The Unicorn Club #6: Unicorns at War (Super Edition)

The Unicorn Club 6: The Unicorns at War
The Unicorn Club 6: The Unicorns at War

Title: Unicorns at War

Tagline: Unicorn against Unicorn…

The Unicorn Club #06 The Unicorns at War (Super) – American Cover (from Liz)

Summary: Kimberly Haver is back at Sweet Valley Middle School, and she’s running for student council president—against me! The Unicorns are split right down the middle over the election.

You see, Mr. Clark, our principal, banned the students from leaving campus during lunch. When Kim got caught sneaking off campus, her new bad-girl status gave her campaign a big boost. Now nearly everyone’s going to vote for her—except for Elizabeth, Maria and Evie, who have stuck by me all along. The Unicorns are at war, and I’m afraid this might be the end…

Mary Wallace

Initial Thoughts:

While I have been enjoying the Unicorn Club thus far, how many time exactly have we seen friend against friend over a fucking student council position? Probably only once, and the others I’m thinking of were other “positions of authority”, but overall, we have seen this plotline a lot.

So I’m a bit half-and-half on it. Reused plotlines = meh, The Unicorn Club > the main Sweet Valley Twins series… so… let’s just see how this goes.

Note: I recapped this as I read, so I got a few things wrong. But Raven assumed I read it first and then recapped angrily, but I didn’t. I read and recapped and became angry.

[Raven: Mary is by far the most uninteresting of the All New Unicorn Club, and yes I’m including Elizabeth. Let’s hope her POV can hold my attention better than Evie did last week, when she narrated someone else’s story instead of telling her own.]

[Wing: If the Unicorns have turned themselves around and are no longer snobby terrors, why does Kim’s new bad-girl rep make them more likely to vote for her? 

Sorry for the belated comments. I was travelling over the weekend.]


We open with the club having a nice time at the Wakefield Compound. Mary Giaccio-Robinson-Wallace is our narrator of the week, and she quickly catches us up on recent events, including the Unicorns Club throwing off their toxic ways in favour of attempting to act like human beings, and their blip of going back to being selfish assholes when boys paid attention to them.

Mary admits that she was one of the girls who had to learn the “sisters before misters” lesson. But all that’s behind them, they’re BFFs again, and they’re even friends with Rick Hunter. Like, he’s not Mary’s favourite person, but she gets along with him. Uh, whut? Rick acted like Bruce Patman… oh, you know what? Who cares. Bruce Patman was forgiven a lot of shit too.

So… no mention of the anxiety Evie felt at the last book that one big push could split them apart again. On the one hand, that was Evie, this is Mary, and it’s entirely plausible that Mary didn’t pick up on the tension, especially as one of the vapid muppets who dropped their friends without warning, and wasn’t on the hurt feelings side of things. On the other hand, Mary is meant to be one of the more sensitive members of the club, so I’d have expected her to notice that things were not perfect just yet.

Mandy suggests that they postpone the party they are organising at the daycare centre, in favour of getting involved in student council. Ellen voices my feelings perfectly:

“I don’t think we should delay a party at the Center just because of some student election. Nobody pays any attention to stuff like that anyway.”

Mary thinks that’s typical of Ellen, because she doesn’t care about something, nobody does. I think that’s kind of a dick thing to say, since the Unicorns have only historically cared about the student council because they think they’ll get their photos on the walls or something equally shallow. Sorry, Mary, but we were there for the meetings. We know nobody gave a shit about anything other than nail polish, boys, and some version of “fame”, which is the only word I can think to describe their obsession with getting their photo in this newspaper, in that time capsule, on the wall of that place, etc. [Raven: Silly Dove, that’s the OLD Unicorns. The NEW Unicorns care deeply about –INSERT _ISSUE_HERE– and hope they can count on your vote.]

Mandy attempts to school them, saying that of course nobody cares about the student council, because nobody stands for anything, so everyone just votes for the most popular person. They need to show an interest in politics so they can make the change.

Again, demonstrably not true. Elizabeth made class treasurer, despite the entire school being convinced her twin was stealing money from the school, because her policies made cents sense (not that she ever did anything in this role and it was never mentioned ever again). Randy Mason beat both the Wakefield Twins for student council, even though he’s an ugly nerd because he had a great plan to generate money into educational and fun stuff, whereas Elizabeth stuck with educational only, and Jessica’s platform was “lol, dunno, parties and shit”. So actually, Mandy, people don’t care because it doesn’t fucking matter. [Raven: I’m happy to suspend my disbelief on this, as “an iterest in student politics” is the core of this book.]

Mary thinks to herself that her friend at another school used their school council power to force the school to add disabled-accessible toilets. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? That has got to be the dimmest thing I’ve ever read. (Ok, that’s hyperbole. The dimmest thing I ever read was the three-hour wait before rescue following the earthquake when the kids were spelunking in underground caves.)

But still. Let’s parse this out. Either the school had disabled kids, and they… what? Held it all day? Or they didn’t, and wasted a load of money for no reason, other than getting woke points? Either way, this seems to be one of those things that a bunch of well-meaning kids shouldn’t be in charge of.

Either the school is equipped to accommodate disabled people, or they are not, and… y’know, speaking as one of those disableds with mobility issues, it’s not just loos that are problems. For example, the hotel Raven and I stayed in for PonyCon one year, had a disabled-friendly loo, but the bed was too high, so I needed assistance to get into bed (one of the things I do without thinking usually) and I couldn’t get into the shower, because the bath was one of those really small ones with tall sides. Or another hotel over Christmas, where I couldn’t use the stairs because the handrail had been strung with fairy lights, meaning that if Raven wasn’t around, I had to go up and down on my hands and knees, which is fucking humiliating. Especially since it was at a wedding and I was wearing an ankle-length dress. [Raven: We sound so fancy, holidaying over Christmas!]

I’m just saying that toilets aren’t the only thing you need to fix when making your building accessible to all. But, I guess it sounds all girl-power to the normies who haven’t had to deal with the reality of it all.

[Wing: In addition to Dove’s excellent discussion above, I’m calling bullshit on this for legal reasons. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 included accessibility requirements for public schools. This book was published in 1996. A school district as rich as Sweet Valley would have needed to be brought into compliance with the new requirements already. So as an example of what SVMS student council might be able to do, this is bullshit. It’s also likely bullshit as to what kind of power any student council would have, but also, the friend is probably around Mary’s age, and so whatever school they attended was either also up to code already or had been given some sort of extension (I’m unsure if schools were granted extensions, to be honest).]

Though I don’t disagree when Mandy says that you can’t complain about the government if you don’t vote, because I’m sick of people who say, “Oh, they’re all a pack of liars/all the same, so I don’t vote.” Yes, yes, they are. But one side gives a modicum of a shit about poor people, minorities, the disabled, and all the other groups unloved by the toffs. Vote for them. And if they’re all the same, then it makes no fucking difference, does it? But school council? Fuck that. We were here for the entire sixth grade. Nothing ever came up with the school council. It’s one of those positions that means nothing and does nothing. Fob it off.

When Mary comes back from her thoughts about her awesome friend’s power as a student councillor, she finds out that someone has nominated her, with Elizabeth seconding the nomination, so now they will officially nominate her on Tuesday (it’s Thursday now).

So I guess, screw the kids at the daycare centre, whose lives they could actually improve, in favour of a woolly daydream of making Sweet Valley a better place.

Mandy says she’s spoke to Kimberly Haver. Ex-Unicorn, moved to Atlanta over the summer, and Mary thinks to herself that the Havers haven’t been happy in Atlanta, and have been trying to get back to Sweet Valley. I guess they weren’t that interested in the move in the first place, because three months is a very short amount of time to try out a job that the entire family had to move for. [Raven: Three months probation period, fired for scanning his junk on the office photocopier. That’s my headcanon.] [Dove: Headcanon accepted.]

Mary thinks to herself, “I guess that kind of shows you what a great place Sweet Valley is.” Urgh. You and Elizabeth Wakefield should talk. I remember her literally skipping through the tulips while thinking to herself that Sweet Valley is the best place in the world.

The reaction in the room ranges from warm feelings of new friendship (Marie and Elizabeth, who apparently recall nothing of the previous year and are vibing as if Kimberly is a brand new character) [Wing: We know how Elizabeth loves herself some new students.] to outright whoops and applause from Jessica, Lila and Ellen, who think she is “so cool” and “funny”.

Demonstrably untrue. Again, we were there for the entire sixth grade. Even I can’t tell her and Tamara Chase apart, and we recently decided that I probably know more about SVT than anyone else on the planet. [Raven: Also, FUCK YOU TAMARA CHASE.]

Mary, on the other hand, thinks that she actually does know Kimberly pretty well, and she’s not Mary’s favourite person.

Mary leaves the meeting quickly, but Maria catches up with her. Maria can see that something’s wrong, and after a smidge of hesitation, Mary confides in Maria. Kimberly is competitive. If Mary does something, Kimberly tries to outdo her. If she gets a new dress, Kimberly gets two, if someone asks Mary on a date, Kimberly says they were flirting with her, etc. It makes Mary feel inferior, and since Kimberly can easily win when she puts her mind to it, why does she keep doing it? [Raven: Informed attributes are informative.] [Wing: If I’m willing to suspend my disbelief that this actually happened, I’m still left with the question of why Mary? Does Kim have a crush on her or something? Do they like the same guy? Mary had no power in the Unicorn Club last year, and I have no idea why Kim would focus on Mary instead of other girls with either more power, more interesting lives, or more weaknesses.]

Maria understands and sympathises with Mary, then she tries to bolster her, saying that maybe Kimberly’s changed. The Unicorns have. Mary says that Kimberly won’t like that. Maria says she’ll have to learn to like it, or find new friends. Mary thinks to herself that it probably won’t be that simple.

And since this is a super edition, I’m pretty sure she’s right.

