel and Maria. So many things they could bond over, Maria could disillusion her about the Hollywood Shine of California, and they could complain about being the only two black girls we get to see speak more than one or two lines. Sometimes. Not anymore, obviously, we can only have one at a time, and Maria’s out. Also, didn’t Lila learn literally last book that her friends love her for her and not for her mansion? Damn, ghosties, get your shit together.]
Suddenly, she’s dragged from her mind palace by a simple question from Jessica, a simple question answered by Ms Malone the manager, a simple question that lurches this plot into high gear.
Jessica asks Lila if she wishes she (or they) could enter the spend-a-weekend-with-Katherine-Pierce contest too. According to Ms Malone, they absolutely can.
“Slenderella patrons are entitled to another entry every time they purchase any item in our Workout Wear Shop or Health and Beauty Boutique. They are also entitled to an entry when they purchase a wrap, a rub, a soak, or any of our other extensive line of services.”
Sigh. More hard sell shit. This stuff’s depressing.
[Wing: …still holding back hard. Though I did start down a rabbit hole of timing research.]
As soon as Lila realises this is a game that can be leveraged with a credit card, she’s fine. Spending money? That’s something she can do.
Suddenly, she decides that even if her friends are no longer envious of her riches, they can be envious of her winning the contest and spending time with Katherine Pierce instead. And why not? It’s good to have a goal.
We smashcut to the Slenderella Workout Wear Shop, where Lila is purchasing six ensemble outfits for her friends. They’re purple, of course, and are fortuitously embroidered with Unicorns. The ensemble includes leotard, tights, socks, gym bags, jackets and shorts.
Of course, the saleslady thinks that this thirteen-year-old is pranking, allowing Lila to pull her trademark schtick.
Lila drew herself up to her full height. “My name is Lila Fowler. That’s Fowler as in Fowler Enterprises. My father owns the buildings on either side of this spa, plus almost every other major piece of property in this county.” She opened her purse and removed a gold credit card. “Don’t worry about my credit limit. I don’t have one. And I want to pay for every single item separately, so that I’ll have a contest entry for each purchase.”
Attagirl, Lila. [Dove: She once had a credit limit, and blitzed it only a few books ago. And after that palavar, you’d really expect her dad to impose one.]
Eventually, Ms Malone intercedes, and the cash register kachings in her eyes like a fucking Looney Tunes character. She makes the sale happen, because it’s all about the bottom line.
Once Lila had dotted the “i” in her name, Ms. Malone breathed a happy sigh. “What a treat to see such an attractive young woman throw herself into the Slenderella spirit. I think Katherine Pierce would be very interested in hearing about it. Perhaps I could arrange a lunch upstairs for the two of you in our Slenderella Garden Room.”
Lila is ecstatic about that idea. One to one time with Katherine Pierce Haha, get to fuck, Fat Rachel! It seems like Katherine Time can be bought piecemeal.
But… doesn’t this sort of negate the whole contest? If you can get a lunch date with KP when you overbuy on socks, what’s the benefit of the big weekend prize? I guess that if the prize involved club trips and VIP lounges and Hollywood parties and the like, there’s a definite difference, but I’m sure the actual prize on offer will be something far more mundane.
Ah well, let’s not derail the Plot Train. Choo choo!
Back with the Unicorns apréz-workout, and Rachel is incensed at the news. Lila is off galivanting with Katherine Pierce, and Rachel is stood talking to Ellen like a fucking chump.
The Unicorns are excited for Lila, but Rachel is not happy. She believes that Lila has “skunked” her. I mean, FUCK OFF with this. I thought they were friends at the end of the last book? This animosity makes no sense, coming on the heels of their respective face turns not long ago. [Dove: This. To the fucking hilt. Why add a new character if it’s just to generate more bitchery? We already have Kimberly fucking Haver for that. And it’s not as if Lila and Jessica don’t have a solid rivalry. Why is she even here? What a waste of a plot line.]
The entire group are then summoned to the Workout Wear Shop. They think they’re in trouble, but instead they are presented with Lila’s contest-entry-grabbing gifts. Purple Unicorn Ensembles for all.
Everyone is so pleased with Lila’s generosity. Everyone except Rachel.
Rachel felt the crinkly material of the jacket and tried to smile. Now she understood how Lila had arranged the private lunch. Well! Two could play at this game.
I’m sorry, but I hate this. Sure, give them this story five books down the line, but as the immediate follow-on from the Lila-Rachel feud in the previous book? The book that introduces Rachel and ends with Lila inviting her to join the fucking UNICORNS?! Too soon, too soon.
I’m guessing that this is an issue called by multiple mistakes. The last book laid on the animosity too thick, and the face turn came too quick. This book has the heel turns too quick in the face of the previous book. I’d blame the different Ghosties not lining up their ducks, but it seems like the books were written by the same person, so that’s a bust. [Dove: I’m not sure that’s true, and Rachel’s a great example of that. Last book she had natural curly hair, this book no description, next book it’s braids, and after that shiny black hair. Maybe she is like Kamie Crawford and changes her hair regularly, but it’s more likely that they’ve got a fleet of writers who don’t consult. The author name leads nowhere, the only thing she’s done is this series, and since Jamie Suzanne (Twins) and Kate William (High) are confirmed pseuds, I’d assume the same is true for all the other spin-off series.] [Raven: Fair enough. It’s all just bollocks then. Should have realised thatb at the beginning.]
We’re now at Lila’s lunch with Katherine, and it’s an obvious bust from the get-go. Lila is asking fun and interesting questions, but they are not being answered as Katherine is constantly dragged away by her cell phone. It’s interesting that, as the years roll by in the real world, the technology improves but the girls don’t really age. I remember the book in which Lila got Sweet Valley’s first every mobile phone. And I assume we regress when we get to High too. [Dove: Lila never got a mobile, she got a portable phone, and had to plug the base in at the school. Still not sure how that worked, because the phone lines would belong to the school, not hers… but back on topic, no mobiles here. But yes, High will regress back to the 80s, because it was written first. Which is actually really interesting when you think about it. Just think how much worse it would be if the series was written ten years later. It would be even more eye-poking that by the end of Twins, everyone had mobiles that (just about) went online, but when they got to high school, they’d be waiting anxiously by the landline for a call.]
