The Unicorn Club #8: Kimberly Rides Again

The Unicorn Club 8: Kimberly Rides Again
The Unicorn Club 8: Kimberly Rides Again

Title: Kimberly Rides Again

Tagline: The Unicorns hit the trail!

Summary: Guess what? Just when the Unicorns were finally back to being cool (count me responsible for that), some of us started hanging out with those goody-goody Angels again. Please! Don’t they know that exclusivity is what being a Unicorn is all about?

Well, I know just what it’ll take to rev up the Unicorn spirit: an amazingly awesome trip to a dude ranch—and the hottest thing about it is the gorgeous riding instructor there. He’s tall, strong and absolutely perfect for me. The only problem is, the other Unicorns think he’s perfect for them too!

Initial Thoughts

That cover is such a weird mix of Western and English gear. Is that Lila looking all rich and fancy there in the red?

I’m surprised Dove and I didn’t switch for this book, to be honest. She’s much better with the horse girl details than I am, though I suppose the dude ranch setting might put it more strongly in my wheelhouse.

None of us has been real thrilled with the storytelling choices lately, so we’ll see how this goes.

[Dove: On any other rotation, I would have switched with Wing, but the next book is an Ellen book, and Ellen trumps me losing my shit over how much horse stuff they get wrong. I don’t really like Kimberly, I’m sick of this series knowing absolutely nothing about horses, and I couldn’t give a fuck about the Unicorns, so this book is not going to go well for me.]

[Raven: I despise Kimberly. She “wrote” this book. I’m going to hate it, aren’t I… Bugger.]


My name is Kimberly Haver, and it was all my idea, from the very beginning. Let me just say that right up front.

At least someone’s taking responsibility for something. I guess that’s a good start.

I’m having doubts about whether Kimberly would actually think a dude ranch was something cool to do, and I’m not sure if I can suspend my disbelief. Is this one of those rich people “slumming” it things? I’d buy her wanting to do some sort of spa weekend or music thing or even riding somewhere else, but a dude ranch doesn’t seem like it would have any actual appeal for her, or at least not enough for her to be the driving force behind this trip. [Dove: But she later mentions that the magazines they read have been raving about it. It’s a really classy dude ranch, which… *shrugs* well, this is set in a universe where the Wakefield Compound can be both a split-level and a ranch house, so… sure?

Also, is nobody going to remember that Jessica hates horses? She’s scared of them? They tend to rear up (bullshit) every time she gets on them and it’s hilarious how bad she is because she causes horses to rear? Ok, cool. Just checking, y’know, since it’s a well-established fact. But cool.]

[Raven: Yeah, and haven’t the Wakefields been to a dude ranch before? Weird that Jessica doesn’t mention that.]

[Wing: I certainly didn’t remember either of those things. Luckily, I’m not getting paid to be consistent, ghostie. Though I suppose you aren’t, either, considering how little the Sweet Valley books care about consistency.]

Anyway, the Unicorns gather at Kimberly’s house to make their final arrangements. Kimberly’s glad that all those boring and goody-goody people are out of the Unicorns (and into the Angels) but annoyed that the Unicorns are having trouble being loyal to each other.

I don’t understand why everyone can’t just get along, and if sometimes that means putting up with stuff you don’t like, then tough.

Kimberly, Kimberly, Kimberly, you are the last person I expect to suck it up and deal with it when it comes to anything you don’t like.

Lila bought an entirely new wardrobe for the weekend, which is perfectly in character and also sounds horrifying and hilarious: purple cowboy hat, denim shirt with metal bolo, gray alligator-skin boots.

Jessica thinks it’s cruel for her to wear a reptile. I — uh — what — but — Jessica? Really? I know she sometimes loves animals (and yet has been terrible when left in charge of them [Raven: But there is a bear cub and a seal pup that beg to differ here.]), but suddenly she cares about not wearing animals? What about eating them? Has she gone vegan, too? Except clearly not because she’s literally wearing leather sandals.

Kimberly rightfully calls her out on this, and I laugh, especially when Jessica walks back her complaint. It’s not cruel to wear reptile so much as it is weird.

Oh, Jessica.