We cut to Friday morning before assembly, where the Unicorns have clustered. Apparently the fact that a Unicorn is in the running for student council has boosted interest. Um… it didn’t last year when Jessica ran and Lila was her campaign manager. Just sayin’. [Raven: Everyone is a year older now. With great age comes great responsibility.]

The current rumour is that Mary’s main competition is Lois Waller and Randy Mason. Randy Mason. You know, the kid that won last year.

Lila immediately calls them geeks and Mary snaps at her that she doesn’t want to win a popularity contest, and don’t call them names. Ok. Cool. Mary is back to being nice.

Mary apologises for snapping, and Ellen (?) apologises for calling them geeks. *shrugs* Ok. Maybe she’s apologising for calling them geeks at any point before this moment? [Raven: This is fine, it puts her and Lila immediately on the same team in this fight.]

Mary is touchy because she worries that the club has not improved and they’re still shallow and bitchy. Hrmm. Well, aside from the last book, it had appeared that the Unicorns were being kinder to the plebs around them, and even with the last book, the asshats had just dropped their own friends, we didn’t see them bullying non-members. But Mary says to Mandy that she’s worried that once Kimberly comes back, they’ll revert to the asshats they once were. Mandy says surely not, now they’ve changed and have added Saint Elizabeth, Marie and Evie to the flock.

The assembly starts and Mr Clark recaps what Mary says is old news, except it’s brand new to us. Apparently there’s construction work being done on the school cafeteria, so the seventh and eighth graders have temporarily been allowed off campus to get lunch. And there’s also roadwork being done on the road behind the school. Uh, yeah, that doesn’t sound like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Also, if this has been going on for some time, why are the Unicorns always eating in the Unicorner without inconvenience and without mentioning the construction work? Sounds like That Brand New Tradition We’ve Always Had to me. [Raven: There is an unhealthy amount of world-warping to make this plot work.]

Oh, hey, you know I said that thing about lawsuit waiting to happen? Yeah. It turns out that due to the construction and the re-routed traffic, some seventh grade boy was hit by a car – just bruised and shaken, but the powers that be have re-thought the idea of letting the kids traverse through a building site to get burgers at lunch.

The kids are furious, saying they’re being treated “Like we’re too dumb to look both ways before we cross.”, so time to riot. I am wondering what the hell is going on with that road that the accident was so alarming. Most schools have a 20mph limit around them by default, most with speed bumps. Add roadwork and you’re crawling along. I’ve gotta say, if a kid was hit at 15mph while a car navigated traffic cones, that’s probably Darwinism at work. However, if everyone drives with lead foot and fuck any pedestrian, then it’s probably not smart to let the kids out there with or without the added issue of roadwork. At least get a lollipop lady. [Raven: SPOILERS!]

[Wing: School speed limits can vary by location. I’ve checked a few around here and they are commonly speed limits no less than 25 mph or no more than 10 mph below the speed limit outside the school zone. (Example of the variations: That’s a larger city nearby; where I live, the school zone speed limit is no less than 20 mph.) This school zone speed limit is only active during certain hours, often between 6:30 and 8:30 and then 2:30 and 4:30, and might not be active over lunch. As for road construction zones, again the variance per state/locality, but what I saw was generally 10 mph below posted speed limit. Depending on what time lunch(es) occur(s) at SVMS, the construction crew might have also been on lunch, making it less likely that anyone would be policing the speed limit. Sweet Valley’s size is nebulous through the books, but it’s quite possible that the general posted speed limit around the school could be 40 mph, dropped to 25-30 mph for the school zone, 30 mph for the construction zone, and 30+ mph during that lunch period. Road construction doesn’t really involve moving through road cones the way it’s often set up, and there’s never seemed to be much of a traffic problem in Sweet Valley, so the student could have been hit at a speed anywhere from 30 mph up (or slower, depending on the driver, but it does sound like a reckless driver). I’ve wandered down the speed limit rabbit hole for too long, so I’ll stop here rather than go into pedestrian crossing regulations and what charges the driver could be up on.]

Mr Clark attempts to placate them, and reminds them all that it was a provisional privilege.

Elizabeth raises her hand and points out that the roadwork will take up to 15 months. Jesus fucking Christ, are you making the tarmac by hand from its chemical components in test tubes? Just how much road are you digging up? What the actual fuck is going on there? Anyway, Elizabeth’s point is that they won’t get their privilege back this year. [Raven: Having spent the last eighteen months driving through the same set of roadworks on every sporadic sojourn into The Real World, I can totally believe a fifteen-month construction project.] [Wing: There are places where the road construction has gone on for years. Not because they needed it, necessarily, but I’m not surprised at all for a 15-month period. Also, there’s no guarantee they should get that privilege back at all. Middle school is a little young to allow students off campus during the day without supervision. I know some high schools had it during the late 90s, but I’d be surprised to see it in a middle school. (My high school did not have off-campus lunch.]

Uh, is nobody going to point out that this was a temporary measure, and it has demonstrably not worked, so shut the fuck up and go back to eating lukewarm meatloaf.

No. Mr Clark mutters something about how they’ve set up picnic tables outside to help with he overflow. WHY WASN’T THAT THE ORIGINAL FIX? Seriously, who lets tweens and teens off campus for lunch? Or is this some bizarre American thing that just makes Brits shake their heads in bafflement? (For the record, we weren’t allowed off campus for lunch until the sixth form.) [Raven: For those readers who prefer bemusing phrases like “Freshman” and “Sophomore” to describe the passage of school time, “Sixth Form” is a year after Maggababble and a year before Bimblefimps.] [Wing: Super useful there, Raven. Sixth form is around junior/senior year, I think. See above for my thoughts on off-campus lunches.]

After the assembly, everyone is pissed off because they’re used to going off campus for lunch. Except, y’know, all the books that contradict that, but sure. Ellen says that Mr Clark deliberately stopped them because they all enjoyed it, which is ridiculous when a kid was hit by a car, so I guess we’re going with stupid-but-not-charming Ellen in this book. Sigh.

Evie says it doesn’t affect her, but she’s sorry for them. Allegedly, a couple of them stay behind every day to have lunch with her. I guess we have to just go with it.

People moan a bit more then separate, Lila, Ellen and Jessica in one direction, Mary, Maria, Elizabeth and Evie in another. Mary thinks that she should have noticed that was an omen. Fuck off, drama queen. It’s literally logistics.

Mary thinks about the nominations. While Lila was being spiteful, she had a point. Apparently Mary does know that Randy was sixth grade president last year, but she thinks he isn’t well-known among his peers. *sighs* Ok, sure. And Lois doesn’t strike her as a leader, her grades aren’t good, and because she’s fat (which doesn’t matter to Mary!), nobody takes her seriously. Well, if nothing else, the latter resonates.

Also, why if last year these things were done by grade, why is Mary (an eighth grader) up against two seventh graders? [Raven: I think last year was Class President, while this year is School President? Maybe sixth graders don’t get a say in the “big” stuff?]

For a moment Mary wonders if it’s a slam-dunk. Then she remembers President Truman, where everyone was convinced Dewey was going to win (including papers printing the headlines before the ballots were counted), and in fact he lost. [Wing: Oh, the references that would be used if this was published today. Oh, the references.]

Mary decides she doesn’t want to win a popularity contest. She has to campaign seriously.

We cut to the daycare centre, where Mary reminds us of the tween/little sibling pairings (Lila|Ellie; Jessica|Oliver; Ellen|Arthur; Elizabeth and Mary|Allison and Sandy; Mandy|Yuky), and Jessica comments that Kimberly will flip if she sees Lila reading fairytales to some kid.

Mrs Willard, the manager of the centre, thanks Mary for bringing everyone over, since the kids were so disappointed by the cancellation of the party. Seems like a passive-aggressive dig, if you ask me. And I’m here for it. I’m surprised the kids didn’t riot. Or maybe they did and Mrs Willard had to calm all of them down off screen.

Mary remembers that she was a foster kid who was found by her bio mom, who married Tim and they’re a real family now. Which is excellent, since the previous ghostie was under the impression that Mary was adopted by her foster family. However, this gives Mary insight into how the broken promises feel, and… is this leading anywhere? No. Just showing that Mary has empathy or something?

I’m still ticked off they broke their promise to hold a party. I just don’t think that was the right call.

Mrs Willard, on the other hand, commends them as it’s super important.

I’m just trying to imagine that at my work. I’m sure it would be more of a gritted-teeth kind of smile and, “I see that you feel this way, and you must do what you feel is best” kind of reaction. [Raven: Well, the girls are volunteers at the centre, and the School Elections are actually a school thing, so I can certainly understand the reasoning. Although “why not both” is an option, but I guess that tanks the wordcount and pads the plot with childcare scenes in a story about school politics.] [Dove: Fair. How many more scenes does the series need of the Unicorns taking care of kids? They’re charming, but if they add nothing to this current plot, then it’s fair to cut it from a story-telling point of view.] [Wing: School elections are also volunteer, though. They’ve already made a commitment to the center.]

Mary rejoins the Unicorns, and they again bring up Kimberly and how things have changed. Then they reminisce about the time they helped Amy dress up as a hippie to get Ken Matthews’ attention, and how the world fell apart during the marriage experiment (KUDOS FOR THE CONTINUITY, PEOPLE), and then they bring up something we don’t know about.

Apparently they changed the lock on Randy’s locker right before an English test with his English book still in the locker. Apparently he blew a gasket and was furious when he found out they were the assholes who did this.

(Uh, why are the Unicorns pranksters now? I know they had a dare war, and the initiation was intimidating dares, but they didn’t really pull pranks. Their bullying was much more bitchy than that. I can’t see Janet Howell thinking it would reflect well on them to pull this nonsense. She wouldn’t be opposed to the spite involved, just the lolzy execution, which she’d think was childish.)

Apparently after that incident, they were given four hours of detention by Mr Bowman, so they put a lizard in his desk drawer, and he turned so red they called him Mr Tomato Head, which… again, no, it didn’t happen, and doesn’t sound like the Unicorns at all.