Incidentally, all Katherine’s calls are about Slenderella and her somewhat punishing spa opening and attendance schedule.
I mean, what? She’s taking on a whole lot of work for a seventeen-year-old kid. Doesn’t she have a PA, or a team, or even a parent, to field all this shit? Apparently not, as – SPOILERS – her overwork is key to the story, and a valuable teachable moment a la Jerry Springer.
We do learn that Katherine has had to bail on her own sister’s birthday party plans, due to her punishing schedule. Lila is stunned at this news, despite having no personal frame of reference. Apparently, it’s all about the Slenderella life, right? [Wing: Wait, wait, wait. Lila. LILA. Lila is surprised that someone would miss plans with a family member due to work? L I L A?]
As for the actual talk over the salad forks, it’s all about the marvellous Slenderella lifestyle. And in particular, Lila being a clear perfect fit for it. They talk about the Slenderella Salad (or something), made by a famous nutritionist, and Lila is intrigued. Cue the skeevy hard-sell bullshit once more.
“Can anybody buy it?” Lila asked. “I mean, would they let me buy some?”
Katherine hesitated, as if she weren’t sure she ought to answer. “I’m not supposed to recommend products to anyone under eighteen, but… Lila, you are such a beautiful girl and I see real potential in you.”
“Potential?” Lila gasped. “What kind of potential?”
“Model potential. I think you ought to drop by the Health and Beauty Boutique and tell them you want the Slenderella Diet Supplement. But remember, it’s no substitute for being diligent about your workout habits.”
Lila laps it up, of course. Because we’re only on Chapter Two, and learning / growth isn’t allowed until Chapter Ten at the very least.
Back at Fowler Crest, and the girls are suitably impressed when Lila announces that Katherine thinks she has Model Potential. As they babble about how it will reflect on the Unicorns, we learn that Katherine’s hard sell worked. Lila is now the proud owner of an extra-large container of the Slenderella Diet Supplement and the Slenderella Highlighting Protein-Building Synergising Shampoo and Conditioner set. She’d even tried the shampoo and conditioner before this gathering.
The girls quiz Lila on the lunch date. As Lila recalls it, she realises that Katherine didn’t have much to actually say that was non-Slenderella specific. So she shares with the Unicorns the positive benefits of the Slenderella Diet Supplement, and is gratified to see that Rachel is green with envy.
Chapter Three starts with Rachel buying a big container of Slenderella Diet Supplement, before progressing things to their natural, admittedly baller, conclusion.
Rachel smiled and put her gold credit card on the counter. “… I’d like one of everything.”
That’s right. One of EVERYTHING. Man, I’d love the gall and the funds to try that in my local games shop. [Dove: If we ever win the lottery, Raven will do this and I will film it.]
Naturally, the saleslady was sceptical, but once the money-grubbing Ms Malone arrives, it’s all sweetness and light. There’s even the following sentences for us to chew on.
“Rachel,” Ms. Malone trilled. “I am so delighted that you are taking such an avid interest in our Slenderella products. The line is quite extensive.”
“I know,” Rachel said. “And I’m prepared to try everything. Now, I will get an additional entry for every item, right?”
“Of course,” Ms. Malone assured her. “And I just know that Katherine Pierce will have a very personal interest in any client with your… um… enthusiasm.”
This is so fucking transparent. It makes me sick. And yes, I know it’s supposed to be transparent, to hammer home the point. That in no way diminishes the nausea.
Ms Malone arranges for Rachel to share an “afternoon health tea” with Katherine. Afternoon health tea? I bet it’s not a patch on Betty’s.
Rachel is pleased to bump into the rest of the Unicorns shortly after. They are still talking about Lila’s lunch, so Rachel is happy to change to the subject to her upcoming tea with KP. Predictably, the Unicorns are all happy for her… apart from Lila of course, who purses her lips so tight she could store coins and credit cards in her mouth.
“Tell Katherine I said hello,” Lila said as Rachel started up the stairs.
Rachel rolled her eyes. “As if. I’m not going to waste my time with Katherine Pierce talking about you.”
Now that’s cold. I’m sorry, but I think the other Unicorns would have reacted badly to that. The scene ends with Rachel almost gleeful about scuppering Lila’s chances with Katherine, which seems pretty personal.
Pretty sure I hate Rachel.
Thankfully, it seems that Rachel’s tea with Katherine is cut from a similar cloth as Lila’s lunch. Rachel is agog at the Slenderella regimen being suggested by her slim idol. A ninety-minute skin care routine is at the core.
“But the skin-care routine you’re describing sounds like it could take two hours.”
“An hour and a half—max,” Katherine said.
“But that’s…” Rachel did some quick figuring. “Five hundred and forty-seven hours a year!” she finished.
“You only get one skin, Rachel. And when I look at you, I see real potential. I’d hate to see you throw it away.”
First up – “You only get one skin, Rachel” is now one of my favourite responses to literally any question. I will be sprinkling it into my ongoing conversations like fucking Salt Bae.
Second – There’s that pernicious “potential” line again. This is so damn manipulative, it makes me want to kick the fuck out of a wheeliebin. [Dove: Why a wheeliebin?] [Raven: Because they’re asking for it. Arrogant green pricks.]
Katherine tells Rachel that she is packed with both model and actress potential, which is ambrosia to a thirteen-year-old Unicorn. Rachel does notice that Katherine’s hand s are shaking, as she spoons in sone Slenderella Diet Supplement into her drink, but Katherine assures her that it’s a normal thing that is corrected by the Supplement itself. [Dove’s brain: She’s speeding.] [Wing’s brain: She’s not eating, not sleeping, and about to have a real big crash sans drugs but for these “supplements.” It’s all very Very Special Episode. I bet she’s so excited, so excited, so — scared.]
Obvious foreshadowing to Katherine Pierce’s collapse is obvious.
In fact, let’s revel in Katherine’s shaky-hand-wave that explains these collywobbles away.
