Title: Snow Bunnies
Tagline: Romance and rivalry on the slopes…
Summary: I can’t believe how happy I was a week ago – before the Unicorn Club left for our skiing trip I was totally psyched to snuggle by the fire with Curtis Bowman, my new boyfriend. And I couldn’t wait to hang out with Rachel Grant, the newest Unicorn We’d really hit it off In fact, we’d even joked about how much fun it would be if her dad and my mom, who are both chaperoning the trip, got married. Then Rachel and I could be sisters!
Some joke that’s turning out to be To our surprise, Mr. Grant and my mom have gotten together… and now Rachel’s saying that my mom isn’t good enough for her dad. Well, I told her the real problem her dad isn’t good enough for my mom! Now Rachel swears she’s going to get back at me…
Did I say I wanted Rachel for a sister? The truth is, I never want to see her again!
- This is an Ellen book.
- It contains snow.
- I like both of these things.
- There is absolutely no hope that this fetid series is going to deliver, even when the key features are things I like.
As an added bonus, what’s up with Rachel’s unnatural head-tilt there? Here, have a picture of Meep doing the same thing as a kitten.
[Raven: LOOK AT THE FLOOFS! … I have nothing to say about the book.]
[Wing: Rachel kind of looks like she’s checking someone out. As for the actual book, I hate snow, I hate how the Unicorns treated Ellen in Bon Voyage, Unicorns! and Boyfriends for Everyone, we’ve already seen friends dealing with their parents getting together, and I expect the worst from every book in this series. I don’t see this going well.]
We open with Ellen being so spectacularly dim that it’s amazing she can even function in the real world. I know that Ellen’s dim, but she’s almost Steven levels of dim here. She’s making sandwiches, but forgot to take the cheese slices out of their individual wrappers.
When called out on it, Ellen hits back with a sassy liner that isn’t funny (“Don’t you know that nouvelle plastique cuisine is the new big thing?”), but reduces Rachel to hysterics. Since the last three books, (where Rachel was a spoiled brat, but it turned out she was misunderstood, and then she was a competitive spoiled brat, but it turned out she… actually was, so roll with it, bitches, and then was just absent from the next story), Rachel and Ellen have become BFFs. Which, sure, they have recent divorces in common, but since this mini-series actually uses continuity, it might’ve been nice to seed their friendship by… I dunno, maybe putting them on the same page at least once since they met? Maybe letting them talk? Just saying, since they’re all sleepovers and sharing secrets now, and it’s brand new information to us. [Raven: Yeah, this was a leap too far, to be honest. No seeding.]
The Unicorns are gathered to watch “Snow Bunnies”, which is a segment on “Teen Sports Hour”, a programme they’re all about now that Mr Grant is taking them all skiing with Mrs Riteman as chaperone, and for this they need snacks.
Kimberly efficiently began assembling slices of bread. “Here.” She shoved the jar of mustard toward Mandy. “Let’s set up an assembly line. We’ll be the Unicorn Sandwich and Bedtime Snack Co.”
Mandy saluted. “Yes, ma’am!”
This time everybody laughed because everybody got Mandy’s joke.
That’s not a joke. It’s a response. How can anyone get this “joke”? It’s not a joke. A joke works on more than one level. Why do I have to keep ranting about this? Why do so many ghosties on this series have no clue how humour works? [Raven: If anything, it’s Kimberley’s joke. The US&BS Co is at least creative.]
Anyway, back to the trip. It was Ellen’s idea, which seems a bit weird. How did she pitch that? “Hey, Rache, you know you have a condo at a ski resort? I think we should all go and stay in it. Will your dad appreciate having a bunch of girls inviting themselves to stay?”
Rachel apparently got her dad to agree by doing her homework and being a perfect kid. It would’ve been nice to see that, since we only ever see her being a selfish asshole. Ellen only had to suggest that she was a walking disaster and was it safe to put her near snow, ice and ski poles, to get her mother to agree to chaperone.
Dearest ghostie(s): Ellen was a Booster. A cheerleader that does tumbling routines. She is not a klutz. There was a klutz on the team, she was called Amy Sutton, but Amy is Connecticut getting her ego inflated right now. And sure, athletes can be clumsy (pro-wrestler, Cesaro/Claudio Castagnoli, is a personal favourite of all us recappers, and he’s fallen off the ring apron or tripped over the steps more times than we can count), but if Ellen was clumsy, it would have come up in any of the 150+ books that preceded this series. The first book in this series gave her a trait of being a wonderful mimic. Why couldn’t we stick to that, since the clumsiness has no plot benefits, but mimicry actually would? In short: fuck you all. [Wing: The things they could have done with her mimicry, but no.]
The phone rings and it turns out to be Curtis, that boy that Ellen fell for on the cruise. The book is quick to point out his Californian accent, apparently with no clue that Sweet Valley is in California. [Raven: I hate the way the ghostie does his accent, with the “how do yeeeeuuuu deeeeeuuuu” bullshit. It’s like babyspeak. Just write the fucking words, you prick.] [Wing: I cannot for the life of me pronounce the accent writing in a way that makes me think of California at all. What are you even going for here, ghostie?] Anyway, happy news, Curtis will be at the ski resort when they’re there. She relays this to the Unicorns, and they are, surprisingly, pleased for her. She says something ditzy to him, and while the Unicorns berate her, Curtis says he gets it and repeats it back to her.
Her mom gets home and she delightedly tells her the situation. Mrs Riteman is not happy. She does not want to see her daughter wasting time with some boy, she should hang out with her friends. She’s too young for that kind of thing.
I mean, the kid only saved her daughter’s life, after it was put in danger by her asshole friends, but sure. She should stick with those friends, rather than the guy who accepts her for her, and is fantastic in a dire situation (however implausible).