These bitches set up a situation where Nora Mercandy won Lila’s expensive pen in a tennis match, and then Lila claimed she had stolen it. Jessica tricked Lois Waller into eating shaving foam by posing as Elizabeth. Kimberly or Tamara (who cares which) invited the entire school except Dylan McKay to her party. Jessica created a third Wakefield twin with the sole intention of humiliating Brooke Dennis.

That’s the shit the Unicorns pull at their worst. It’s spiteful and cruel, and done with the deliberate intention to make someone miserable. It’s not for the lolz.

Mary is horrified as Jessica, Lila and Ellen continue talking about “the good old days” (Jessica’s words). She doesn’t want to be a bitch any more. And she worries that Kimberly’s return will turn them into that. Dude, losing battle. If the three are giggling over the time they were cruel to Lois and think it’s a happy memory, they haven’t changed. [Raven: Yup. Sadface.]

Also, I suspect this will be a repetitive chunk of text. If so, I’ll just use the phrase “Mary worries about bitchiness” to save typing it up over and over. [Note from the future: I found other things that repeated and did not have the sense to create a shorthand phrase. sigh.]

A small kidfight breaks out, and Jessica and Ellen diffuse it like pros, so Mary breathes a sigh of relief. She knows the new Unicorns are happy with things how they are now, and maybe Ellen and Jessica are too, but she’s not sure about Lila.

Uh, whut? Lila risked everything to protect Ellie a couple of books ago. And Mary dropped her friends when a boy paid attention to her, so… while I agree that this group could easily fall apart with some external pressure, maybe it won’t. Mary herself is proof that good (or “good”) people make bad choices, but also that they come back from them.

Um… where’s Mandy in all of this?

Nobody knows? Ok, sure.

Later Mary invites Jessica to come over this weekend to help with her campaign. Jessica says no, Kimberly’s having a slumber party, and anyone who can make it at such short notice is invited. Lila and Mandy say they’re free, Ellen’s visiting her grandparents, and Evie, Elizabeth and Maria are not even asked, which bugs Mary, even though she does acknowledge that they barely know Kimberly.

Mary declines, citing homework and her campaign.

(Uh, surely Jessica could spend some time with Mary, the slumber party isn’t going all weekend, is it?)

The weekend passes quickly, with Mary doing a lot of chores and not coming up with any good issues to use for her campaign.

Then we’re back to school. Kimberly is there, already wearing a satin Unicorn jacket. Lila had her tailor copy it and paid them double-time to ensure it was ready for Kimberly’s return. Kimberly gives Mary a hug and Mary compliments her hair. Kimberly immediately points out that her hair is longer than Mary’s now.

Dude, just punch her. [Raven: I had this thought multiple times throughout the book.]

At this point, Evie, Maria and Elizabeth arrive. They attempt to make conversation, but Kimberly is polite but dismissive. Nobody notices but Mary. Well, and the reader. It’s kind of obvious.

Kimberly then says that she met some cute boys in Atlanta, and they all want to come to Sweet Valley to meet everyone. Mary thinks “Kimberly Haver had been known to stretch the truth a little from time to time” – ironically, Stretching the Truth was the name of the last Mary-centric book, wherein she lied about her stepfather because she was embarrassed he was just a carpenter, not an interior designer. Just sayin’.

But yeah, I wouldn’t trust the Unicorns as far as I could throw them.

However, Lila says that she saw pictures of these guys and they’re super cute.

(Suspect they’re just pictures of guys, and not actual friends that are desperate to visit Sweet Valley.) [Raven: I’m picturing boys from the StockImages used to sell picture frames.] [Dove: I assumed yearbook or catalogue pictures.]

We cut to lunch, where Sarah Thomas and Sophia Rizzo are sitting at the Unicorner. Apparently this is a thing now, that Unicorns invite non-Unicorns to lunch. Despite all the evidence to the contrary. Kimberly appears and glares at them, while the Unicorns explain the situation. She makes them feel so uncomfortable that Sophia offers to find other seats, but Mary tells her to stay.

Sophia looked uncertainly from face to face. Evie, Maria, Elizabeth, and Mandy all smiled encouragingly.

But Jessica’s and Lila’s faces were neutral. And Ellen actually had a frown on her face.

Battle lines have been drawn.

Elizabeth tries to include everyone in conversation by telling Kimberly that Sarah and Sophia were thinking of volunteering at the daycare centre, and Kimberly shuts that shit down immediately. She clarifies that she’s not Jimmy Savile.

“No, thanks,” Kimberly said abruptly. “I don’t like messing around with little kids.”

[Raven: Actual lol. At Dove’s comment, not at the quote.]

Jessica tries to get her involved by saying they have fun, but Kimberly is so scathing that the others are embarrassed and a little shocked.

Maria mutters to Mary that someone needs to update Kimberly on the new Unicorn situation, and then all the new Unicorns and the Rizzo-Thomas sisters leave.

Mandy, who, by the way, is being absolutely character assassinated of late, is just focused on her lunch and pretending that everything’s fine.

With all the “nice” people gone, Kimberly starts to get nasty.

“I don’t believe you guys. What a bunch of goody-goodies. Baby-sitting!” she huffed. “Puppet shows! What would Janet Howell say?”

[Raven: I think we all know EXACTLY what Janet Howell would say.]

Mandy attempts to bridge the gap, and while she says nothing of real interest or importance, it seems to work, and Kimberly asks to hear more (in a very bored tone). Then as soon as possible, she changes the subject to cute boys. However, this hits Mary right in the nostalgia feels. It’s just like the good old days, and Mary feels like she belongs. Or does she? (Seriously, that’s how she ends the scene.)

The next day is Tuesday. Nomination day. Kimberly comes in with Jessica, Ellen and Lila, who have “something is up” faces. The nominations start. Peter DeHaven nominates Randy Mason, with Rick Hunter seconding it… uh, any particular reason you picked him? He’s a year older than Randy, and I’m pretty sure they’ve never shared screen time. Ok, never mind. Cammi Adams nominates Lois Waller, and nobody seconds it. After several agonising moments, Mary seconds the nomination. Elizabeth winks at her (hey, remember when Elizabeth ran against Randy, and every thought was, “look at the silly nerd! He actually thinks he has a chance against me!” – I bet she’s having the same thoughts about pointless fat Lois right now), and Lois gives Mary a smile.

Elizabeth nominates Mary and Maria seconds the motion. Then – shocka – Jessica nominates Kimberly, and Lila seconds it.

Oh, I don’t think anyone has actually mentioned what position they’re vying for. But by process of elimination, given the other offices that actually are mentioned, we’re lobbying for class president here. I think. Oh, and right after I typed that, 9,000 words into the story, we get actual confirmation that I’m correct. FFS, ghostie, I see you doing continuity, but get it together, love. [Raven: Is it Class President or School President? I’m confused.] [Dove: Oh. Yeah, don’t know about that. The back of the book just says “Student Council President”… I’m so confused.] [Wing: It could be that each grade has their own president (so Sixth Grade President, Seventh Grade President) and the school itself has a student council that crosses all the grades, so anyone could be Student Council President (i.e., School President).]

After the assembly, Mary snaps at everyone. Why is Kimberly running? Why did Team Kim turn on her? Why doesn’t she just drop out, because she’s not into this nonsense.

Team Good (yeah, we’re back to Team names now, and I’m sure you’ve read enough to know who’s who – except Mandy because the ghosties haven’t a clue what to do with her) take Mary to the side and tell her that she MUST run, not just for the good of the school, but for the sake of the Unicorns! Kimberly is trying to take them to the dark side, and if she wins, that will be another step in her grand plan!

Elizabeth was right. Kimberly Haver had always been a troublemaker. In fact, some of us used to call her the Spoon, because she was always stirring things up. Like telling me that Jessica had said something mean about me. Then when I would get mad at Jessica, she wouldn’t know why, and that would make her mad with me. We could spend days angry at each other—all because of Kimberly.

Why did we put up with it? I’m not sure, except that Kimberly always had a reputation for being cool and hip and full of gossip and inside information on people, places, and things. And she wasn’t afraid of Janet Howell, either. She never let Janet push her around. Which made her seem more grown up than the rest of us.

Bwahahahaha! Yeah, no. Kimberly and Tamara were utterly interchangeable, and were the Unicorn version of Cammi Adams or Kerry Glenn, which is to say when you want a named character to speak, but you need someone with no personality, so it’s an utter coin toss as to which side they’ll take, these are the names you use.

But actually, give her personality traits, I’m ok with that. In fact, I would have been ok with it 140+ books ago, when she was just a pointless name in a list. [Raven: It’s a tough call, this. The story requires a “returning Unicorn” to come back and mix it… how else can the Ghostie do that, other than flesh out someone nondescript like Kimberley Haver to fill the role? The other option is Janet Howell herself, as she has the bitch pedigree, but she’s high school age now and also Lila’s cousin, which would add more intrigue.]


Mary sees Team Kim laughing and assumes (probably correctly) that they’re mocking other people. She makes a decision. She takes her team over and says that she’s not dropping out, and they need to agree it will be a fair fight.

They shake hands.

Yeah. That’ll last.

Mary meets up with Mandy at her locker and asks what the hell is going on, did Mandy know Kimberly was going to run for president. Mandy robotically says no, and I’m not sure if she’s lying or upset, because it is not a well-written scene. I’m really starting to loathe Mandy. This is not the Mandy we loved for so long. This is just some shallow idiot with her name. She started off fine, but she is turning into this kind of blank slate that does $thing to make sure that $plot works, and it doesn’t work for me. Mandy was one of the few with a solid character in the previous series, so this vagueness and deliberate ignorance or avoidance of issues just flies in the face of who she used to be. [Raven: I think she’s written into a corner here. As Unicorn President, the Ghostie has set her impartiality out as her defining trait before a definitive turn at the end. This gives us little opportunity for the Mandy we know and love to make her mark. I mean, I get why, but it’s a shame.]