“I’m fine. Fine. Sometimes, if I’ve really worked the muscles in my arms, my hand trembles a bit more than usual.” She smiled. “It’s a good sign. It means I’m in the process of building more strength. More health. More beauty.”
Glorious. More strength! More Health! MORE BEAUTY! MORE! MOOOOORE!
[Wing: I really think these recaps would benefit from Raven serenading us. Off to the recording studio, Raven!]
Next, we have a scene in which the non-rich Unicorns marvel over the facilities at the Slenderella Spa. Steam bath, sauna, blow dryers, the works. The majority slew off towards the whirlpool, while Mandy examines the blow dryers in more detail. There’s a nice nod to her previous cancer / hair loss, which explains her interest in hair care as her mane is returning in earnest.
As she goofs around with the space-age dryers, she’s approached by a smiling Katherine Pierce, and they share a nice and natural scene together.
Well, they do, after this particular line:
Mandy blushed, embarrassed—and a little starstruck. She’d never actually been this close to a famous model and actress before.
Erm… Maria Slater says hi. [Dove: Also, Mandy was the clothing assistant on an actual movie sixteen books ago. Not to mention the twins have been in two movies. And they’ve met Delores Duffay. But sure, this movie star is something new and shiny.]
I know they decided to write the Angels out of the series pretty quickly, but this is a bit rich. Although I guess Maria was never really a model, apart from the spokesperson for a brand of nappies, so I grudgingly let this one slide.
Mandy’s impromptu meeting the KP is much more spontaneous than the previous lunch and tea hard-sell-athons. Katherine enquires about the matching uniforms she’s been seeing in the Aerobics studio, and Mandy tells her about the Unicorns. We also get to see Katherine’s ribs, described thusly:
Mandy couldn’t help noticing that Katherine’s ribs showed. In fact, they didn’t just show—they stood out in high relief.
I guess this book is largely about Body Positivity, which I’m all for (of course). But I also believe that’s something outside my own personal wheelhouse somewhat. While I do have issues with my own shape, I’m not blind to the fact that being a 48-year-old man means the focus placed by society and, in part, myself, is not the same laser-beamed dagger that would perhaps target a thirteen-year-old girl at this point.
I’m pretty sure I was convinced that this plot Wasn’t For Me when I read the line about Katherine’s stark relief ribcage and thought “man, I bet she’d be satisfying to drybrush.” [Wing: That is not the type of dry brushing that came to mind for me!]
The other non-rich Unicorns return from the whirlpool. Kimberly has a grand line here.
“If you stick your big toe in the whirlpool drain, the suction will pull it off.”
Someone should tell Steven, he’d be at the whirlpool getting things pulled off every damn day.
[Wing’s brain: Isn’t there a horror short story about something like this…? THERE IS! It’s in Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. If only my brain held important knowledge rather than all these random things. Pool masturbation horror stories, haunted house disclosure lawsuits, sweepstakes — no. I’ve said too much.]
The new arrivals crown Katherine and bombard her with questions, which she deflects like a boss before slipping into a well-versed sales pitch for some other Slenderella product (the Slenderella Personal Best fitness plan). She gives everyone a leaflet, tells everyone they have potential. and exits to the Aerobic studio.
Of course, everyone rushes away to check out the Slenderella Personal Best fitness plans. Mandy is, at first, a little sceptical, as Katherine’s spiel came across as exactly that, but she decides that health and beauty are important and tags along regardless of her qualms.
Unfortunately for the non-rich Unicorns, the prices for the Slenderella Personal Best fitness plans are wildly prohibitive to a non-spoiled thirteen year old, and they extract themselves from the consultation with as much grace as they can muster.
How much grace?
None. None much grace.
Finally, they were safely in the foyer. “That was embarrassing,” Mandy breathed. “I had no idea anything could cost that much. Why would Katherine Pierce suggest that to people like us? I mean, we’re kids!”
“She probably thinks we’re rich like Rachel and Lila,” Kimberly said
Jessica, of course, is unhappy at this turn of events. In fact, she’s resentful. Resentful at both Lila and Rachel. She has more potential than either of these bitches, but she can’t actualise that potential as she doesn’t have their money.
This is a weird book, to be fair.
One of the issues I have with it is that it reads, largely, as if the Unicorns are adults. There’s no real tie into the adults that exist in their lives, and there’s no real checks and balances placed on them when purchasing things at the Slenderella Spa.
At the end of the book, when things are all solved and waved away? Even then, there’s noadulting done by anyone at any time.
It feels as though this book could have been pitched as a plot for Sex in the City, and it wouldn’t feel out of place. Except that someone in that version would certainly have been pulled off in the whirlpool.
Just food for thought.
[Wing: I have an aside! The hard sale reminds me of timeshare sales but with far less laughter and actual useful rewards.]
Next, we have something awful. Lila is talking to the Slenderella Spa manager, Ms Malone. Ms Malone is telling Lila that Rachel has purchased the complete Slenderella Health and Beauty line. This “inspires” Lila to head back to the boutique for more shopping, and Ms Malone both accompanies her and tells her that she’ll tell Katherine about how much Lila is diving into the Slenderella lifestyle.
Ms Malone is an absolute bellend. I know she’ll get some sort of comeuppance by the end of the book, but this is high-level evil that needs kerb stomping to oblivion.
There’s a nice interaction here, where Ms Malone asks derisively about what Lila is using on her slightly greasy hair, only to discover that Lila’s been using the Slenderella Shampoo and Conditioner. Of course, this presents Ms Malone with the opportunity to hawk the Slenderella After-Conditioner Rinse, while parroting the line about “potential”.
So much potential. I’d love an SVT-Buffy crossover in which some of the Unicorns become Potentials.
[Wing: HOW HAVE I NOT WRITTEN THIS? One of my favorite things to write are stories where a character from a different fandom because a Potential or an actual vampire slayer. I’ve written: both Nina and Claire Geiger from Making Out; a ten times fic with Ana Lucia Cortez from Lost, DJ Tanner from Full House, Eden from Blue Crush, Claudia Kishi from The Baby-Sitters Club, Letty from Fast and the Furious, Missy Pantone from Bring It On, Rain Ocampo from Resident Evil, Joey Potter from Dawson’s Creek, Diana Guzman from Girlfight, and Faith from the Buffy Wishverse; a series of several different stories featuring Letty; and Tina Cohen-Chang from Glee. I really should do more.]