After a mild protest from Ellen – who doesn’t mention he saved her life – Mrs Riteman says she wants to meet him first, but she shouldn’t rush into anything. Dude, she wants to hold hands with a cute boy while on holiday, not elope and start popping out babies. [Raven: Doesn’t she also say that Ellen should play the field, andd not be tied down to one boy? A bit inappropriate, mum.] [Wing: Eh, I don’t know about that. They’re young, they date (and we’ve seen their idea of dating), I can understand why her mom wouldn’t want her to get too serious with one boy. From what I saw from my friends, it’s fairly common for parents in the 90s to tell their daughters not to get too serious. Did that stop any of us? Nope.] [Dove: This seems like a good time to point out that Wing is still with her childhood sweetheart. And that she’ll cut anyone who refers to Ostrich as such.]
Then Ellen joins Rachel to watch the show they originally wanted to watch, and it features Ben Mays, which is seeding Rachel’s obsession.
Later, Rachel and Ellen are in Ellen’s room. Rachel is described as having braids today, which is her third hairstyle of the series (previously: natural curls, then “shiny” hair, which I assume means straight). I can only imagine that she’s Kamie Crawford, and looks fantastic and different every time you see her. Only wish she had a even a teaspoon of Kamie’s personality, because I do not like Rachel, and I might as well say this now: I am not looking forward to having half this book from her point of view. She arrived, she was mean, she learned her lesson and became friends. Then she was mean. Then she was mean again. Thanks, I hate her, and wish she would fuck off. This series is already overflowing with mean girls.
Ellen worries that her mother won’t like Curtis, and that he makes a bad first impression, since her friends hated him. This is a stupid plot point that I cannot get invested in. Her friends hated him because they’re snobby little harpies, and not because he made a bad impression, and her mother already seems to hate the boy who saved Ellen’s life. So it’s stupid, and I’m largely ignoring it, because, just like many things in this series, you have to be a massive asshole and/or breathtakingly stupid to make the plot work, and I like to believe that I’m neither. [Wing: Unlike everyone in charge of this series, unfortunately.]
This nonsense allows Rachel to talk about the love her life, Ben Mays, who is a pro skier of her age, who is a shoo-in for the Olympic team.
The girls realise that their parents are both lonely, and if they hooked up, they’d a) no longer be lonely; b) be too busy to run their kids’ lives; and c) be happy. So it’s obvious. Get them together. And it would mean they could be sisters!
Which, no. Ellen is too good to be attached to Rachel, who can’t seem to be nice for longer than about three consecutive paragraphs.
They agree to talk up their parents to each other on the trip to Timberline, which I keep thinking is either Timberland or Timberlake (or even Timberlink), and then once they arrive in a beautiful snowy location, they’ll fall in love like that.
The travel is covered in a very light manner. The Unicorns swoon over a picture of Ben Mays in a magazine – I have to say, I remember being a teen who loved magazines, and I really don’t remember teen skiers being featured so heavily, it was 90% Keanu Reeves and 10% that guy who was in that movie that’s out right now – and then Ellen and Rachel start their plan. [Raven: it’s all very Cutie Mark Crusaders trying to get Big Mac and Cheerilee together. “He’s strangely obsessed with lumps of jelly…”]
Rachel tells her dad that Mrs Riteman is good to have around when she needs a woman to speak to, and her dad immediately replies with the right thing: she can talk to her mom whenever she needs, she should never feel that she can’t reach out to her. Unfortunately, that’s not what Rachel meant, but now she’s got to commit to a deep conversation about her feelings.
Over with Ellen, she tries to bring up Mr Grant, but Mrs Riteman is too busy trying to yawn and pulling weird faces to get her ears to pop to do anything other than freak out anyone who looks her way.
They arrive at the airport at Timberline, and Ellen is freaked out by how many people are being wheeled about with broken legs. I’m dubious this is a thing. [Wing: She’s also freaked out by how many people are in the airport at all. Considering they likely just flew out of one of the Los Angeles airports, I call 100% bullshit on that.] She spots Curtis and desperately wants to hug him, but she cautions the Unicorns to not react to him being there, then hisses at him to pretend he doesn’t know her, and gives him an update regarding her irrational plot-driven mother’s viewpoint.
Curtis is confused and bumps into Mrs Riteman.
He blinked and shook his head. “Scuuuuuse me,” he said. Mrs. Riteman and Rachel both looked slightly annoyed and vaguely alarmed. They stepped as far away from Curtis as possible.
Ok, so this accent he has. That’s your Bill & Ted accent, right? I’ve never heard them sound sarcastic by dragging out the wrong syllables like that. This is just fucking weird. The only people who add that many U’s into the word are people having a passive-aggressive argument with someone. “Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me for breathing!” [Raven: YESYESYES this. Completely this.]
Mrs Riteman loathes him on sight, because even though she now has a clumsy daughter that has always been clumsy, she can never forgive a clumsy boy. And Rachel calls him a creep.
Ellen explains to Rachel that’s her beloved boyfriend and he makes a terrible first impression. No, your mother and friend are assholes, and Curtis said a word in a way that no human being ordinarily would.
They return to the idea of getting their parents together, and Ellen decides they need to involve all the Unicorns.
We cut to the condo, which Lila says is “totally plush”. Lila, by the way, spends most of her days in a 75 room mansion. So I googled the most expensive ski condos/lodges available, assuming it was on that level. I’m just going to spoil it for you now. It has four bedrooms (one of which has a few sets of bunkbeds). I was expecting it to have about fifteen, a nightclub, it’s own slice of mountain, whatever. But no, it’s just a nice place with comfy accommodations. So basically, that’s a lot of words to say that I can’t imagine Lila is impressed. [Raven: I guess they’re using her as the book’s Seal of Legitimacy. If LILA thinks it’s dece, then dece it must be.]