Anyway, after a bit of pressing, Mandy gives a speech about how she doesn’t know what to do, and she can’t take a side because both Kimberly and Mary were terrific to her when she was sick with cancer, and seeing them at odds is breaking her heart.

Mary unselfishly manages to see it from Mandy’s point of view, and concludes that as far as Mandy’s concerned, both Kimberly and Mary are her friends, and she really can’t take sides. (Even if Mary knows that Kimberly is a harpy.)

Mary says it’s probably unethical for Mandy to take sides, since she’s the president of the Unicorns, so she shouldn’t work on either campaign.

At this point, Kimberly appears and Mandy says that’s she’s not taking a side. Kimberly is agreeable and Mandy looks relieved that she’s not going to lose a friend over it.

Then Lois comes over and thanks Mary for seconding her nomination, and says she hopes the best student wins. She and Mary shake hands and wish each other luck, while Mary thinks that was very sportsmanlike of Lois. Lois then offers her hand to Kimberly, who just glares so hard that Lois turns to stone.

Mandy tries to ease the tension by shaking the proffered hand and wishing Lois luck.

It eased the tension, and Lois smiled. “See you guys later.” Then she walked off.

“Maybe Lois can run on the Save the Whales platform,” Kimberly quipped.

A laugh escaped Mandy. She tried to stop it, but it came out of her nose, and she made this amused snorting sound.

I think Lois heard it, because I saw her turn around and look at us. I started banging Mandy on the back, pretending that she was choking instead of laughing.

“That was really out of line,” I said angrily to Kimberly as soon as Lois had turned back down the hall.

“Oh, don’t be so preachy,” Kimberly said in a bored tone. “You used to laugh at Lois Waller all the time, too.”

I felt a flush rising up the back of my neck. She was right. I did laugh at Lois Waller. But I was ashamed of myself now. And I thought Mandy ought to be ashamed of herself, too.

Mandy caught my reproachful look. “I’ve got to get to class,” she said quickly. “See you guys later.”

See, this is what I mean about Mandy. Where is the girl who refused to get involved with stealing Mr Clark’s toupee because she understands that physical appearance, especially the parts that are hard/impossible to change, is a touchy subject and being glib about it is cruel? That was only five books ago.

Did she forget that? Or is she the kind of person who thinks that hair loss is a touchy subject because it was for her, but fat people are fair game?

I really hate how she’s written at the moment. [Raven: Yeah, her snort here was super weak. Although kudos to the Ghostie, Kimberly’s dialogue is on point for the Old Unicorns. Legit flashbacks there.]

Also, Kimberly’s comment wasn’t even funny, so as well as being an asshole, Mandy’s sense of humour is now basic AF.

Mary again tries to reason with Kimberly, saying they should be running mates and keep it friendly, the club has just got through a big upset and they don’t need another one.

“This Club,” Kimberly said with a sneer, “has turned into the biggest bunch of goody-goody geekoids I’ve ever seen. I think what you need is a little shaking up. A little competition. A little excitement.”

Just then, Rick Hunter and Denny Jacobson come around the corner. Which is weird, because Denny should be in high school. Either he flunked, or he’s actually terrified of Janet, and deliberately held himself back, so he can get out from her claws. [Raven: I love you and your continuity nerdiness *mwa*. Although there is a touch of the Annie Wilkes about you too.] [Dove: *beams* What a lovely compliment. Although I only keep a sledgehammer as an homage to HHH. It’s totally unrelated to Sweet Valley continuity errors.]

Kimberly flirts with them, and they immediately promise to vote for her and their team will too, based on how pretty she is. Even though they nominated Randy Mason (well, Rick Hunter did, Denny didn’t but the book doesn’t appear to know that) and Kimberly hasn’t said a word about what she stands for.

Mary is aghast! Shallow people vote for good looking people? What is this, Sweet Valley? Oh wait, yes, yes it is. Mary, you’re an idiot.

That night, Team Good meet in Elizabeth’s room, while Team Evil are in the living room downstairs, both are allegedly working on the campaign, but from the chatter and giggles coming from below, it seems like Team Evil are just having a gathering and doing little work. (Or, just to be fair, have more witty people in the room, and are working, but having fun. Unlikely though. This ghostie isn’t great a characterisation.) [Raven: I understand the Teams need to be in the same building for Plot Reasons, but Lila would decamp the Trunicorns to Fowler Crest faster than you can say Chauffeur.]

They decide that the off-campus lunch issue is a non-starter. Nothing will change Mr Clark’s mind, so they need something else. Elizabeth comments that Randy’s a nerd, so will probably just get bogged down with science stuff that nobody gives a shit about. She is not self-aware enough to realise she made this exact assumption a year ago, only to find out she was massively wrong, and Randy’s was the best campaign out of all of them. Elizabeth is an idiot.

They decide that trying to increase the book limit from the school library will help. And maybe more extra credit projects for students who aren’t doing well.

And then they wonder what Lois’s campaign will be about.

“Better food in the cafeteria?” Evie said, raising one eyebrow humorously.

In spite of ourselves, Maria, Elizabeth, and I laughed. Then Elizabeth banged her forehead down on her desk in comic punishment. “Stop it!” she said, half to herself and half to us. “We sound just like Kimberly.”

Fuck off, you epic bunch of cunts. Just because you’re not mocking Lois to her face, doesn’t make you any better than Kimberly. I would say that Lois is worth ten of you, but you’re all such basic bitches, you’d probably think it was a fat joke. Just die all of you. [Raven: Yup. Bad.]

In case you’re wondering, we’re on chapter six, and I am officially hating this book on every conceivable level.

Downstairs comes the sound of giggling and a Johnny Buck tape. And Mary smugly congratulates herself on taking the campaign so seriously, when Team Evil are just being vapid harpies.

Just die.

The next day, Mary is late to school because of a dentist appointment, and this means she has to go through the roadworks, and the cars are bombing around. Ok, so we’ve got an answer here, it’s not morons being run over by barely-moving automobiles, it’s fucking wankstains zooming around at high speed through construction and a school zone. Although I wonder, why is this only now causing Mary an issue? Do they have to cross here at the start and end of every school day? Or is there some bananas rule that before and after school, you can cross safely at the front of the school, but between 9am-3pm, you have to risk your life out back?

Anyway, Mary is nearly run over, and is only saved by a workman pulling her out of the road. The driver tells her to look where she’s going, and the workman immediately apologises for grabbing her, but in his defence, it was to save her life. Wow, so one adult in Sweet Valley understands boundaries and the exceptional circumstances in which you can break them.

Mary now understands that Mr Clark was right. It’s dangerous.

(Dove now understands for certain that Mr Clark is an idiot. He should have petitioned the council to enforce a 20mph speed limit around the school, had them put traffic calming measures in – such as temporary bollards/speed bumps, and never for a second considered letting a bunch of tweens cross such a dangerous road when a safer option was to add a few picnic benches outside. Dude, you’re in California. The only time it rains in Sweet Valley is in the Super Chillers because it adds ambience. Outdoor lunch would be fine.) [Raven: Perhaps Mr Clark forgot to file the necessary papers because he was preoccupied researching replacement wigs? Or maybe, y’know, this fucking school.]

At lunch there is a dispute with the club. Kimberly wants them to get lunch off campus (which is weird because she wasn’t at school when that was an option) and is bullying everyone into going with her. Mary wants to tell everyone that she was nearly hit by a car this morning, but doesn’t want to be mocked by Kimberly. Ok then, just let them die. I mean, they’ll only grow up to be anti-vaxx MLM pushers/natural oil sellers/Facebook racists anyway.

I’m so uninvested. I kind of hope the finale of this book is that there’s a huge Final Destination style pile-up outside, and a bunch of people nearly die – or actually die – and… well, I don’t have an ending. How about everyone dies? Everyone ok with that? Nobody gets out alive. Except Lois.

Team Evil (Kimberly, Jessica, Lila and Ellen) decide to go out for lunch. Team Good abstain.

Um, isn’t this truancy? *shrugs* Oh, who cares? [Raven: … I care. 🙁 ]

And we cut to just before fifth period when Caroline Pearce (who will also survive the Final Destination ending) updates Mary with the latest gossip. Team Evil got caught sneaking off campus. They’re being bollocked by Mr Clark now.

Mary, charmingly, snaps at Caroline for bringing her this news, even though Caroline explains that she thought Mary would want to know, given that they’re her friends. Mary then tells Elizabeth, who’s like, “Welp, you’re now a shoo-in. Who’s going to vote for someone who has four hours of detention on Saturday?” I don’t know, Elizabeth, maybe people who think she’s pretty?

This makes Mary happy. Even though she yelled at Caroline for being happy about this news literally two paragraphs ago. Mary can get in the fucking sea. She isn’t nuanced, she’s just a fickle waste of words.

Her happy lasts the length of a full-stop, because the next scene is Aaron Dallas, Denny Jacobson and Helen Bradley (the latter of which we haven’t seen on the page since #13 Stretching the Truth, so it’s been a good hundred-odd books. I felt sure she was dead.) raging against the dying of the light, aka announcing that they think Kimberly is terrific for breaking the rules and “standing up for them”.

Mary speaks up, saying she was nearly run over this morning, and it’s not safe, and collectively the entire school mocks her, saying she’s a nerd. Presumably because nerds are well-known for their disrespect of the Highway Code. [Raven: I legit did want someone to get run over and killed in this book. Go big or go home, right? We could certainly spare one of the many Peters.] [Dove: And then I could change the tag to “just the right amount of Peters”. We could lose two and be fine.]

After school, Mary and Maria go to Primo’s which is the fast food place in the shopping area that’s just come into existence for the sake of this book. With two of them, they still can’t cross the road safely, so a workman stops traffic for them.

… gosh, is this all leading to a lollipop lady? Raven, I bet you 10p the answer is a lollipop lady and it’ll be the winning play Mary makes to win the presidency. (So far this week, Raven has lost 20p in 10p bets to me.) [Raven: I’m commenting here after reading the book, why the blue fuck would I take that bet?!]