Kimberly goes on to insult the Angels when talk turns to the recent (and short lived) quarantine; Jessica speaks up in Elizabeth’s defense and then Mandy’s too. She even admits that she misses Mandy, as does Ellen.

Dove misses the real Mandy, too, but the one we’ve seen over the past few books hasn’t been much like our beloved original. [Dove: Maybe Mandy didn’t get cancer, but a slow-acting parasite that has taken over her body and we never really knew Mandy, just the last iterations of what made her Mandy before the parasite ate her soul? And a soul-eating parasite is exactly the type to be at home around Kimberly.]

Lila and Jessica want to give Mandy another chance with the Unicorns, to invite her along for the weekend. Which is an interesting enough suggestion on its own, but even moreso because Kimberly’s family is paying for everyone. I know Lila’s family can step in and cover Mandy, but that’s still quite a thing, to invite someone else along on an all-expenses-paid trip.

(Lila even calls this trip a generous offer and talks about how they’ve thanked Kimberly a hundred times. That seems very unlike Lila.) [Raven: I’d like to think that’s pure passive agressive sass, pointedly indicating to her friends that Lila would appreciate similar thanks for all the shit she gives them.]

Lila convinces Kimberly to go along with this plan by tempting her that they might steal a member away from the Angels, and this works.

“All right!” Jessica and Lila slapped each other a high five. Ellen tried to join them, but they lowered their hands and she ended up smacking her palm against the wall instead.

“Um… way to go, wall!” Ellen said with a shrug, and we all laughed.

Ghostie, I am not here for the amount of awkward stupidity you’re already writing for Ellen. [Raven: Nah, you can respect someone and still laugh like a drain when they fuck up a high five. Ellen is legit the best thing in this book.]

Mandy hems and haws over coming with them even though she loves riding and is really good at it, but in the end decides to join them.

Friday at lunch, Lila brings them gossip about Janet Howell. Janet, long-time readers will remember, is Lila’s cousin and former president of the Unicorns who has now gone off to Sweet Valley High. Lila drags it on and on and Kimberly internally mocks her for it, which did make me laugh again.

Lila has a habit of drawing out these little stories into major murder mysteries. She’ll tell you her arm is broken, and then it turns out she broke a nail.

That does sound like an overly-dramatic Lila! Occasionally Kimberly’s inner dialogue is quite funny. [Raven: There is sass here, for sure. Not much else, sadly.]

The big disaster is that Janet starting liking this guy Chris Blake but Lila’s new best friend Cindy also liked him and when Chris asked out Janet, Cindy was furious and won’t talk to Janet, and then Chris told Janet that he’d rather they just be friends. Janet is humiliated over everything.

Kimberly is unsympathetic because no matter how cute a guy is, he’s not worth losing a friend. Which is a sentiment I also believe! (Replace guy with any gender term, and I believe it.) But seems out of nowhere for Kimberly, especially with her standing in as the epitome of Make the Unicorns Great Again. The old Unicorns would cut a bitch over their men.

Odds of this setting up some shenanigans at the dude ranch? High.

Odds of me caring? Low.

[Dove: What follows is a lengthy scene where everyone but Jessica agrees that it’s sisters before misters, but Jess tries to make the case that y’know, sometimes it’s totes ok to stab your friend in the back for a guy, before caving to peer pressure and agreeing sure, sisters before misters. I’m certain that’s not foreshadowing.]

Ellen begs them not to fight over the weekend because her parents have been fighting all the time and she can’t handle hearing it elsewhere when she’s finally getting a break from it. As much as Ellen has felt like a caricature of herself, this is sad. Poor girl. [Raven: I’m sensing major foreshadowing for the next book.]

Kimberly talks up the dude ranch on their trip over, and Mandy ends up worried that the horses may race along the trails rather than what she likes.

“Tears around the trails?” Mandy repeated, drumming her fingers against the armrest. “Really? Like, how fast?”

I examined her face, which was starting to look a little pale. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Aren’t you looking forward to riding?”

Mandy cleared her throat. “Oh, sure. It’s just that the last thing I need is to be riding the Kentucky Derby on some mountainside trail, on the edge of the cliff. I’m more the… relaxed, trotting kind of rider, you know? I like ambling along at a casual pace. That way I get the chance to observe nature, listen to the birds, stop and smell the roses, and all that.”