Mandy claims she’s never seen anything so luxurious in her life. Again, I say, she’s been friends with Lila for a year, and now Rachel’s in the club. That’s two mansions side-by-side, and still, a four bed condo is the bestest thing evah. No shade, I’d love to own a four bed condo, preferably surrounded by snow, no people, and yet have excellent wifi. I’m just calling bullshit on how it’s so extra-extra super luxurious.
The Unicorns move to the hot tub room, which has a full wall of windows looking over the mountain, – which: nice – and Ellen explains their plan to get the parents together. Everyone agrees it’s fabulously romantic, and they decide to go rent their skis to give the parents alone-time.
As they head off to their rooms, they pass the living area, where Mrs Riteman and Mr Grant are warming themselves by the fire and talking softly. Rachel thinks it will be easy.
They walk to the village to rent their skis at “Slope and Slide”. I guess since they’re not in Sweet Valley any more, it couldn’t be called Sweet Valley Ski Rental. And Timberline Ski Rental just sounds really boring because it doesn’t have the word “sweet” in there. [Wing: Slope and Slide made me laugh. I like it.]
Rachel doesn’t need to rent anything because she skis a lot. Lila is the same but forgot her ski poles, [Wing: Again I call bullshit, both on her somehow forgetting her ski poles and on her renting a pair instead of simply buying new ones.] [Dove: Valid point.] so this leaves Rachel alone, and she gets talking to a nerdy but cute looking guy who makes self-deprecating jokes about how much he doesn’t want to ski, while the younger guy with him pushes him into it.
The guy introduces himself as Ethan, and for the usual bland boys we find in these books, I’d give him a solid 9 of 10. He’s charming and self-deprecating and has a firmer grasp on wit than Mandy Miller demonstrated earlier in the book. Rachel tells him that skiing isn’t that bad, and what is there to do that isn’t a little risky? Read, he counters, particularly about Albert Einstein. Then he suggests they meet at the lodge for hot chocolate and marshmallows to discuss books. Dude, this boy’s a keeper. Pick him. And she’s quite tempted, she would like to spend time with him, but she’d also like to ski. Still, a date with a cute boy she really likes… [Raven: Score one for Ethan. I like him.] [Wing: He’s pretty charming.]
At that point, a third voice breaks in, and Rachel finds herself annoyed by this intruder right up until she claps eyes on him. It’s Ben Mays. The Ben Mays. He’s Ethan’s older cousin. And Rachel is like, “Ethan who?” and from that moment on, she ignores the guy she was seriously considering ditching skiing to hang out with. Instead, she makes a date with Ben, without even bothering to turn down Ethan.
Say it with me, people: THANKS, I HATE IT.
Rachel introduces Ben to the Unicorns, who fawn over him and ask questions about what he’s doing here (family holiday), what route he first skied (I don’t care), and whether he fell over when he was learning (of course not, he’s perfect). Rachel is charmed by how patient he is, answering their questions as if he hasn’t heard them a billion times before.
Ellen asks him for tips for a beginner, and he suggests joining the Bunny Slopers class (which Word is desperate to correct to bunny slippers, because Word knows which one I’m more likely to have in my life). Ellen says she’s already signed up. And she and Ethan promise to not laugh at each other’s fail tomorrow.
Lila takes a moment to brag and be competitive, while putting the others’ ski skills down, just because girls are back-stabbing bitches, and we can’t let a single scene forget it, no matter how uncomfortably crowbarred in the sentence must be.
Rachel suddenly remembers that Ethan asked her out, and turns him down, but offers him the chance to discuss books if the weather’s really bad or… something. *shrug* Basically, he’s not Ben Mays, so forget him.
As they leave, Rachel is riding high on her smug superiority at having a date with Ben Mays.
And Ellen trips over and knocks over every ski in the shop. Because you know what’s funny? Slapstick. And you know what’s even funnier? Reading about slapstick written by someone who has no clue what wit is. [Raven: I mean, slapstick done well is wonderful (check out A Quiet Night In from the always impeccable Inside Number 9), but this is just “Ellen does something silly, and SCENE.”]
We cut to Rachel berating Ellen for her clumsiness, because apparently she just spaces out and falls over. That’s a thing Ellen does now.
THANKS, I HATE IT.
Oh, and Rachel isn’t concerned for her bestie’s safety. No. She’s worried that by extension, Ellen’s clumsiness will make her look like a tit in front of The Great and Wonderful Ben Mays.
THANKS, I HATE IT MORE.
As the girls arrive back at the condo, the parents are standing on the balcony talking and laughing.
Mr Grant says he’s made dinner reservations at La Neige, which I googled, because I knew it would be some basic-ass name. It means “the snow” in French. Because of course they did. From the series that brought you Sweet Valley Mall, Sweet Valley Bakery and Sweet Valley Records, why am I even surprised? [Wing: It’s The Snow but pretentious! I know a restaurant that is called NaCl + H2O, which is Saltwater but pretentious. I roll my eyes every time I pass it.]
Out of the window, Ellen spots Curtis and points him out to her friends. Rachel thinks he’s an idiot for not wearing a hat. Just die, Rachel. You suck.
The not-sisters agree that tonight they need to get their parents to fall in love, then tomorrow they can double date with their dream guys. And by this, Rachel means Ben Mays, not the guy she actually liked. Just reminding you that she sucks.
Ellen waves and gestures to her parents, and Curtis understands and keeps walking. It never occurs to him to say, “Hey, why doesn’t your mum like the boy who saved her darling daughter’s life?” Because Curtis is either too good for this shitty plot, or too badly characterised to do anything other than doggedly follow the plot in the hope of escaping this nonsense.
Oh, and then Ellen clumsily stabs Rachel with her ski poles.
THANKS, I TOTALLY HATE IT.