… Uh, crossing guard to the Americans. [Wing: Lollipop lady sounds so perverted, and therefore that’s exactly what SVMS would call the position.]

They get some food and drink, and the waitress comments that the lack of kids coming at lunch has really cut into their business. Well, that sounds like a you-problem, champ. Don’t build your business next to a building where the rule is “no off-campus lunch” and then be surprised that the entire building full of people who are not allowed to leave the building at lunch don’t leave the building to buy lunch from you.

Ordinarily I’d be on the side of the hardworking people in the working class demographic, but since these people will probably cease to exists by the end of this book, I’m treating them more like NPCs in Saints Row (that is to say: big squishy meat bags to ignore at best and toss into a black hole at worst). [Raven: Was gonna evoke “Support Your Local Restaurtant, Covid etc”, but am now charmed by the Saints Row NPC idea.]

Mary sees Team Evil walk past, and assumes they’re going to the daycare centre (a strange assumption, given how uninterested Kimberly is), and feels sad. 🙁

When they get to the centre, Team Evil are not there and the kids are running amok, with only Mandy trying to keep everyone alive. Where the fuck is Mrs Willard? I know she relies on the teens to keep the young’uns alive, but when it’s a 1:10 ratio or whatever, maybe roll your eyes at how annoying teens are at keeping their promises and then get out of your office and help take care of the kids?

Mandy, Mary and Maria, the three Ma names, so not confusing at all, manage to wrangle the kids into some kind of decent behaviour, and Mandy is cross. She assumes that Team Evil are still at school in detention, and Mary says no, she saw them leave school the same time as she left.

Mandy is not happy. And she’s been such a useless blank slate for the last couple of books, that my feeling is not “Oh, this is the start of Mandy coming over to Team Good” and is instead “HA! SEE HOW YOU LIKE BEING DROPPED WITH NO WARNING, YOU HOPELESS VAPID TROUT!”

Oliver asks where Jessica is, and Mary walks the line between being honest and saving his feelings, saying that with the election at school, everyone’s busier than they were, and she’s sure Jessica will visit soon.

Oliver says he misses “the other ones, too” and Mary realises that nobody from Team Evil has shown up at all this week. (It’s Wednesday now.) Mandy has apparently known this all along.

“That’s terrible,” Maria exploded. “They have a commitment here. And I don’t care what else—”

Mandy held up her hands. “Can it,” she said angrily. “We’re going through a weird time. I’m not going to take sides. So don’t try to push my buttons, OK?”

Oh fuck off, #NotMyMandy. I hate you. You’re just this slab of beige meh. You take no sides. You see no good and no bad, you’re so zen you might as well be a sand garden. Just fuck off.

Maria is not impressed by this, but Mary takes Mandy’s beige paint lead and says that they can’t expect her to chose between her old friends and her new friends. Uh, yes, yes you can. If one set of friends is obviously spiteful and flaky and the other set consistently shows up and is kind*, then drop the spiteful flakes.

* “kind” doesn’t actually mean “kind” in this example. It merely means that they don’t point at the fat girl and laugh at her ugly fatness when she’s in earshot.

[Raven: I have more patience for Mandy here, as I still think she’s been written to a standstill for the benefit of the plot, but Dove’s points are definitely on point.]

On Thursday morning Team Good man the doors and hand out flyers. Mary attempts to sway Rick to voting for her, even though he’s clearly bored to death and is voting for Kimberly because she’s pretty. Halfway through her sentence, Rick yells, “Hey, Kimberly!” and Mary is shocked. Mary, who in the previous book, learned that Rick wasn’t dumping her, he was just going to fake being ill so he could take another girl to the dance, is shocked to learn that this guy is an asshole?

Mary is an idiot.

Also, Team Evil are wearing VOTE FOR KIMBERLY shirts, which Mary thinks is a terrific idea.

Maria tells Mary that Kimberly has found a way to sneak off campus, going through a hole in the hedge and through the construction without being in view of any of the school windows. Please god let the whole bunch of them get hit by a fourteen-wheeler going 90mph. The boys (who are represented by Rick and Aaron) think this is magnificent.

Mandy asks what’s going on, and when Mary tells her, she goes all robotic, says, “Oh” in a dull tone and then runs off. Headcanon: her cancer is back and she is too busy processing to deal with this childish nonsense. That’s the only workable reason for her turning into such a void of emotion. (It won’t be that. Don’t get excited/worried. She’s just badly written.)

At lunch, Mary notes that half the school has snuck out, but apparently none of the teachers has noticed. Business as usual then.

Caroline Pearce asks why they’re not with their friends and Mary feels like kicking her. Then she has a minor panic attack that she’s a serial killer, because she wanted to shake Rick Hunter when he ignored her. It’s on par with Bella Swan’s “gratuitous drug use” that time she took an asprin for her headache.

Elizabeth snaps at her to mind her own business. Everyone is shocked.

Dennis Cookman says the reason they’re not with their friends is because they’re chicken. They leave with as much dignity as they can muster.

They flee to the library, and Maria rages that it’s just not fair. Everyone thinks they’re geeks! And nobody is standing for anything; Randy, Lois and Kimberly have done nothing to make it clear which issues they stand for/against.


Really? Randy Mason has not made his case? Really?

Really? Really! Really? *REALLY*?

And of course Lois hasn’t. She’s too busy eating. I mean, nobody actually says that, but given how mean they’ve all been about her, I’m sure that’s what they thought. [Raven: Both Lois and Randy get short shrift in this book.]

Team Good are on the move again because the plot says so, and they arrive somewhere just in time to see Mr Clark frogmarching Team Evil and about fifteen other kids to his office, and proclaiming that they’re all going to have a lot of Saturday detentions. [Raven: Better than those kids being nothing more than a thirty-foot red smudge on the tarmac.]

We have about half a second of smugness from Mary as she hears all the students grumbling about Kimberly after school… until Kimberly loudly proclaims that Mary ratted them all out.

Cool. Don’t care. Hate literally everyone right now.

Mary is shocked to tears, and Kimberly says that it must be true, as Mary’s not denying it. Elizabeth and Maria jump in to defend her.

Kimberly adds that it’s all part of Mary’s master plan to disqualify her as a contender for student president, but it didn’t work. Um, why not? This is not someone you can trust with… whatever responsibility comes with the role.

Finally Mary finds her voice and declares war. Insults are thrown from both sides.

I was just getting wound up to deliver a few insults of my own when I saw Mandy. She had been standing off to the side, not taking part at all.

Her face looked stricken. And the next thing I knew, she was hurrying away. She practically ran down the front steps of the school and started down the long walkway that led to the street.

I hope she gets hit by a car and dies.

Mary sees that nobody is paying attention to her, since both sides are verbally scrapping – with some students siding with Team Good, so runs off.

I hope they both get hit by a car and die.

Mary runs off to Primo’s and decides that things have gone too far. Elizabeth is being rude, Maria is revelling in people’s downfalls, Evie is basically unchanged (Mary doesn’t seem to think her fat-phobia is worrying), but they’re setting a bad example for her. She is not going to war with Kimberly (way to stick to your guns, you lasted all of twenty seconds – A+ politicking). She’s going to be a grownup about this.

She ends up speaking to the waitress who says that things are getting dire for them business-wise. They’ve been told by Mr Clark to refuse to serve any kids who sneak out because it’s a safety issue.

At this point, a crossing guard comes in, and I’ve just won 10p [Raven: THIS BET WAS NULL AND VOID.] [Dove: It’s literally written on the site. Pay up.]. Mary has a brilliant idea. One that any adult with half an ounce of sense should have at least suggested some time after it became apparent that no-one was going for “how about picnic benches?”

Mary goes to talk to all the shop owners around the area, and one clarifies that they rely on lunchtime business because at the start and end of school, most people use the main entrance because it leads to the residential area. And again I say: this is a you-problem. You set up shop somewhere that gets no natural traffic, that by default has no lunchtime traffic, and somehow it’s only now you’re going broke? I just cannot get invested in this nonsense because nothing about this story works at all.

That night they have a meeting at Elizabeth’s house. Given that Elizabeth shares a house with a key component of Team Evil and this is Mary’s campaign, I would totally have the meeting at literally any other house than the Wakefield Compound. So I feel certain that someone’s going to earwig and steal Mary’s grand plan. Urgh. This fucking book. [Raven: I’m enjoying it. I like imagining how differently this would be playing out if it were a normal Twins book with Elizabeth as the protagonist.]

To clarify, the shop owners are going to pay for the crossing guard, so it won’t come out of the school budget. I mean, I’m pretty sure that (over here, at least) if a student dies while in the care of the school, even if out of sight of a teacher, the school is liable, so, y’know, mention that to the school and see them figure out that a permanent crossing guard is cheaper than Ned Wakefield on retainer (let’s assume he’s in the ambulance chasing discipline right now, ok?). Also, apparently a few kids do cross that road after school, so why has this never come up before?

Their plan is to speak to the various sellers tomorrow and see how many would be willing to pay for the crossing guard and how much it will actually cost. Again, I still think this is the school’s responsibility, but I guess we all know what a dumpster fire Sweet Valley Middle School is. [Raven: I thought this was quite a cute plan, and certainly an American one. As Dove mentions, it’s unlikely to be feasible in the UK, but it sounds plausible for the Land of the Free.] [Wing: I don’t know for certain, but I’d guess that crossing guards have to pass similar checks to substitute teachers and other staff in order to be near the children, so I don’t know that this is all that feasible here, either.]

Downstairs music is turned up loud, so Elizabeth childishly jumps up and down on her floor to piss them off. There is a laugh. And I’m sure that’s not to cover someone’s trip to the bathroom and them overhearing Mary’s grand plan.

Mary implores them to play nice, because she wants to stay friends with everyone. The rest of the room doesn’t care. They’re not sure they’re a club, and if they are, they don’t really want to belong to it. But Mary knows they have to stay together, for the sake of Mandy’s cowardly beige soul broken heart.