Mandy, did you lie about your experience or are you truly just worried that there won’t be a single horse or riding opportunity that you would prefer?

Ellen’s worried, too, after Kimberly’s story.

“I tried galloping once, and I nearly had a heart attack.”

Funny line, but this cannot possibly be true. We’ve seen Ellen around horses before, and I could have sworn she was at least a competent rider, if a jerk when she’s being stable Ellen. [Dove: Absolutely true. Ellen owns a horse called Snow White. Her father allegedly rides “wild mustangs” (which I think is a ridiculous claim to make). In theory, she should have tried it at least once and enjoyed it if she’s a rider.] [Raven: While it’s true that Ellen has horse experience earlier in the series, I remember her being around horses turned her into a major fucking bellend. I for one am HAPPY to remove that memory from the canon and stick with the daffy Ellen we have in this book instead.]

Mandy lets out that she and the Angels are having a car wash the next weekend to raise money to do activities with the daycare kids. Mandy’s not sure yet how much they will charge for it, but maybe a dollar or two. That is also bullshit. I was having car wash fundraisers around the time this was published and did not live in a rich area like Sweet Valley and we made at least $5 a car if not a lot more.

Lila worries Mandy with her talk about how much work it will be, and Mandy gets the great idea to invite them to join her and the Angels. Everyone else is excited about the idea but Kimberly shoots it the fuck down. Shocking. [Raven: I also appreciated Lila doing the maths behind their price plan, and concluding it didn’t make financial sense. Fowler to the core, people.]

The more I hear about the Sunset Dude Ranch, the less I believe Kimberly would think this such a wonderful adventure to have and Lila would agree to go. (Now Kimberly’s saying it’s for people “who like roughing it.” Lila’s response: I can rough it as well as the next person. I LOVE YOU, LILA.)

Lila is disturbed by the rudimentary suite they’re sharing (rudimentary. suite. words I did not expect to type together); Mandy wants to stay inside and learn about all the history of the place (…you lied about riding, didn’t you. Damn it); Kimberly’s dad is sappy over her (an attempt to humanise her, I think, but I don’t want her softened.

They split up as such: Lila, Jessica, and Mandy in one bedroom and Kimberly and Ellen in the other.

“Do you see any cute cowboys out there?” I asked Mandy, joining her at the window.

“Nah. They’re probably in their room, just like us,” Mandy said, rubbing at a spot on the window. “Polishing their spurs or something.”

Polishing something, at least.

About thirty seconds in, Lila and Jessica are bickering over space, and I am exhausted about how much we’ve focused on Lila overpacking. Okay! We get it! She’s an impractical rich girl! Do something with the damn plot already. [Raven: Careful what you wish for.]

Ellen and Jessica swap places because apparently Jessica also overpacked, and even Kimberly is annoyed at all the bickering. Oh no you don’t, Kimberly, we will not have this in common.

She doesn’t need much room, she claims, because she’s there “to ride, not to put on a fashion show.”

Ghostie, what are you doing? You’re really setting up a Kimberly Just Isn’t Like Most Girls but in a way that makes her the smart, mature, fun one and not, you know, the truth.

Mrs Margot comes to tell them about dinner and mentions her son, Herbert, will be their riding instructor. Once she’s gone, the girls spend some time making fun of his name, which means he’ll be the hottest thing they’ve ever seen in about two minutes from now.

None of the other guests at dinner have any cute sons; it’s mostly older couples and families with young children.

And then Herbert the Hot Cowboy Crooner shows up to sing them songs and pretty much every single one of these girls falls in love.

(Herbert the Hottie: Deep blue eyes, sandy brown hair, battered cowboy hat, model-like cheekbones, tall, faded jeans, soft plaid flannel shirt. Okay, he could be pretty hot, I’ll give them that.)

Herbert comes over to introduce himself, and the girls fall all over each other trying to impress him. Kimberly talks herself up as an old pro at riding and calls the others absolute beginners, fish out of water, etc. He takes this in stride and no one calls her on it, not even Mandy who is also allegedly a decent rider.

Jessica and Kimberly bond in their room that night, right up until she tells Jessica that she’s fallen in love with Herbert the Hottie. Jessica flat laughs in her face because Kimberly is apparently always in love with someone for a couple of days at a time then she gets bored and moves on.