The dinner scene is largely pointless, except everyone’s having a lovely time. And then a glamourous woman comes over and says hi to Mr Grant.
Ellen realises that a lot of pretty women say hi to him and wonders if he’s a bit of a flirt, and even if it means she can’t see Curtis, she can’t let her mum get hurt.
Dude, just remind her HE SAVED YOUR FUCKING LIFE. [Raven: Also, did this thing with the glamorous women actually go anywhere? No it didn’t. thanks for asking!]
Back at the Condo, Curtis lobs a snowball at the window and asks Ellen when he can see her. He’s been following her around all day, and she’s not even talked to him. I’d usually think that was creepy, but if Mrs Riteman wasn’t being plot-bonkers and if Ellen hadn’t borrowed Mandy’s beige paint spine, they would have had a nice conversation by now. This is consensual stalking because they can’t have an actual meet-up.
Ellen tells him to meet her in the Bunny Slopers class tomorrow and then has to go because the parents are patrolling to eradicate any fun.
Ellen has a dream about being in a perfect family, with her mum married to Rachel’s dad, and how perfect things are. But Ethan is also there because he’s perfect for Rachel. She wakes up and decides this means that the parents aren’t perfect for each other because Rachel and Ethan aren’t perfect for each other. And then she has flashbacks to her own parents’ breakup and how hurt Mrs Riteman was. Except we were there, and she wasn’t hurt. She was tired and angry, and eventually relieved at not being so angry all the time. And I’m not saying she wasn’t hurt. I’m saying that if/when she was, Ellen never saw that. Ellen was surprised that they broke up. There’s probably more nuance to it than that, but these books are very basic, and sometimes I can’t be bothered to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Anyway, that’s a really fucking dimwit way to make Ellen back out of her grand idea. A guy she met for seven minutes was in her dream, therefore everything is questionable? Jeez. If dreams were real, Li’l Rae and I would’ve taken our work to tribunal because the coffee machine can’t do pivot tables. [Raven: You need the Excelspresso add-on.] [Dove: This generated a proper lol.]
Over with Rachel, she has a dream she’s skiing with Albert Einstein, and Ethan joins them. Ethan isn’t interested in her at all. He just keeps asking Albert questions. She falls into a snow bank and neither of them even notice.
She wakes up and is surprised that she didn’t dream about Ben. Ethan’s nice and all, but how can you have a crush on him when Ben exists? *shrugs* I dunno, Rachel, maybe because he seemed nice and friendly? [Raven: We all know that this is leading to Ben is a Jerk / Ethan’s a Hottie, but I can’t be angry at this plot. It’s a worn extension of the old “freebie list” thing, with the protagonist listing five famous people that they can schtup without recrimination from their partner. So what it Ethan is a nice guy? Ben is on Rachel’s list, and it’s laminated.]
Ellen asks if she’s awake and they both say they’ve had weird dreams and can’t get back to sleep. They move to the window seat just in time to see their parents walking home holding hands. Ellen wonders if they did the right thing, but Rachel is still Team Parent Trap.
The next morning, Rachel is too excited to eat. She knows she looks fabulous all in white, with bright pink gloves and muffler. She thinks to herself that she looks “more professional” than any other girl Ben might meet. Yes. Because all the other girls also wearing ski gear are… less ski-ey than you? *shrugs* Rachel thinks to herself that being the girlfriend of the famous Ben Mays will validate her and solidify her place with the Unicorns. [Raven: The whole “ski wear as fashion” is odd to me, asthe garments themselves are designed for function much more than form. It’s largely the colour that’s the difference maker, and I’m very much in the “everything blacker than everthing else” school of fabric appreciation.] [Wing: Ski wear as fashion is so, so weird, and so, so true. I don’t get it. I also don’t ski, so.] [Dove: All of this. No matter how cute you are, you’re basically wearing a sleeping bag.]
You know what would solidify your place with the Unicorns? Stop fucking bitching at them and putting them down. Even you’re alleged bestie, Ellen, is constantly being told off by you. And sure, they’re all a bunch of assholes, but that only means that we are so over-saturated with assholes that adding one more – especially after Kimberly came back – is a step too fucking far, and you have no chance of being liked.
Rachel walks into the kitchen, and is showered in compliments. Which kind of undermines my whole “they’re all assholes” point above.
Mr Grant is already thinking about lunch, while serving the girls breakfast. Rachel says she’ll be with Ben, so don’t worry about her. Mr Grant says he and Mrs Riteman have talked it over, and sure, she can hang out with a boy, but not all the time. So yeah, no lunch with your cute boy for you.
Rachel is furious. She knows who’s to blame for this pointless plot bullshit. The Queen of Pointless Plot Bullshit, Mrs Riteman. And yeah, fair. I mean, her dad shouldn’t have snogged a woman, and then started acting as if he and Mrs Riteman have been married for seven years and Rachel is the problem child who just won’t bond with a stepmother who’s done nothing but love her.
You know I’m Team Riteman and – as of the last three books – Team Literally Anyone But Rachel, but this was none of Mrs Riteman’s fucking business. She either needs to butt out. Or, if she never butted in, then Mr Grant needs to man the fuck up and parent his daughter without hiding behind a woman.
Does anyone else remember the halcyon days when Mrs Riteman was the most competent parent in Sweet Valley?
… Is anyone else fucking terrified that, despite everything, that is still true?
“Excuse me,” Rachel said angrily. “I’m late to meet a friend to ski—for the morning. If that’s okay with you, Nancy,” she added angrily. She pushed her chair back and ran upstairs.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but go, Rachel! Your feelings are valid.
Ellen follows her up to her room a few minutes later, Rachel rants to her that Mrs Riteman is a hypocrite, snogging Mr Grant but cock-blocking the kids. When Ellen says nothing, Rachel lashes out again, saying that Mrs Riteman is overprotective, and has no right to parent her (true), and how did she let Ellen talk her into this nightmare?