“Families fight,” I said quietly. “But that doesn’t mean they don’t care about one another. You guys know how my mom left me with a friend when I was really little. And how I was in foster care for years. Now we’re together, but we’re two very different people. And we have fights—sometimes big ones. But we’re still family. I still love her. And she still loves me.”

Welp, that’s one way to describe it. Another way is to use the word “kidnapped”. Also, how on earth is that anything like some nasty cow rocking up and being cruel to fatties and nerds? These situations are nothing alike. For one thing, Kimberly hasn’t spent eight years searching for you. And I can pretty much guarantee that she doesn’t love anyone in this room, and nobody loves her in return. This is just fucking scribble.

Well, nobody in the room notices that Mary makes no sense, so they have a group high-five to celebrate the nonsense. Cool.

Elizabeth suddenly realises that she and Maria are scheduled to be at the daycare centre tomorrow, so the only option is to ask if Jessica, Ellen and/or Lila will swap days with them. It will also be a good way to test the water and see whether they are being toxic harpies or low-level assholes.

Mary is the one who has to go downstairs to ask the favour. She gets a very frosty reception until she explains what she needs, but when she mentions the centre, Jessica and Lila soften, but Kimberly snaps over them that they don’t do favours for rats.

Instead of saying that she didn’t rat them out, Mary just walks off dejectedly. I mean, Kimberly’s a harpy, but Mary is really playing to the narrative that Kimberly set up of “If she’s not denying it, she must have done it” and people that really love to fight tend to rewrite their own version of events to make themselves into victims, so I’m just putting that out there.

Because I don’t want the resolve of this to be, “Oh, I really did think you dobbed us in. After all, you basically admitted it.”

Mary updates Team Good and tells them that it’s fair, if their positions were reversed, she’d feel the same. Mary is a saintly idiot who will be approaching the shop owners herself with no help.

The next morning (Friday), Randy approaches Mary and says he’s pulling out of the race because it’s too much work. It ate into his time last year and he doesn’t want to repeat the process again. For the first time, Mary wonders exactly what this role entails. Well, I guess that’s not entirely on her, because nobody seems to know how this school functions or who does what. But it might have been in Mr Clark’s speech that she didn’t bother to listen to.

Mary asks if she can count on his vote, and he says it depends on what the opposition has to offer.

I just hope Lois wins.

There was a giggling sound, and I caught a glimpse of Lila and Ellen disappearing around the corner—so I knew who was responsible for the incredibly insulting poster that had been tacked to the bulletin board.

It was a caricature of Lois Waller. And it depicted her as a big hippopotamus waving a little flag and wearing a campaign hat. The caption read: “Hippos belong in the zoo, not running the student council.”

Yep. Everyone but Caroline and Lois (and Randy, he seems nice) can just die in a fireball.

[Raven: It was around this point when I began to wonder how they were going to return to the Status Quo by the end of the book. When, presumably, Mary wins. The Trunicorns are pulling some shady escalating shit that, if simply hand-waived away, would cause me to flip tables. Maybe Kimberly will get expelled, or get killed by a truck. Or maybe she’ll join the Eights, who’ll have to become the Nines or something.]

This causes hilarity in the halls. And Dennis asks if Mary drew the picture. She says no, and she doesn’t think it’s funny. This causes everyone to mimic her in a prissy voice. She wonders if anyone will stand up for her… or y’know, Lois, but no, the answer is no.

The bell rings and people disperse, leaving behind Lois, who had been behind the crowd the whole time and heard all the mockery. And she is now fighting the tears.

Mary can’t find the words, because she’s an insensitive asshole, and merely rips the poster off the wall. She can’t find a trash can so stuffs it in her bag. I’m sure that won’t come back to bite her in her size 6 ass. [Note from the future: Nope. I thought Kimberly was going to frame her for having made the mean poster, but that did not happen.] [Raven from the future: Nope. What actually happened was far worse.]

Lois says she’s dropping out as she can’t take any more of this. She’s not pretty or popular so she’s got no fight. Again, Mary has fuck all to say to comfort her, because she’s a vacuum of a human being, so resolves to win for everyone. Oh you fucking saint. Don’t hug the sad fat girl, don’t say anything nice to her, don’t acknowledge the bullying that’s gone on. Just silently decide to beat Kimberly.

Mary, the people’s champion.

After school, Elizabeth hands her some photocopied letters that she and Mary drafted for the sellers. Ned Wakefield proofed it, and said it was “very professional” (which you should take with an entire ocean of salt), and I’m sure that a copy of the letter didn’t fall out of Elizabeth’s bag and tip off Team Evil so they can steal her plan.

Mary speaks to the manager of Primo’s, who calls her Miss Wallace, and is stunned with her genius. Apparently they went to a Merchant’s Association meeting last week and literally nobody in the entire room parsed out “There are kids with money, there are shops that sell things for money. But between both is a busy road. What are the options?”

He signs the letter, and agrees to keep the whole thing secret when Mary explains the whole student council thing. He says if he could, he’d vote for her in a second, and maybe one day he’ll vote for her as president of the USA. Well, she’s stupid, childish, and has the emotional range of a scrunchie. Still better than Trump. [Raven: SATIRE!]

By 6pm, Mary has twenty commitments – that’s all of the shops in the area. Two of which are shoe stores?! Who the hell is propping up the lunchtime shoe economy in Sweet Valley Middle School? [Wing: Lila, obviously.]

Oh well, just go with it, otherwise the plot falls apart.

Mary is feeling very hopeful since eighteen have already signed the letter, and the outstanding two have agreed verbally to sign the letter when they are able to.

So it’s all about to fall apart.

On the way home she sees Mandy sitting in a park feeding the pigeons and wallowing in angst. She sits there like a zombie for a bit, with the cold dead eyes of a serial killer, and after a prompt or two from Mary, she explains that she is despairing because her club is split in half and she is suffering from heartbreak, since each half is equally as bastardly as the other, so what can she do? Oh woe! Woe is Mandy! This is le tragique!

Mary, in response, pulls out the mean cartoon of Lois and tells her to pick a side and stop being such a waste of oxygen. She needs to do what’s right and if that means no longer staying in the middle, so be it.

Mandy retorts that she’s been doing, and pulls out a picture of Mary depicted as a rat which Mandy tore down near the library. Mary is horrified.

As am I. All this spite and venom, and no fucking teacher/adult has waded in and pointed out that the point is to lobby about what you stand for, not how ugly you think the opposition is? And yes, Trump, but this was written 25 years before that happened, and politics at least pretended to be slightly classier than two toddlers screaming insults at each other because they lack the emotional intelligence to make their argument in a reasonable fashion. [Raven: This FUCKING school.] [Wing: Bush v Gore was only four years from this point, and that got pretty nasty (though not as bad as Trump). Dove and Raven are correct, though, the adults at this fucking school suck.]

The big reveal is that Lois is the master artist because Mandy saw her putting up the posters. She drew the nasty picture of both Kimberly (depicted as the Pied Piper, leading a bunch of kids over a cliff) and Rat!Mary, and the fat Lois cartoon from Kimberley was just retaliation. [Wing: What the ever loving fuck. Ghostwriter, what the hell are you doing?] So Mandy doesn’t want to hear any “goody-goody lectures”.

So, basically, if this was on Am I the Asshole? The answer would be a resounding Everybody Sucks Here?

Also, the underdog in me kind of respects the hell out of Lois for this play. Make the two popular kids take each other out and see if you can win by pure staying power. Or this is just her long-con revenge for the shaving foam incident and she gives zero fucks for the actual student council position (this is my preferred theory). Either way, out of everyone involved, I give Lois a half-pass, since we’ve spent 140+ books watching her be bullied and mocked and patronised, and if she wants to snap and draw a mean cartoon of two of her bullies, she’s the least sucky person in book full of people who suck.

[Raven: Disagree. Hated this part. This is not the Lois we know and love (and invented in our heads). Also, when did everyone at Sweet Valley Middle School become Gerald fucking Scarfe?

As for Poster Politics, I have an anecdote. When I was in Sixth Form (pre Bimblefimps), I stood for election in my college. It was a mock election that mirrored our General Election, with student candidates for the major UK parties (Labour, Conservative, LIberal Democrat). I ran under my own mock party, the Social Moralist And Republican Theocrats, or the SMART Party. I had a full manifesto full of silly ideas (such as replacing the currency of Pounds and Pence with Pies and Peas, and making it illegal to be Les Dennis). While I didn’t win, I placed a strong second after the Labour candidate, and I got to be in a school debate with our actual Labour MP, who liked my manifesto and took copies to Parliment for a laugh.

Anyway, me and my campaign manager put up many surreal posters around college in the run up to the election. One opponent, the Conservative candidate, hung about fifty posters that simply said “Think SMART, vote CONSERVATIVE”, a decent opening salvo. So we responded with fifty posters that said “Think CONSERVATIVE, vote SMART”, a clapback that still makes me laugh thirty years later.

That’s the end of my anecdote! I hope you liked it.]

Finally, she [Mandy] decided to speak up. “Yeah, I know that what Kimberly and her friends did was mean. And I don’t believe two wrongs make a right. But let’s face it, Lois asked for it. She shouldn’t have put up those posters in the first place.”

Um, “Lois asked for it”? You mean after 140+ books of being bullied, the one time she said, “Actually, fuck off!” in response, she “asked for it”? No. This is not a fair fight. You guys were making fun of her for ages. Yes, in theory she should be a bastion of calmness and acceptance and rise above it, but literally fuck you all. This is not two wrongs, this is 140+ wrongs vs 1 wrong. 140:1 is not an equal ratio. Take it from me, I do maths for a living.

Mary can’t find it in herself to be angry with Lois, but it’s not because of a sense of balance or fairness, it’s because she feels sorry that the poor fatty is so unpopular she has to pull stupid shit to get a few votes.

She tells Mandy that she needs to take a stand, and if Team Evil don’t start behaving, she’ll suspend them or something. Mandy thinks this isn’t her problem. Mary calls her a coward.