Lila, of course, agrees to buy more bullshit products and sign up to more bullshit regimes in order to unlock this potential and become the next Katherine Pierce. [Dove: I don’t know why Lila hasn’t figured out you can just buy celeb’s time. I’ve seen My Super Sweet Sixteen. If you have enough money and persistance, you can pretty much demand most celebs to attend your events.]
The next scene sees the Unipals all back in the same room. Rachel is keen to rub Lila’s nose in her Tea-With-Katherine tales, but Lila has gone one further. She’s not enrolled in the Slenderella Personal Best plan, and has obtained a personal programme tailored just for her.
Rachel is low-key livid, and Lila uses her time to twist the knife a little further.
“It won’t do you any good to follow my routine,” Lila said. “It was tailored just for me. On a computer. I don’t think it’s anything you’d want to do. They type in your weight and stuff like that.”
Rachel noticed that Lila put a little emphasis on the word weight.
Sigh, Lila. Hasn’t your time with Lois taught you anything?
This is another issue I have with the series, an issue I feel with only get worse as we head into Sweet Valley High later in the year.
At this point, we’re almost two hundred books in. That’s two hundred lessons that the girls should have learnt and grown from. Two hundred separate opportunities for personal growth and betterment.
But as we all know, they keep falling for the same old shit, exhibiting the same old prejudices and traits that they should have moved past by now.
Okay sure, so the Lila that fat-shamed Lois in Best Friends (and had to eat shaving foam for her sins) is a little more militant that the Lila we have here, she’s still displaying some levels of the same old toxicity. It makes me sad, and it makes me think that we recappers are being somewhat reduced ourselves as we become little more than people who say “erm, I think you’ll find that Jessica actually LIKES children now, as we can see from Book xxx”.
The series IS a series, but I guess it’s not one that’s supposed to be takes as a single narrative. Each book somewhat adheres to the Seinfeld motto of No Hugging, No Learning, and we recappers should embrace that. Or at least come to terms with it before we head into High, where I’m doubtless that the same old lessons will need to be learned again, and again.
So for now, I’ll step away from the need to point out that This Lila is not Our Lila, lest we become mired in the Sea of Repetition and Redundancy, floundering like Artax, dwindling away under the sheer weight of collective ennui. [Dove: LEAVE ARTAX OUT OF THIS.] [Raven: *sadhorse*]
[Wing: I swear I’ve read an article about the way series like this were designed for readers to jump in on any book, so continuity wasn’t important and, in fact, might harm sales. Readers aged into and out of these series (BSC, all the Sweet Valley variations, Nancy Drew, Saddle Club, etc.), and they needed to be as easy to enter at book 150 as they were at book 1. I think the article might have also talked about how that impacted storytelling and where it fits into nostalgia, but I can’t remember enough details to track it down, at least not yet.]
Rachel and Lila end the scene and chapter with a full-on no-holds-barred slanging match. Standard.
Next day, aerobics. Lila is looking around for Katherine. She is not there. Ms Malone tells them that Katherine is shooting the next infomercial, an infomercial that may showcase both Lila and Rachel if they continue on their high-octane Slenderella path.
Instead of Katherine, she and Rachel are taken through their class by Generic Slenderella Aerobics Operative #37. The girls try to outdo each other with mad kicks, doing flips and shit.
After the class, they both lie about just how enjoyable and easy the two-hour class had been. Lila heads off for her antitoxin wrap, while Rachel heads for a sports massage.
Predictably, Rachel’s massage is a painful pummel, and Lila’s wrap leaves her almost mummified. After the massage, Rachel is mired in a mud bath and offered a glass full of a brackish purple liquorice-tasting Supplement drink as a refreshment. [Wing: SO. GROSS. Licorice is one of the worst flavors.] After the wrap, Lila scrubs herself into almost oblivion in the Slenderella Showers.
More tellingly, after their treatments, each girl reflects on their new and supposedly more modelesque physique. Neither of them can sport any change. But, they conclude, it’s only Day One of the lifelong process. Maybe tomorrow they’ll realise their potential.
It’s Chapter Five, and the girls are at the Unicorner. Rachel is sat at one end. Lila is sat at the other. They are trying to one-up each other with tales of the fabulous Slenderella-style purchases.
In the middle, caught in a clandestine chat, are Mandy and Jessica. Mandy suggests that Rachel and Lila are laying it on a bit thick, burning the Slenderella candle at both ends. Jessica is being the devil’s advocating sounding board here, allowing Mandy to pontificate on how damaging Slenderella can be, and how Katherine’s ribcage was basically a xylophone.
Eventually, Jessica nails her colours to the mast. Mandy, she reckons, is claiming that Katherine is taking advantage of Lila and Rachel, and this belief stems from the notion that Mandy is actually jealous of the rich and Slenderella-obsessed pair.
Mandy laughs, but knows in her heart that she’s correct. Well done, Mandy. You’ve nailed it. All that’s missing is Ms Malone’s involvement. [Dove: On the plus side, in all this rubbish, Mandy is becoming more like the character I used to be fond of.]
Suddenly, we’re back at the spa, with the non-rich Unicorns finishing their generic workout while the rich Unicorns sweat out their souls in a paid-for aerobics class. The non-rich are being surprisingly restrained and balanced with their engagement with the Slenderella lifestyle, I must admit.
The non-rich decide to take in a movie. Kimberly pops into the aerobics studio to ask both Lila and Rachel. They decline, because the movie is not mandated as a Slenderella-approved activity.
Lila watches her friends leave for their movie trip with a sense of sadness. Sure, she wants to go with, but doing that would only allow Rachel more time to up her Slenderella and Katherine Pierce game. She does allow herself a small daydream, however, in which she and Katherine Pierce attend a Hollywood restaurant together, and Lila is mistaken for Katherine’s sister. Sadly, she’s soon dragged back into the moment when the instructor barks another order.