Ellen is now officially pissed off, about being blamed for The Parent Trap and that Rachel sassed her sainted nightmare of a mother. She hits back that her dad is a major man-slut. Well, she uses the term “player”, but the tone is there.
Rachel says that she’s leaving. She has a date with someone that doesn’t make parents dry-heave, and if Ellen didn’t pick such terrible guys, her dried-up hag of a mother might let other people have dates. And that Mrs Riteman is ruining her life. She leaves, swearing vengeance.
THANKS, I STILL HATE HER.
Even after a moment where her actions are justified, then she explodes at her “best friend”, and she hasn’t had enough page space of being nice for me to think, “Oh, she’s just a nice girl who’s reacting to a bad situation and felt safe enough to rage at her bestie”, because basically this girl is a competitive, stuck-up harpy, who occasionally spends a paragraph or so not being toxic to the humans around her. And if I’m utterly honesty, the times when she’s not toxic are at least 50% because the ghostie couldn’t think of any lines to give her.
[Raven: This book is very whip-lashy. Characters go from 0 to 100 in a blink. I agree that the feelings here are largely justified, but they still power up into a super punch a little too quickly for my tastes.]
Over with Ellen, the Unicorns are being oddly supportive, reassuring her that nobody thinks badly of her or her mum. Their view is: if your mum likes your boyfriend, she feels like she’s not doing her parental duty, so she’s just doing the mum thing. It’s fine.
Then they offer to take the beginner class with her. Again, they’re being nice. Actually, they’ve been nice for the whole book so far. Ellen says thanks, but no. [Raven: Also, Mandy is pegged as an intermediate skiier, but I can’t visualise her as anything other than a beginner.] [Dove: Her family is of limited means, and she was sick last year. Yeah, I can’t see her doing much skiing either.]
She sees no sign of Curtis yet, but she sees Ethan approach. The Unicorns all mutter that he looks quite attractive as he ambles over. They take off, and he and Ellen start to chat. He suggests they take off before their instructor arrives. Ellen says she has to wait for her boyfriend, and Ethan laments that all the best girls are taken. He was hoping Rachel would be around, and Ellen feels bad that Rachel wouldn’t be interested in him. I’m not. The guy’s too nice for her.
Their instructor arrives, he’s build like Arnie, and is named Klaus. I’m reading all of his lines in Flula Borg’s accent, because I think Flula would have a wonderful time being so humourless… if that makes sense.
Klaus is seven feet tall, can benchpress a planetarium, and has a whistle he pried from the cold dead hands of Chuck Norris. He has never met a joke he didn’t drop-kick into the sun, and legend says that his smile is classified as “torture” under the Geneva Convention. [Raven: Write more of these! *claps*]
He unclenched his knotted muscular jaw and let the whistle fall against his chest. “Attention! Attention, please!” he barked. “My name is Klaus. I am your instructor. The Bunny Slopers class will now begin. The rules are simple. Do what I tell you to and don’t fall down. If you do fall down, I will help you up exactly once. After that, you have to get up yourself. Is that clear?”
Ellen and Ethan have a shared moment of horror as they realise their beginner lessons are going to be awful.
Having had skiing lessons, though ours was a Spanish instructor named Pino, who never stopped smiling, even when he was pissed off (which was kind of horrifying, now I think about it), I feel them.
Ethan mutters a silly comment to Ellen, which gets them both laughing.
THERE IS NO LAUGHING IN BUNNY SLOPERS.
Ethan continues to make comments, Ellen continues to giggle, and Klaus continues to glare.
Then she sees Curtis making his way to her, they both start running (in skis) in slow-mo, which means they both fall over. Klaus picks them up and says now he will not help them again.
Curtis apologises for being late, and Klaus shows them how to ski forward. In unison, our three rebels ski backward, but Klaus spots them.
THERE IS NO ESCAPE FROM THE BUNNY SLOPERS.
Over with Rachel, she’s hanging out with Ben. And by that I mean that she’s barely able to keep up, and he can’t stop talking about himself long enough to notice. And Rachel thinks she’s having a lovely time.
I DON’T CARE. I WANT MORE REBELLION FROM THE BUNNY SLOPERS.
She spots the Unicorns from afar and they don’t wave. They might not have seen her, but they might also be angry with her about her temper this morning. After all, they’ve known Ellen longer. But fuck that, they’re in her house. Cool. Love that even though she’s learned about friendship twice now, she still sees it as a transaction.
THANKS, I HATE HER MORE AND MORE.
Rachel falls over, and hopes that she can have a romantic moments when Ben helps her up. Again, he can’t stop talking about himself long enough to even notice she’s fallen. She has to prompt him to help her. And then he skis off. She does admit that he sounds like he’s constantly giving interview soundbites, rather than talking to her, but she doesn’t care. She asks about Ethan, but Ben doesn’t seem to know how to answer questions that aren’t about him.
They spot Ethan, and Ben ploughs into him for the lolz. [Raven: Ben is a prick.]
Curtis shouted in outrage and pointed toward Ben Mays. “See that? Dude just skied past my buddy and shoved him.”
Ben was skiing toward them, bent forward with his poles straight out behind him.
“Nobody does that to my good buddy,” Curtis growled. He lifted his pole.
I really like Curtis. This guy is the only guy in the entire Sweet Valley Twins run who is not dripping in toxic masculinity. In fact, I wonder if he’s the only guy in the entire Sweet Valley canon. Any other guy would have seen a boy talking to his girlfriend and stabbed him to death with a ski pole. And then the girl would have apologised for “provoking” him.