“The character of a club is only as solid as the character of its members. What does that make us if even our president turns her back on difficult confrontations?”

“I don’t care what you say. I’m going to stay neutral. I hate what Kimberly and her group are doing, but I don’t know how to stop them, and I sure can’t change them.”


Mary says it’s not a case of changing them, Jessica, Lila and Ellen all have good traits, but Kimberly has made them ashamed of them. Mandy, stewing in her own inaction and cowardice, latches on to this and asks if things will go back to normal once the election is over.

Mary, just stab her through the heart with either wood or silver. I don’t know what she is, but she’s not real. And wood or silver is generally a trustworthy material to use. Stab, Mary, stab!

Mary says that if she wins, maybe, but doesn’t really believe it. Mandy goes back to her lack of spine, and says with finality that this isn’t her problem, and maybe she’ll deal with it after the election.

Mary is disappointed with her.

Dude, catch up. I’ve hated her since the last book. She’s not real. KILL HER!

Theory: maybe she’s picked up Elizabeth’s old mask?

We cut to Sunday night and Team Good have converged in Elizabeth’s room again, because they’re just not worried about Team Evil overhearing their plans. And, get this, Elizabeth is typing everything up on her computer and printing them out on her dot-matrix printer.

(Also, she deleted a paragraph and had to re-type it. CTRL Z, genius. It was the first thing we were taught in our computer classes. And then she does it again. Elizabeth is an idiot.) [Raven: Glad I wasn’t the only one shouting CTRL Z at the page.]

They disband, but agree to meet again on Wednesday to help Maria memorise and deliver the speech, rather than just reading it.

Oh, and there’s a tiresome exchange between the twins, where Jessica enters the room to chivvy along everyone to leave. Elizabeth cuddles the speech to protect it from Jessica’s prying eyes, and they argue over whether Jessica would steal ideas from them. Elizabeth points out they’ve done absolutely nothing for their campaign so of course they would. Jessica says they just know what they don’t stand for, which is tattling. Elizabeth says she wished she had tattled on them.

Yeah, standard twinfight stuff.

That night, around ten, Evie makes an emergency call to Mary. She and her grandma went for pizza after they dropped Mary off. They were in a booth with the high partitions and ended up next to Ellen and Kimberly but Team Evil (or half of) didn’t realise it. They bragged about their great plan, which was Ellen is the person who ratted on them. It was a ploy to make Kimberly look like a rebel standing up for the little guy (e.g. all the privileged kids who wanted take-out pizza for lunch) all the while pinning the blame on Mary.

Mary wishes that Evie had a tape recorder on her and then they could have played it over the PA system to out them both. Sadly that wasn’t an option. But Evie reassures her that Mary’s plan will work. Kimberly achieved nothing but getting a bunch of people stuck with weekend detention, Mary’s plan will hopefully give them what they want.

When they tell the rest of Team Good the next day there’s a bit of grumbling before Elizabeth agrees with Evie that this is a good sign. If Kimberly’s only idea is “make the other guy look bad”, she’s got nothing. And Mary holds all the cards.

(Cards, may I remind you, that are left all over the Wakefield Compound and printed out on the Wakefield computer. Just sayin’)

“What’s this?” I asked the next morning as I sat down for breakfast. Sitting right next to my plate at the breakfast table was a big white box with a red ribbon around it.


You know, it might be a sky present, it contains clothes. Straw boater hats and buttons saying “VOTE FOR MARY WALLACE”. Yep, that’s useless stuff I won’t wear. That’s a sky present. [Raven: *mwa*]

We cut to Mary at school, lobbying for votes. Some people won’t have anything to do with her because she’s a rat, but Aaron Dallas has a face turn, saying that wasting his weekend in detention made him re-evaluate his politics. He even agrees when Mary asks him to spread the word that she didn’t rat on everyone.

By the end of the day, it looks like Mary’s sure to win. The tide has turned on Kimberly, whether it was the detention, the cool kids spreading the word, or whether they have decided that a level-headed person making a cool and logical case is a better representative than a shouty hot mess like Kimberly, people are firmly on Mary’s side.

After school, Mary and Elizabeth bump into Mrs Willard who says she hopes to see them all soon. They say they can’t speak for everyone, and won’t really know where they stand until after the election. Mrs Willard does not care. She says regardless of their squabbles, the children depend on them, so deserve to have the teens around. [Raven: While I actually agree, this does seem like guilt-tripping.]

After she leaves, Mary and Elizabeth realise they haven’t thought about the kids at all, and they’re “as bad as the Unicorns”, then they realise that they’re both feeling like the Unicorns are Team Evil, and they’re not part of that. And it doesn’t really feel like a temporary fight.

“Still think things will really get back to normal after the election?” Elizabeth asked tentatively.

“I hope so,” I said. “Not just for the sake of the kids at the center but for everyone’s sake. Especially Mandy’s. I think this is harder on her than it is on any of us.”

Poor Mandy. She was torn absolutely in two. Not sure about who we all were or where she fit in. She was totally confused.

Oh do absolutely fuck off. I’m sick to death of Saint Mandy. I’m using The Tears of a Saint tag on this entry, and it’s not Elizabeth’s tears. It’s fucking Mandy, who I absolutely loathe. Seriously, book. Fuck you for killing my enjoyment of this character.

We cut to Elizabeth and Mary shopping for posterboard for their campaign posters, when Kimberly and Mandy walk in. Mandy listens to Kimberly chatter and helps her find some posterboard for her use.

Mary and Elizabeth make themselves known. Mandy pales, and it looks like she’s considering running away again – jeez, all those times I mocked Elizabeth for her lack of spine, I take it back, Elizabeth is a fierce and powerful role model in comparison to Mandy. [Raven: Mandy does not come out of this book smelling of roses, that’s for sure.]

Mary says that she thought Mandy wasn’t taking sides. Mandy says she wasn’t. Mary accuses her of “aiding and abetting the enemy”, and Mandy loses her shit at the word “enemy”. She says she’s done nothing wrong, Kimberly isn’t her enemy, and Mandy just gave her poster advice and she’d have given Mary the same if she’d asked. Then she stomps off.

Hopefully straight into the sea.

That night Elizabeth helps Mary practice her speech, and I will give Elizabeth kudos here, she gives some really good notes. It’s like she’s a real person. Actually, I will say that Elizabeth is the character I like the most in this awful book. She’s got less patience for Jessica’s nonsense but isn’t utterly toxic. And I suppose expecting a Wakefield not to fat-shame is a ridiculous ask. All that said, everyone is fucking horrible, so it’s not the compliment you might think it is. Let me rephrase it: of all the main cast, I hate Elizabeth the least in this book.

It takes a couple of hours, but Mary gets the speech down properly. She wants to take it home, but Elizabeth says no, she’ll over-practice and be stale. So she’ll just keep it in the Wakefield Compound and Mary can refresh herself in the morning.

And after all my proclamations of doom, this is the one that will pay off. Team Evil are going to steal it and deliver it first, aren’t they? And then Mary will have to go out there, and either repeat word for word, or say nothing. And all that will be heard is a stunned silence and a dropped water bottle in the back of the room. Like in Bring It On, except in this case the routine is actually really good. [Raven: I’m still invested in this book, and I’m boggling at how they will resolve everything back to normal in the few pages we have left.]

The next morning is The Big Day. Mary waits for Elizabeth before school, and kids wish her luck. Randy Mason says that he’s voting for her. Even though he hasn’t heard her platform, Kimberly got kids into trouble, and she didn’t. Um, that was true last time she asked, Randy. You’re just phoning this in, aren’t you, ghostie?

Kimberly and Team Evil rock up and insult Randy. Mary says that maybe she doesn’t need a strategy, maybe she could just wait for Kimberly to lose by insulting all the voters. Kimberly sneers at her and offers a bet. The winner gets all the Unicorn jackets. Or, to put it another way, the winner gets to keep the Unicorn Club.

Mary thinks of everyone’s hard work, and agrees to the bet. [Raven: SHIT IS GETTING REAL.]

At this point a distraught Elizabeth rocks up. Any guesses as to why she’s late? If you guessed it’s because she couldn’t find the speech, give yourself a big predictable pat on the back. If you correctly guessed even the computer file and backup disc are gone, then well done. I genuinely didn’t think about that. I was pretty sure that Elizabeth had no idea that backups were a thing, since she doesn’t even know about the undo command.

They go into assembly, and Elizabeth frantically scribbles down what she can remember. She remembers the opening line, “I’m not going to get up here and tell you what I promise to do. I’m going to tell you what I’ve already done.”

And seconds later, Kimberly takes her place at the podium. Her opening line is: “I’m not going to get up here and tell you what I promise to do. I’m going to tell you what I’ve already done.

Jessica then arrogantly owns up to stealing it, and holds out her hands for a high five from Lila and Ellen. Just fucking die. This is not our Jessica. Our Jessica would have justified the theft, and then lied and squirmed her way out of it. She would have gaslit Elizabeth until Elizabeth was half-convinced that she’d handed over the speech to Jessica willingly. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but that’s the real Jessica – a sneaky little liar, not a brazen thief. [Raven: I mean, this is HUGE for the relationships within the group. They can’t just hand-waive this away, surely?]

Obviously Kimberly’s speech brings the house down. Some idiot in the audience actually says “hooray!” which I’ve never heard outside of 80s media.

Now Mary is up. She wants to withdraw, but her friends are like, “You MUST go up there!” and “You can’t give in!” without for a second thinking how horrible it would be to stand in front of the whole school with nothing to say. Let the girl withdraw and complain privately. Or just fucking rage. Go up there and yell, “Kimberly stole my speech. Jessica literally just gloated about it to me.” But as the person with all eyes on her, let her make the decision.

Well, Mary’s more determined than I am. She gets up there and somehow manages to get through by talking about the four-book limit policy in the library, and endures all the heckles (fake snoring and “speak up!”).