Oddly, we also learn that Rachel has ditched aerobics for something less frenetic: conceptual exercise. She’s in another private room, relaxing in a recliner, in a Zoom meeting where a presenter in New York is talking through the virtual attendees the process of conceptualizing exercises for fun and (physical) profit.
Except she isn’t of course. She’s literally just been in the aerobics class with Lila. What in the actual fuck? [Dove: You mean to say this masterpiece is not just badly written but scenes side by side actually conflict with each other? Shocker.]
Rachel, who has apparently decided to bin the actual aerobics sessions is Katherine Pierce can’t front them, decides to sack off the virtual classes too. However, when she makes to leave, her virtual instructor barks back. She can see Rachel, and she admonishes her for her lack of commitment. What would Katherine Pierce say?
Now, this line worries me. Apparently, the instructor is leading a conceptual exercise class across six different sites, simultaneously. But by focussing her admonishment with the phrase “what would Katherine Pierce say”, she’s showing us that the Slenderella business plan is based entirely on comparing the clientele to a seventeen-year old supermodel. Which makes me think that the Slenderella way is sharply focussed on screwing over teenagers. EXCLUSIVELY.
Rachel is dumbfounded that the face in the magical box can see what she’s doing, before it’s explained to her that it’s a simple video conference setup. I’m pretty sure this is an invasion of privacy. [Wing: Not if the user consents to it! Thanks, terrible US privacy protections. Though, how old is Rachel? When was this book published? Oh, never mind, it just predates COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), and they might be 13 already anyway, even if COPPA was in effect. Look at that, a legal aside that actually doesn’t deal with my biggest legal issue of the damn book.] Peleton doesn’t do the two-way video thing, I think, so it’s not impossible to run such technology.
Rachel, now more knowledgeable, decides that this latest revelation reduces her to nothing more than a prisoner.
Next, a change of pace. We’re at home with Mandy, learning about her upcoming cancer checkup. She’s been cancer-free for a year, but it’s time for a checkup. She’s not worried. Concerned? Yes. But not worried.
Chapter Six! Rachel is at home, surrounded by Slenderella crap. After her embarrassment the previous day, she’d bought a boatload more Slenderella products to establish her commitment.
At this point, she’s knackered. Even if her exercising is conceptual rather than physical. I feel for her, as DDP Yoga has dynamic resistance and that can be exhausting even if it’s nothing more than tensing your muscles.
Before bed, it’s time for the uber-stinky Slenderella Vitamin-Rich Mineral Hair-Care treatment. [Wing: This might be the hardest part for me to buy out of all of this — though, I’ve just realized I don’t know, are both her parents black? Maybe if one of them is white… — but my point is, odds are real good she’d be far too protective of her hair to use some random treatment, especially based on her hair on the cover of the last book. I’m ignoring the cover of this book. Why not, the ghosties ignore everything, including side-by-side scenes in this book.]
She mixes it up, and the stench fills the room. So much so, in fact, that Daddy Grant bursts in and announces they need to evacuate from the gas leak immediately.
In the rather cute scene that follows, Daddy Grant invites his daughter to partake in one of their favourite shared activities. Can you guess what it is?
If you answered “deep-sea fishing”, then give yourself a fucking cookie.
I mean… okay? One man’s fish is another man’s poisson, after all.
Sadly, Rachel can’t make her father’s offered fishing date, as she’s penned in for a Slenderella Colonic, or similar.
Quick skip next door to Fowler Crest, and Lila is watching the latest edition of Chit Chat. The host is interviewing Katherine Pierce on the runaway success of the Slenderella brand and lifestyle. More sales pitch, including a little info on the brand’s expansion plans.
Lila considers her time with Slenderella thus far. She’s exhausted, for one, and she marvels at how Katherine can keep up with her schedule. Furthermore, she’s bored, as she’s had precious little time with her Unicorn pals since she started at the Spa.
Suddenly, the doorbell rings. It’s Jessica and Mandy. Ellen and Kimblerly are at the mall, shoe shopping. Mandy invites Lila, but she declines, stating tiredness.
The non-Lila unicorns tell some story about what happened at their movie viewing, a story involving Aaron Dallas and Rick Hunter and some other cute boys from Big Mesa Middle. Plenty of other boys to name from SVMNS, but sure, let’s go with students from the Enemy School.
Apparently, these boys were flirting with the Unicorns, which culminated in Kimberly getting a Big Mesa Middle School kid’s number, and Jessica and Rick Hunter hitting it off.
Here’s the surrounding sentences.
“It doesn’t mean anything!” Jessica insisted, her cheeks flushing bright red. “I hate Rick Hunter.”
“Oh right!” Lila looked at Mandy and rolled her eyes. Jessica and Rick Hunter had had an on again/off again crush on each other since the sixth grade.
Erm… I thought that her crush was Aaron Dallas? He was actually there, too. [Dove: *crosses arms and glares* Jessica/Rick is the only ship that makes sense.]
After they leave, Mandy and Jessica discuss Lila’s current situation. Mandy is convinced that Lila isn’t happy with her new Slenderella-infused lifestyle. In fact, she vocalises a very valid point…
“Have you ever known Lila to be too tired to shop?” Mandy demanded. “Have you ever known Lila to be too busy to spend time with friends? She’s overdoing the Slenderella thing.”
Jessica pooh-poohs this, and claims, jokingly, that Mandy is overthinking everybody’s health and wellness these days. They head to the mall, laughing all the way.
Next day. Week three of their Slenderella trial membership. Post workout. Mandy announces to Rachel that they’re off to the soda shop. Would she like to come?
She would, of course. She’s sick of conceptualising, and bored with beauty treatments.
But she can’t, as that would mean slacking from the Slenderella routine. She takes a raincheck.
Mandy pushes it further, concerned for her friend. She feels like the Slenderella machine is a cult, and that Rachel needs to take some time away from the indoctrination. But before she has the chance to truly persuade her, Katherine Pierce enters like a Deus Ex Machina and convinces Rachel that she needs to stay, and continue the programme.