Not Curtis and Ellen. They’re just having a lovely time liking each other and being nice to a new friend. Is this why none of you are in Sweet Valley High? [Raven: Maybe there’s a series somewhere which is full of the nice characters from SVT? It would explain where the Angels have been for the past ten fucking books.] [Wing: I think Dove should write us that series.]
Curtis shoves Ben in protection of his new friend, and it quickly devolves into a massive snowball fight. Rachel and Ben vs Team Genuinely Nice. Although Ethan can’t bring himself to fight Rachel, and instead hurls a snowball at Klaus.
The snowball stops mid-air, apologises to him, and bursts into flames, such is the authority of Klaus’ glare.
At this point, random people, including most of the Unicorns, ski into the fray and any authority Klaus has unravels.
But when the police arrive, it’s Curtis that gets in trouble. Ben’s a nice (super rich, white) Olympian, and can vouch for his cousin. Ellen is nearly hauled off, but thankfully the parents arrive and Mr Grant is a (super rich… maybe white???) well-spoken man, so everything’s fine there.
Ellen tries to explain what’s going on, but the only thing Mrs Riteman takes away from the conversation is that Curtis Bowman, her daughter’s boyfriend, is a thug who has been banned from the ski slopes for fighting. Fighting against all these other nice people.
I hope a mountain drops on you.
“I’m going with Curtis,” Ellen said defiantly.
Mr. Grant caught her arm. “I’m sorry I can’t allow it. If that boy is trouble, then I don’t want any of you girls associating with him.”
Ellen yanked her arm out of Mr. Grant’s grasp. “Don’t tell me what to do,” she shouted. “You’re not my father.”
“You should be so lucky,” Rachel responded hotly. “I wouldn’t let my dad marry your mother if she were the last woman on earth.”
And that pretty much kills everything. On the one hand, as chaperone, Mr Grant probably does have the right to say that universally the girls shouldn’t mix with troublesome boys. But as the dude who snogged Ellen’s mother, he doesn’t get to tell her who she can’t see. So yeah, I don’t blame Ellen for snapping.
I do blame her for not telling her mother to fuck off, and learn to respect a boy who saved her life and defended a new friend who he thought was being bullied. From Curtis’ point of view, an accomplished skiier deliberately attacked a stranger – without provocation – that was demonstrably in the beginner’s class. The boy is good.
And I blame the ghostie for forcing all this to happen, because it’s infuriating. [Raven: It’s also more whiplash. I need a neck brace.]
We cut to the Unicorns discussing the situation. Again, they’re being supportive. They say they wish they’d been there for the start of the fight because they could go and plead his case. And while I’m sure I’d do anything to make a bunch of thirteen year old girls whining at me, if that didn’t work, throw Lila Fowler, her money, and her daddy’s lawyers at them.
Ellen is moving out of the room she’s sharing with Rachel and into the room the rest of the Unicorns are sharing. Rachel flounced off as soon as she could, throwing a snotty comment over her shoulder about how nobody has to worry about who she chooses to hang out with.
“What if they put Curtis in jail?” Ellen whimpered, fresh tears beginning to stream down her cheeks.
“They don’t put kids in jail,” Lila told her.
“Yeah, they do,” Kimberly argued. “Remember Sophia Rizzo’s brother? He kept getting into fights and they sent him to jail.”
The thought of Curtis moldering away in some dank cell made Ellen cry even harder.
“Would you stop!” Mandy scolded Kimberly. “That’s totally different. Tony Rizzo was in high school. And he was like, in real fights. With fists and stuff.”
*blinks* Well, bugger me, that’s some continuity. (Kind of. Didn’t he spend a week in some kind of youth correctional facility before Saint Ned fixed everything?) Most ghosties forgot about that straight after that book happened. Sophia is so estranged from continuity that she had two birthdays last year. I guess this ghostie wrote that book? [Raven: Yeah, this was a surprising dry slap to the testes. Full on RKO outta nowhere territory. Nice!]
The Unicorns try to bolster Ellen’s spirits but only make things worse, until Lila suggests they ask Rachel to speak up for him. Ellen says she already asked. Rachel said no.
THANKS, I HATE THIS FUCKING HARPY.
Over with Rachel, she’s walked most of her bad mood off, and she spots Ethan. He suggests they get a bite to eat together, and instead of thinking, “This boy is nice, I really liked him until I got starstruck”, she thinks, “I can pump him for information on his famous cousin, even though he’s a colossal tool.”
Delightfully, Ben’s only thought regarding his morning with Rachel is that his skis need waxing. Ethan tries to tactfully add that Ben doesn’t really talk about other people. Rachel takes that to mean that Ben’s totally in love with her and is a gentleman. Only a player brags about his conquests. And then the word “player” reminds her that she hates her best friend and she needs to go back and stab her.
You know, it was funny when we were joking about how many people Jessica killed, but Rachel? Not so much. She’s worst-Jessica + worst-Lila, with all redeeming features boiled away.
Over at the condo, the Unicorns are on the lookout for the parents so Ellen can have a hasty chat with Curtis through the window. He climbs up a tree to get closer, and Ellen’s about to give him a big old smooch when…
Rachel arrives home, sees Curtis leaning in for a kiss, and goes straight in to report to her dad that the “creep” Curtis Bowman is upstairs sneaking around with slutbag Ellen.
Mr Grant vows to murder him and races upstairs, where he grabs Curtis by the shirt and drags him bodily out of the condo, saying he’ll call the police if he comes back. [Raven: He actually drags Curtis INTO the condo, so he can throw Curtis OUT of the condo. Hah!] He then rounds on Ellen and grounds her.
Dude. Back. The. Fuck. Off.
She is not your kid. You don’t make that call.
Mrs Riteman says as much to him. Then grounds Ellen herself and sends the girls to their rooms. Then she and Mr Grant start fighting.