And then she runs off to the library to have a well-earned cry. I’m not mocking. I don’t like this book, but damn that was not a fun thing for her to go through.

Mary avoids her morning classes and then Team Good track her down. To the surprise of nobody, Kimberly won by a landslide. Evie asks why don’t they tell Mr Clark, and Maria says they’re not squealers. Oh, shut up. Squealing is “Who threw that spitball?”–“Jessica did!” not “Kimberly and Jessica stole my hard work and passed it off as their own.”

Elizabeth says that she feels responsible. Elizabeth, you fucking are. You are an idiot.

Mary thinks otherwise though.

Mary waits until the middle of the next class and sneaks home. Team Good arranged to meet at her house at seven. Proving that people can meet at the Wallace house, as long as the plot doesn’t need Team Evil to have access to their secrets.

Tim (her stepdad) is so furious he has to be talked out of driving over to the Havers’ and giving the family an earful about their shitpit of a daughter and her awful behaviour. Mrs Wallace just changes the decoration on the cake she made from “Congratulations, Mary” to “We Love You, Mary” [Raven: Did she reshape the letters or something? I guess if she made it she can just pipe on fresh words. Although if we DO rearrange the original letters, we get… “Unicorns Gloat At Mary”. I mean, COME THE FUCK ON.] [Dove: *blinks* … *applauds*]

Not long after Team Good show up, Mandy the Spineless arrives. She appears to need support for her angst because Team Evil were having a party and gloating about stealing Mary’s speech and hard work. She has no idea what to do next.

Will someone just punch this girl until she’s a puddle of alien goo? I swear she’s not human. She’s an imposter.

She is confused. And she never signed on to be responsible for the Unicorns’ actions, she’s just their leader. And it’s really haaaaaaard. And she just wants everything to be niiiiiiiiiice. And it’s not faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiir.

Just. Fucking. Die.

Mary tells her to pick a side. And in a show of spineless solidarity, the rest of Team Good feebly presses themselves against the wall, to show that this is a Mandy/Mary conflict, and by expansion, they give zero fucks about this plotline (despite all the earlier bitching that implied they did).

Is there any reason I should care if nobody here but Mary cares?

Mandy bursts into tears and run out. I swear to god that’s been her motivation in every single scene. To either be near tears or in tears and then to exit swiftly without doing anything except moaning about how haaaaaaaaaaaaaard liiiiiiiiiiiiiiife iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

[Raven: Yeah, this is the result of using Mandy to accomplish just one thing for the entire book. Her “journey” is short and one-dimensional. Poor Mandy, shoehorned into this transparent plot conch.]

The next morning, Mary is laden down with a box full of jackets. Which shows more respect than I’d have. I’d have held the jacket by the sleeve and dragged it all the way to school. Preferably through as much dog poo as I could find. But then again, I’m petty. And I really hold a grudge when work is stolen from me. At work it’s a fucking meme if someone says “Susan’s macros” (not her real name), everyone clamours to yell, “No, Dove! WE KNOW THEY’RE YOURS!” The theft happened eight years ago. I do not forgive. I do not forget. I am legion. I am many. And one day Susan will fucking pay.

There is a surprise assembly and Team Good grab seats together.

Finally, Mr. Clark leaned toward the mike. “I have been informed that the popular compromise regarding the restoration of off-campus lunch privileges that was presented yesterday was not the work of Kimberly Haver.” Everyone gasped. “It was really the work of Mary Wallace. Her campaign speech was stolen by the opposition.”

Mr. Clark took off his glasses and let out a weary sigh. “Stealing work and passing it off as your own is an unconscionable act. Frankly, I cannot find words strong enough to express my outrage. And unfortunately, our national elections do not set a standard of honesty or integrity for our young people to emulate.”

He then announces that they will have a second election as the first count will be disregarded. Also Mary and Kimberly will need to report to his office immediately… to wait for the results of the election? Wait, whut? So, Kimberly isn’t going to be disqualified for being a thief? And she’s being called to his office to await the count, and not for a telling off? For fuck’s sake, this school is rubbish.

As they walk to the office, Kimberly accuses Mary of being a squealer. Like, dude, you’re literally scum of the earth, and you’re trying to shift blame? You’re not a victim here.

Mary sasses back that maybe Ellen let it slip, like she did about them sneaking out of school, then refuses to reveal her source.

Kimberly continues to be an absolute cunt, because they have to wait outside Mr Clark’s office. Kimberly taunts Mary, who ignores her, and her face-pulling draws the attention of Mrs Knight, his secretary. Kimberly claims to have something in her throat, and is allowed to get a cup of water. Which she immediately pours over Mary, and then calls her a squealer again, while Mary screams in shock.

This girl is an absolute piece of shit. I really fucking hate her. Can she go back to Atlanta, preferably in a pine box? [Raven: Kimberly Haver, reinvented as a bellend.]

Mary refuses to “squeal” and blames her scream on a cramp and while she’s moving her leg around to work out the phantom cramp, she kicks Kimberly, which stops the nonsense.

(Um, so basically, my takeaway is: hurt your bully back or they’ll never stop?)

When they go in to Mr Clark’s office, he announces that Mary won massively. And Kimberly has another four hours of detention. And, unlike all previous books, he has no interest in finding out who else assisted her in this scheme, and he’s just going to let it slide. You know, like in all the other books where… oh wait, didn’t he gleefully disband the club at a drop of a hat?

Theory: Mr Clark is banging Mrs Haver?

[Raven: I was totally expecting expulsion here.] [Dove: Same. So intellectual property theft (as well as physical theft, if you count the print-out) is exactly the same as going off-campus at lunch. This is not a detention problem. This is a “call the parents and tell them to rein in their daughter before she becomes a real problem and work with the parents to solve the problem” problem. But sure, Saturday detention will solve everything. I mean, this is the guy that wanted to suspend the Unicorns for the theft of his toupee. Again it just looks like Mr Clark gives zero fucks unless he’s the target.]

After Kimberly leaves, Mary asks how he found out and he refuses to give his sources.

Dude, it’s Mandy. I didn’t even mention it earlier because it’s so fucking obvious.

At lunch, Team Good sit with Mandy in the Unicorner. Team Evil stomp over to hand over their jackets.

“But I don’t care how many jackets you guys have,” Kimberly said with a sneer. “You’ll never be real Unicorns.”

I believe that every single word Kimberly has spoken has been attributed with a sneer.

Mary chucks her own jacket at Kimberly and says she has no interest in being a Unicorn. Team Good follow suit.

Obviously Mandy just cries, because she’s a fucking waste of space. After some dramatic tears, she resigns from the Unicorns and comes clean that she told Mr Clark that Kimberly stole the speech. And then she walks out.

“I don’t get it,” Ellen said. “Is she resigning from them or us or what?”

“Shut up, Ellen,” Kimberly barked.

“Well, is she?” Ellen persisted.

Kimberly didn’t bother to answer. She just jerked her head in the opposite direction and Ellen, Lila, and Jessica followed.

“I’m as confused as Ellen,” Elizabeth said after they were out of earshot. “Is she resigning from them or us?”

This, while not funny, is as close to humour and in-character Ellen as this hopeless ghostie is capable of, so look at this, and work out whether or not you want to waste your time on this book.

And to wrap things up, Team Good have renamed themselves the Angels. [Raven: Excellent name for them. Also, NO HARD RESET?!]

And Mandy is undecided. I hope she dies before the next book, because she’s literally the worst.

Final Thoughts:

I hated this book. This book was awful. I liked it far better when it was Tug of War, and that was a pretty bad book.

I hated Kimberly for being a toxic harpy. I hated Team Evil for being so one-note. I hated Team Good for not actually being that nice. I hated that Lois was written as equally bad as everyone else (even though I justified her actions because we bullied fatties stick together). I hated the plot. I hated the treading water. I hated the way everything was telegraphed a mile off. I hated the way that nothing worked independently of the plot – in the sense that if this plot wasn’t happening and these were background events, they wouldn’t work, for example, the weird shopping centre that gets no shoppers except tweens on their lunchbreak.

And most of all I hated Mandy Miller. God god she’s a waste of paper. You know in the Twilight series when Edward leaves and there are all the blank pages to show how Bella is nothing without him? That would have been more fun to read than any scene with Mandy in. She’s just this empty void who seems to be having the worst time ever while being the worst person ever.

I hope she has to move to Atlanta before the next book or something. I hate her.

[Raven: Usually, Dove and I share similar opinions on these books. But not today.

I really liked this book.

Before I expand, I must confess that there are issues with it. These issues go from bad writing (Mandy’s dissipation into the background) to the downright toxic (the multi-directional fat-shaming from all sides) to the bizarre (Lois being an artist and a bitch) to the unfathomable (pop-up mall near the school, and just tell Mr Clark they stole your damn work). But despite the legion of missteps, the book kept me intrigued, literally shocked me in multiple spots, built tension and suspense, and legitimately left me very excited for the next book. It ticked all the boxes.

I liked the detail in the Student Council sections, especially the prep by Team Good. I liked the Trunicorns being perfectly retro (even if I didn’t like the way Lila, Jess and Ellen jumped ship immediately). I liked the cameos from everyone (bar Lois), and I liked Mary much more than I expected. And I LOVED the fact that it didn’t reset to the Norm, and that we’ve a second part to the story in which all bets are off.

Unlike Dove, who rails against every slight to the series continuity, I’m old and frail and my memory isn’t as sharp as it once was. I can shed such things like water on feathers. The issues I had with this book did not do enough to marr my overall enjoyment. They are glaring enough to make me pause and take stock, but I can’t with good conscience bad-mouth something that got my pulse racing more than once or twice.]

[Wing: I didn’t like the book as much as Raven but I didn’t hate it as much as Dove, either. It’s just kind of there for me. It wasn’t great, I’m surprised by the lack of hard reset, I hated what ghostie did to Mandy and Lois, I loved that half the Unicorns went right back to their old ways (or this ghostie’s version of the old ways), and I loved this recap.]