Katherine heads to the aerobics centre, while Rachel is ushered toward the conceptualisation suite.
As with the majority of this subseries, there’s a lot of repetition in this book.
It stems from the need to go through every step of the process with both Lila and Rachel.
Frankly, it’s exhausting to read, never mind to recap.
Ah well. Moving on.
In the aerobics room, we see Katherine taking her class, which includes Lila, through their paces. This involved prancing like a pony, and waving your arms in the air in a fashion which presumably signifies that you do not care.
Suddenly it’s all a little much for our favourite Resident Rich Girl. With a bellyful of Slenderella-approved foods, powders and supplements, her muscles slacken and she’s filled with nausea.
She makes a run for it. Only kids got sick in public, apparently, which is a totally shitty take to send out into the aether.
Katherine Pierce follows, to check up on her. Lila pulls on her Big Girl Boots and claims she’s fine.
Bizarrely, Katherine suggests that Lila’s lack of energy means she needs more exercise. Thankfully, the tired Lila declines this offer with much force, before collapsing with a groan once Katherine heads back into class.
Chapter Eight, and Mandy is in Dr Hall’s office at the hospital. Tests have been done, but results will take some days. Mandy will have to return in a few days. Until then, she’s not to worry, and there’s nothing to worry about at this time. In fact, it’s pretty clear that the only reason that Mandy is in the hospital is to progress the plot.
Mandy pops to the nurses’ station, ostensibly to chat to her favourite cancer nurse for her time on the ward, Nurse Gordon. When she arrives on the correct floor of the hospital, she overhears a group of teenagers imparting some incredible news.
“Guess who was brought into the emergency room?” Mandy heard one of them say. “Katherine Pierce.”
“You’re kidding!” another teenager gasped.
Mandy’s heart skipped a beat and she stopped in her tracks.
“No. I saw her. She looked really sick. She was crying and everything,” the first voice said.
Of course, we all knew this was coming. Poor Katherine Pierce, an obvious tool of Big Spa.
Mandy ascertains that Nurse Gordon is absent, before getting confirmation that Katherine Pierce is indeed in the Emergency Room: some kid with a plaster cast on his leg has apparently seen her with his own eyes. Though why we can trust his eyes when they didn’t see whatever he tripped over to break his leg is a fucking mystery to me.
Mandy eventually hits the Emergency Room, at which point she sees a cool Ms Malone diffusing the journalistic ardour of a group of reporters. No, the person in the Emergency Room is NOT Katherine Pierce. It’s merely someone who looks like her. The Slenderella Programme creates many a Katherine lookalike, and the real Katherine is far too busy to get sick.
Once the paparazzi have left, Ms Malone is surprised to see Mandy. Me? I’m surprised that Ms Malone knows who the fuck Mandy is, as she’s no money to add to the Slenderella Machine. Nevertheless, she parrots the same lies about Katherine to a sceptical Unicorn, who is convinced that everything said is complete hokum.
That evening after dinner, Mandy calls Jessica and shares her information. Then we have the following, which should perk up the story a scootch.
Mandy chewed on her thumbnail, thinking hard. “ … How would you feel about doing a little detective work?”
“I’m always up for a little detective work,” Jessica answered eagerly.
PLUCKY GIRL DETECTIVES.
Bring it the fuck on.
Chapter Nine! We’re cooking with Slenderella Approved Gas now!
This chapter begins with Ms Malone expertly deflecting the concerns of Spa patrons regarding the “news” of Katherine Pierce’s stint in the emergency room. She plies the crowd with both soft soap and flannel, and they depart, mollified.
Mandy and Jessica, eavesdropping, know differently of course. But they need proof, so they enquire about Katherine’s schedule for the week. Ms Malone is all to happy to oblige with the information: KP is at Southville today, and at North Mall tomorrow. Presumably the following two days she’ll be at East Town and Westershire.
Mandy persuades Jessica to accompany her on a four-mile cycle to Southville Slenderella. Once they get there, they discover that no, Katherine Pierce is not where Ms Malone has claimed. In fact, she’s scheduled to be at Sweet Valley Slenderella Spa all day, teaching classes.
Armed with this information, the girls head back. And Jessica is now more convinced that something is afoot.
Back at the Sweet Valley location, Jessica tries to extricate Rachel from her latest session of conceptualising, in a scene in which she too is completely flummoxed by the idea of a talking television. However, her subterfuge works and the meeting takes place, as Mandy has similar success in dragging Lila away from her aerobics class.
The meeting, unfortunately, does not go to plan. After Mandy starts off with “this place is hazardous to your health”, we cut straight to the aftermath.
“I can’t believe you’ve actually been friends with those people for so long.” Rachel sniffed.
“Frankly,” Lila said, “neither can I. Jealousy has always been a problem, but now it’s really getting out of hand. I can’t believe that ridiculous story.”
Okay, so Mandy’s deductions have served to do nothing but galvanise both Rachel and Lila into an alliance of sorts. Shame, really, as I think this tale is getting a little long in the tooth now and I’d appreciate a little more spirit in the headlong slalom to the end. [Dove: This is such a repetitive book. It makes you long for the old days of two plots, where the good twin does something saintly while the bad twin does something evil, rather than two people do exactly the same thing (neither of them twins), and you hear about it twice.]
Of course, their alliance is an uneasy one. They declare that they should be each other’s cheerleader as they follow their Slenderella Personal Best plans, but in doing so they can’t even hand each other their individual schedule cards without a lot of silly “you show yours first” bullshit.
Thankfully, they eventually exchange notes, and are temporarily on the same page as they declare their unhappiness with various aspects of their plan. However, they pull back from ditching the whole thing, and instead vow to keep on truckin’ in order to achieve their goals together.
The chapter ends with the Mandy and Jessica bemoaning the terrible meeting. Lila and Rachel are no longer talking to anyone, and both Kimberly and Ellen are peeved with the Plucky Girl Detectives and their apparently idiotic ideas.
The next chapter starts with Mandy heading to her follow-up meeting at the hospital, to collect her results. They will all be clear, of course. Although that would have been a god-tier swerve in the final chapters.