Once upstairs, Rachel gloats that not only has she completely sunk the Good Ship Parent Trap, but also that she ratted on Ellen and Curtis. And let that be a lesson to everyone: do not fuck with Rachel.
The Unicorns are aghast. Everyone is silent and shocked, and Ellen looks moments from tears.
Rachel can’t shut the fuck up. She’s still going. Her dad is too good for Ellen’s mum. And she did it because Ellen ruined her life.
Holy fucking shit, this girl is completely detached from reality. It was a fucking snowball fight. Get a grip, you pointless melt.
When Ellen lifted her eyes, though, she wasn’t crying. “As president of the Unicorn Club,” she said in a voice so soft it was almost inaudible, “I make a motion to drop Rachel Grant as a member. Does anybody second the motion?”
Rachel lifted her lip and sneered. “Like they’re gonna side with you. Grow up, Ellen. It’s never gonna happen. Not when they’re in my ski condo.”
Mandy lifted her chin and put a hand on Ellen’s shoulder. “I second the motion.”
“All in favor,” Kimberly said in a grim tone.
“Aye,” every single girl said quietly.
Rachel felt as if she had been slapped. She couldn’t believe it. “Are you guys nuts?” she demanded. “You’re going to take Ellen’s side?”
Lila flipped her hair off her shoulders. “You’re just not Unicorn material, Rachel.”
“You tried,” Mandy added. “But you’re just not… well… one of us.”
“But she’s ruining the whole Ben Mays thing for me,” Rachel argued. “Don’t you see that?”
She looked around the room. The Unicorns were uniformly stone-faced. “Why are you doing this?” she cried, stung by the unfairness of it. “Why are you ganging up on me? You guys compete with each other. You fight with each other all the time. What did I do to get thrown out?”
“No real Unicorn would rat an a friend,” Kimberly explained.
“And no real Unicorn would stand in the way of true romance,” Mandy added softly.
“We do compete,” Jessica said. “Sometimes we go overboard and hurt each other by accident. But never on purpose. We’re friends. Don’t you get it? Friends.”
A lump rose in Rachel’s throat. Tears stung her eyes. Friends were what she had longed for. Wished for. Hoped for. She’d finally managed to make some, and now they were rejecting her.
“Fine,” she choked. “Throw me out of your club. I don’t care. I don’t care about any of you.” Rachel ran from the room and slammed the door behind her.
THANKS, I LOVE IT.
*standing ovation* Well that was unexpected. And pleasing. And I’m really proud of Ellen for not crying, not lashing out like a brat, and just keeping it together to ice her out like a badass.
I mean, I do think that that the other Unicorns’ claims are a little ridiculous, given how bitchy things have been of late, but at least these horrible characters have been with us for 100+ books.
But yeah, FUCK YOU RACHEL.
[Raven: I really liked this. It reminded me of the Newnicorns from the earlier books in the series. Earnest, and thoughtful, and wholly correct.]
Rachel goes running out again, while the Unicorns pack up.
“We haven’t been here twenty-four hours and we’re already on our way home. I don’t think we’ve ever flamed out this fast before. How did this happen?”
Jessica rolled her pajamas up in her robe so they would take up less space. “Beats me. All I know is that none of it was my fault. I’ll probably need confirmation on that with my folks. If you get a phone call from my mom, back me up, okay?”
lol! Yeah, it’s rare that a trip ends in tears and a Wakefield isn’t in the middle of it. I bet Alice and Ned are utterly baffled at the lack of drama in the Wakefield Compound of late. [Raven: Absolutely perfect, best paragraph in the book hands down.]
Ellen asks if everyone’s mad at her for ruining the trip. And through a very messy and tactless – but kind of charming – conversation, they tell her that sure, they’re disappointed about the trip, but they’re so proud of how she handled everything.
Ellen says how come? Janet Howell never kicked anyone out. (Actually, she did. Roberta Manning. Dove remembers Roberta Manning. So does Jessica. It’s an amazing coincidence that Steven’s girlfriend/loathed Unicorn is who needed to die to make space for Jessica to join the club.)
Jessica says maybe they should have kicked people out. Things got ugly several times last year and maybe the needed a president to draw a line. Damn. [Wing: Things have been ugly almost every book this year and no one has kicked out Kimberly yet. There’s precedent now. Do it!]
I’m so torn on this. I really like all the non-Rachel bits of this book. Since Michael Grant confirmed they get detailed outlines, I’m going to assume the ghostie loathes Rachel and this forced storyline as much as I do, wanted to fix some of the toxicity, and probably worked on the original Sweet Valley Twins run.
Over with Rachel, she runs into Ben. She wants to unburden her (lack of) soul to him, but he cuts her off. He’s just not interested if it’s not about him. He wants her to do the black diamond run.
So, I’ve just realised that Rachel has been doing all this walking around and storming out in ski boots. Her calves must feel like concrete by now. They tilt your legs forward a little. It’s the kind of thing that you feel about an hour into it. It’s not fun.
Rachel decides to go skiing and stay out late and make everyone feel sorry for her.
THANKS, I FUCKING HATE THIS BITCH. [Raven: She’s getting on my tits at this point, I admit. Although I’m not sure if this isn’t more to do with your CAPS OF RAGE comments.]
Ben, not wanting to slow down, says she can rent skis from his friend at the rental place, rather than going home for them.
Rachel says why not the double black diamond run because she’s a fucking drama queen.
And we cut to her hating skiing. She nearly goes over a ravine and Ben laughs it off. She asks for help and he laughs that off too.
And then an avalanche happens and kills them.
THANKS, I LOVE IT!
Over in the condo, people are worried that there’s no sign of Rachel. The parents interrogate the girls, assuming they’re covering for her. God these parents suck. They’ve missed the utter loathing between Rachel and everyone else. In desperation, Mr Grant calls security and they tell him there’s been an avalanche. Thankfully here skis are here, so she can’t be skiing.
Still, everyone is very worried. Everyone is suddenly very sad.
And that’s before Ethan arrives to inform them that Ben and Rachel are out skiing.
Annoyingly, nobody is singing “Ding! Dong! The witch is dead!”
Over with the human popsicles, sadly they are not dead. But the idea that the mountain was as sick of their shit as I am is very validating.
Rachel wakes up to Ben shaking her. Even though the preceding scene implies they were buried in snow, now they are not. Apparently Ben saw her scarf. Amazing he could stop talking about himself long enough to save her. [Raven: I’ve seen plenty of natural disaster documentaries. I’m sorry, but both these kids are Very Dead Indeed. What a brilliant ending to this book that would have been!] [Dove: Yep. We watched a documentary series with a daft and salacious title like “The Earth Wants You Dead” or “Serial Killer Planet”, and got to witness a pro skiier nearly get murdered by Serial Killer Planet when a mountain dropped all of the snow on him. He was saved by his and his friend’s quick thinking. Rachel and Ben are not quick thinkers. Also, if anyone knows which documentary we’re on about, tell us. Despite the bonkers title, it was an interesting watch.]
Ben starts yelling for help, and Rachel reminds him that noise can set off avalanches. And now he’s asking her what to do. And while this kid is a fucking idiot, I feel like if your sport of choice is whizzing down a mountain on waxed fiberglass, there’s some kind of requirement for safety knowledge. I wasn’t the most safety-conscious kid (I know, amazing when I’ve turned into such a worrier now), but I retained a lot of basic horse safety knowledge, just by it being drummed into us before we did the fun stuff.
Rachel realises that Ben is a fucking waste of space. Which I think is a bit rich from the person I now loathe more than Kimberly fucking Haver. She longingly thinks of the nice boy she completely blanked in favour of him. Welp. That’s sounds like a you-problem, champ. And not even a high-ranking one, since I’m personally hoping you’ll freeze to death within the next two chapters.
They find shelter, and Ben remembers that they shouldn’t sleep, so they should talk and keep each other awake. Then he starts talking about himself which puts Rachel to sleep. She forces herself to stay awake by thinking about Ethan.
I cannot be bothered to drag this out and recap each scene because it’s so obviously dragging out the “tension”, when we all know everything’s going to be fine.
The book flicks between Ben and Rachel, who are trying to stay alive in the most boring way possible – by Rachel sitting around and being sad. Meanwhile the rest of the Unicorns are worried and… for some reason go to Ben’s family’s condo and baby-sit the younger cousins. I can’t even be bothered to explain that one beyond “ARGH, I’M STILL BELOW THE WORD COUNT TARGET????? FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” [Raven: I read this as a passive protest by this ghostie that the book in this series have long abandoned the kids at the Sweet Valley Child Care Centre.]
And at some point, Ellen remembers to point out that Curtis saved her life, and finally Mrs Riteman gets how losing a daughter might be, y’know, since someone else’s daughter might die. Yay. That pointless plot is resolved. And I care so much.
Anyway, Rachel uses her bright pink scarf to flag down a helicopter and saves her and Ben.
She and Ben go to the hospital, and when they’re sure she’s healthy, everyone makes up (including the parents), in a bunch of tedious and repetitive individual scenes. Rachel is back in the Unicorns. Also, Rachel chooses Ethan. I’m sure we were all deeply invested in a relationship between a nice guy and a toxic cow. So that’s just lovely.
I hate Rachel. I just don’t see the point of adding in a girl that is so mean 90% of the time she’s on screen. And I don’t see the point of her the other 10% beyond someone at Bantam/Scholastic went, “Hey, after seeing Dionne in Clueless, the Black Best Friend is in. Can we do something with a that?” and someone else went, “Well, we can make her black. But she won’t be best. Or friendly.” And the first person went, “Ok, just make sure she’s on the cover. Gotta be diverse.”
I hate her. I thought Kimberly ruined this series – and she did. It took a massive nosedive when she returned – but the addition of Rachel has just dragged it to an even lower place.
Still, the Ellen and Curtis scenes, however brief, were cute. And I liked Ethan. But so much of this plot was forced. I know I don’t know a lot about normal mothers, but I’m pretty sure that if you saved a tween girl’s life, you’d get a free pass to have any accent and wear any surfer attire you wanted.
Also, I was really disappointed that Rachel didn’t get kicked out of the club. I know, bad optics. Drag a black girl in and kick her out two books later. But, that aside, it would have been an interesting storyline to have someone join the Unicorns because, at the time they were asked, their behaviour meshed, only to find out that actually they’re not a good fit.
So overall, a bad book that I wouldn’t really know how to fix. Except keeping Rachel out of the Unicorns.
[Raven: I’ll give it a meh. I quite liked it in more than one place. But yet, Rachel was annoying, and yes, the book suffered from whiplash in order to cram as much plot into the pages as possible.
Overall, I thought this was one of the better books iin the series, as the Curtis and Ellen scenes were nice, and Ethan was value, and the continuity displayed was largely great. It’s still worse than nost of the early books, with the Angels / Newnicorns, but we all know that that ship has sailed so far that Ellen has jumped from it and landed in the fucking sea.]
[Wing: I give it a meh too. I really like Ellen and Curtis, and particularly that Ellen, Curtis, and Ethan bonding in the frankly ridiculous beginner class, but I could not care less about skiing, I hate that no ghostie has followed up on the Friendship Lessons Lila and Rachel learned together, and I’m still annoyed by In Love with Mandy, so it would have taken a lot for this book to rise above meh. I’m very disappointed that the ghosties aren’t doing better with Rachel, because I think her friendship with Lila and her friendship with Ellen could have been really interesting points in a miniseries that has been bogged down by repetitive storylines (including this one!).]