As they wind through the hospital corridors, Mandy spots Katherine Pierce, in a wheelchair, propelled by an orderly. So there’s all the proof we need.
There’s a quick cut to the Wakefield Compound. Jessica is bored. She’s ruing the day she believed Mandy’s madcap stories, and the other Unicorns either hate her (Rachel and Lila) or are unavailable / unappetising company. This feels like a major diss on Ellen, who is apparently so ditzy that she needs babysitting around the complex exercise equipment. [Dove: I can’t even begin to care about any of this. And ruining Ellen’s character is getting as old-hat as Mandy being beige paint for a chunk of this run.]
Back we go to Mandy getting her results. All clear. Plus, there’s a visitor to see her… her favourite, Nurse Gordon!
Nurse Gordon is very happy to see Mandy, and also more than happy to spill any beans and help our Plucky Girl Detectives get to the bottom of things. I’m pretty sure this is wildly unethical, but I’ve got to learn to ignore these things.
[Wing: I was going to rant about this because I haven’t learned to ignore these things, but I actually think that though HIPAA was enacted before this book was published, the actual Privacy Rule that provides the regulations on healthcare privacy didn’t come into effect until after publication. It’s like the wild wild west of privacy around here, readers.]
Chapter Eleven opens just after Mandy has told Jessica all the off-screen secrets imparted by the beloved Nurse Gordon. Katherine Pierce is suffering from exhaustion and malnutrition. And as all she does is live the full-on Slenderella life, it’s the aerobics and the diet plans that have made her this way.
The girls reflect that if it’s bad for KP, it’s likely bad for LF and RG too. Jessica is actually quite happy that her friends look terrible, as that means she looks better in their presence. This is perhaps one of the most perfectly Jessica passages in the entire series. Fuck her friends and their legitimate medical concerns. As long as Jessica looks great, they can all go die. God bless our wonderful sociopath. [Wing: I’ve missed you so.]
Once Jessica has established that she’s only joking, and that yes, both Rachel and Lila are both ugly and smelly, they decide to head to the spa that afternoon and talk sense into their friends.
The next few scenes are ones of tiny rebellion. Simultaneously, Rachel decides to furtively decamp from her neck-deep vat of Slenderella Stinky Goop, and Lila decides to roll her body-wrapped form off the couch and inch her way across the floor like a caterpillar.
Eventually, after manoeuvring themselves through the corridors like molasses, they supply a small jump scare as they bump into each other. And, fortuitously, they also bump into Mandy and Jessica too.
Lila demands extraction from her mummified prison, while Rachel threatens to flee but is halted by a threat of nudification. With a now captive yet still antagonistic audience, Mandy tears into her spiel.
She spills the beans about her cancer tests, and continues into the tale of Katherine Pierce and her recent hospitalisation. Slenderella are selling something, she concludes, but it is not health or wellbeing.
Just when you think we’re coming to the end of this overlong horror show, Ms Malone kicks out of the plot pin, and kips the story back up with an intervention from herself and Katherine Pierce. They both appear fresh from a press conference, a press conference at which they have strenuously denied the allocations of hospitals and mis-selling. Instead of being in hospitalised, Katherine declares that she’s actually been filming the next infomercial in New York. And now she’s back in Sweet Valley, she wants to include Rachel and Lila too.
They agree, of course. So much for friendship.
While the two rich Unicorns rush off to don their purple Unicorn ensembles, Jessica and Mandy are escorted from the building. And their memberships have been terminated.
The chapter ends with Lila, Rachel, and more importantly Katherine, suffering under the gimlet glare of the camera while filming a tortuous scene for the aforementioned infomercial.
Chapter Twelve is, finally, the straw that breaks the camel’s back for both Lila and Rachel. To start, we see Lila watching the completed infomercial as part of a televised interview with Katherine. And lo, Lila and Rachel are in shot, beavering away, full of vim and vigour and pzazz. The issue is, to Lila’s dismay… she looks exactly the same as she did before starting the Slenderella lifestyle.
[Dove: I find it weird that neither of them lost weight. I know that if Rachel’s tubby and loses weight, then it proves that starving yourself is “ok” because you end up “the right size”. But it’s also hard to believe that the lifestyle is so dangerous that after three (four?) weeks of eating nothing but supplements and salads and exercising for 90% of their day, the girls haven’t dropped weight.
Yes, it’s bad to eat the wrong things/not eat and push your body too hard. But wouldn’t it have been more worrying if Lila had suddenly gone gaunt and her father was worried she was really sick? Or Rachel suddenly lost those extra few pounds and her dad worried she was starving herself to fit in with her new thin white friends? Ok, maybe not the white thing. If we can’t handle weight properly, we’re definitely not ready for race implications.
With the only outcome of all of this work/starvation be tiredness and smelliness, it also sends the message to heavy readers that basically no matter what you do, you can’t lose weight, because even these healthy twigs didn’t lose weight when they weren’t even eating for a month. And, that this kind of thing is fine for a month or two, it’s only when you do it for years that it’s a problem. Urgh. Just the message of this book is muddled, clumsy and misleading.] [Raven: Agreed on all points. Stupid fucking book.]
So that’s it for her. Time to don the shackles of the Personal Plan and Brackish Supplement. Predictably, it’s through and entirely self-centred and ego-driven realisation that she’s been wasting both money and time.
Of course, there is the little matter of the prize draw, set for the following day. A weekend with Katherine Pierce, sharing her glamorous lifestyle. If she didn’t win, then it was time to kick Slenderella to the kerb.
As for Rachel, she too is watching the interview unfold. And the body blow that takes her low? THIS bullshit.
“Two days of the Katherine Pierce lifestyle,” Thalia Kilgore said. “Tell us about your lifestyle.”
“My lifestyle is the Slenderella lifestyle.” Katherine crossed her legs in a sophisticated way and leaned forward, talking directly to the camera. “The lucky winner of the contest will attend my aerobics classes. And she’ll receive two days of Slenderella Personal Best VIP health and beauty treatments. The winner and I will have a private lunch at the flagship Sweet Valley spa, and I might be persuaded to part with a beauty secret or two.”
Rachel felt as if Katherine Pierce had just reached out of the TV and punched her right in the stomach. Who wanted two days of the Slenderella lifestyle?
Oh, snap. The girls have been competing for something that is NOT what it says on the box.
Poor Lila. Poor Rachel.
Next? Grocery shopping with Jessica and Mandy, for Mandy’s family as her mother took time from her schedule to accompany her daughter to the hospital. That comes over as more brutal than it does in the book, I’ll admit.
As the girls laugh and joke, they spot…
A naked Mr Nydick!
Nope, sorry, old habits etc. [Wing: Things I never thought would happen: I am nostalgic for Mr Nydick jokes. Oh, those halcyon days of yore.]
They actually spot…
A makeup-free Katherine Pierce!
The figure turned, and Mandy gasped, horrified.
The face that stared at her from beneath the baseball cap was not the face she was used to seeing. Katherine didn’t have on any makeup. Her skin was yellow and blotchy. There were dark circles under her eyes. Instead of her usual, upright posture, she was stooped over, as if her shoulders and back were too weak to support her head.
Katherine seemed just as horrified to see Mandy. She turned the corner and hurried away.
Mandy gives chase, calling for the poor supermodel spokesperson for evil, but KP escapes in her devil-red convertible.
The next morning, Lila and Rachel arrive for the contest drawing ceremony, being held in the Slenderella car park, under the glare of the associated press and multiple TV cameras.
They’re doing it in the fucking car park?! How very Four Seasons Total Landscaping of them.
Ms Malone is all smiles as Katherine takes the stage to perform the drawing duties. But as she does so… she collapses in a dramatic heap.
OF COURSE SHE DOES.
The next line is strong.
“Katherine Pierce is in the hospital,” Ms. Malone told the reporters. “She has appendicitis but she is receiving the best of care and is expected to make a full recovery.”
Mandy, watching the press conference from home, dashes to the hospital post haste.
Once there, she heads straight to Nurse Gordon, who points her towards Katherine Pierce’s room. Once inside, Mandy lays it out straight. Through KP’s tears, we get confirmation that yes, Slenderella is a crock of shit, and that Katherine had signed the contract to be their spokesmodel when her career was hitting the skids (she’s SEVENTEEN, for fuck’s sake). We then get more advice that we can bank: supplements don’t replace meals, and it’s important to take care of yourself.
There’s time for one more twist, as you’ve come to expect. Mandy asks if all this was worth it, and Katherine snaps that it is. She’s supposed to be a role model, but Katherine is not engaging. Eventually, without coming round to the Light Side in an open fashion, KP scarpers and leaves Mandy frustrated at the whole affair.
It’s the final chapter now, which I’m going to rush through as it’s 11pm and I’ve yet to do the online big shop for the week (which is being delivered tomorrow morning).
The Unicorns go to cancel their memberships at the Slenderella Spa, and are met by a TV news van in the parking lot. Is it another news conference?
As Ms Malone tries to bribe the Unicorns to keep their credit cards on file, the newly-minted investigative reporter Katherine Pierce bursts into the room, camera crew in tow. She declares that Slenderella is a fraud, and that she’ll do anything to bring it down. She also thanks Mandy for the pep talk and tells the group what a fine thing it is to have… friends.
Blech. Gag me with a fucking spoon.
As Katherine leaves, the Unicorns invite her to hang with them sometime. For some reason, this seventeen year old supermodel decides that hanging with a bunch of middle school kids is an excellent idea, and the book ends with them doing just that a few weeks later.
And so we’re done! Thank fuck for that. Did you enjoy it?
… I didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that this book had something important to say. The whole “love who you are, not what you look like” message is a valid one. But the writing was repetitive, the characters were out of step, there was too much emphasis on the new girl Rachel, and the whole affair left a rather sour taste in my mouth that I can’t put down to the brackish purple mineral drink.
It didn’t, at any point, feel like a book about a group of thirteen-year-old middle schoolers. The plot was an adult one, or at least a university age one. And I missed the Angels, and Elizabeth, but that’s not a new notion in this subseries.
Honestly? I’ll be glad to get through this series and move onto High. I’m in need of a reboot.
[Dove: See my three-paragraph rant above for my overall feelings on this book. The message was well-meant, but badly delivered, the structure was the same thing over and over again. Twice. And also, I hate how Rachel is written. Either be better or fuck off. When reading this series, I never once found myself thinking: You know what this is lacking: another self-obsessed, vapid harpy who competes endlessly with her “friends”. But now I’m just thinking: You know what this series is lacking? The other half of the twins.]
[Wing: Readers, I love being a lawyer. I do. But when my fave parts of these books are going down legal rabbit holes, there is something wrong with them. This could have been great, but it wasn’t. Raven makes a good point that it really doesn’t work for girls this age simply in all the things they’re meant to be doing and spending. Giving pre-teen and early teen characters adventures that are more suited for adults is a flaw of pretty much all series like this (and likely a feature, not a bug, to be honest), but that doesn’t make it any more frustrating. Except! I can easily ignore that fact when the story is being told in an engaging way with characters I know and care about. See, e.g., all the many adventures the Baby-Sitters Club had that they never should have had, including winning the damn lottery. I knew even as a kid that these were ridiculous premises, but I loved them anyway because the story itself was fun. Even many of the SVT books ended up being fun. The Unicorn Club? Has not been fun. Raven and Dove liked it a lot more than I did early on, but it is getting worse and worse, and I think a big part of that is that the ghosties are not writing these characters in a way that engages readers. I don’t expect Great Novel writing. I don’t want Great Novel writing, because that is often shit writing itself, though I’ll spare you my rant about the idea of the Great American Novel and how writing programs in the US at least used to churn out the same sort of trite writing. I want characters we enjoy to do things that are entertaining to read, and the Unicorn Club has stripped away even what SVT managed.
Since you’ve made it this far, I’ll leave you with this: I wasn’t able to quickly find when California passed its sweepstakes laws, but paying to enter a sweepstakes without a free means of entry makes it an illegal lottery. Slenderella should be getting smacked with all sorts of troubles.]