Kimberly argues that this is like fate, and Herbert the Hottie is absolutely perfect for her. When Jessica asks, she can’t explain why more than it’s like a sixth sense, it’s like fate, etc. Jessica is having none of this.

“Whatever.” Jessica didn’t sound convinced. “Kimberly, you know, Herbert’s a lot older than you. I don’t think it’s a good idea to really fall in love with him. You’d probably only get hurt, and that wouldn’t be worth it, would it? Yeah, you’d better give up now.”

Torn here! On the one hand, this advice implies that Jessica actually learned a lesson from her own older boy shenanigans. On the other hand, I’m not sure I believe her learning a lesson considering how rarely this series allows for things like that with any consistency. [Dove: And also, there’s the whole thing where she warns Kimberly that all’s fair in love and war, so she’s after Herbert too.] [Raven: Yeah, that’s a pretty important point. Red Flag from Jess.]

They’re woken by a clanging bell the next morning, and Kimberly rushes to get ready first so she’ll look her best before they spend time with Herbert the Hottie. The others aren’t really slacking either, though.

Jessica: Dark purple jeans (okay, love that), long-sleeve white t-shirt, and black cowboy boots. Leather boots there, Jessica? Isn’t that cruel? (Also, they’re Elizabeth’s. Do I believe Jessica actually asked to borrow them? NOPE.)

Mandy’s “cool, retro outfit”: shirt with red piping, red cowboy boots.

Uh, I’d like some more details before I can determine if it really is cool and retro.

Ellen: New Hard Rock sweatshirt over black jeans and black riding boots. (The boots are consistent with her previous riding experience, at least!) [Dove: Of course, all the jeans aren’t. If they ride a lot, they should be in jodhpurs. Ellen should, at least, since she shows Snow White. And so should Lila, who owned a horse and bought all the gear.] [Wing: I didn’t even clock the jodhpurs thing, though Dove is obviously correct. I always rode in jeans because Western style, no jodhpurs (and we all know about my inability to pronounce it), but Ellen and Lila for sure should have them, and likely Jessica too, because Elizabeth does from her time in the stables. Though I can see Jessica ignoring them in favor of purple jeans. Can’t really blame her for that.]

Lila looks straight out of the Ride in Style catalogue: Alligator-skin boots with real silver spurs (what the ever loving fuck), blue jeans with leather patches on the thighs (I assume between the legs as reinforcement for the saddle, not just on the front of her thighs, but I’ve seen jeans like that, too, so…. form over function is possible), a bolo tie with a turquoise clasp over a crisp, pressed white blouse. (How the fuck does she have a crisp, pressed white blouse here?)

Lila falls on her face almost immediately when a spur catches on the rough wood floor. This is but one reason not to wear spurs, and not even the most important reason. (You shouldn’t need to use them! That’s the most important reason! Ride better!)

Mandy continues to act weird, turning pale when they ask about the horses, not being up for eating breakfast, lying that she’s just fine — why did you lie about your skill, Mandy? W H Y ?

Finally she says she’s going to call her mom and see if she can come get her and, when pressed, admits that she’s terrified of horses. [Dove: *sigh* No, that’s Jessica.] [Raven: And Raven. Neighing titmunchers all.]

God, that sucks. I still don’t understand why she agreed to go on this trip and talked about her riding experience when she’s that scared of them, but sure, okay, rolling with it, and if I roll with it, I am desperately sympathetic. Poor girl.

“But you guys don’t understand. I have to go,” Mandy declared.

“Why?” I asked. “I mean, I hate snakes, and you don’t see me forcing myself to have one for a pet or anything.”

“I have to, because…” Mandy sniffled again. “Well, ever since I recovered from my cancer, I promised myself I’d seize every opportunity that came my way, that I’d never say no to any kind of adventure. So when you guys asked me to come along, I had to say yes. And I wanted to spend the weekend with you guys, I really did. Only I’m scared to death of horses, and the thought of riding makes me want to throw up.”

Oh honey. Oh, oh, oh honey. This is part of the Mandy I’ve missed.

Though everyone else promises they won’t be upset if Mandy decides to stay back instead of going riding, Kimberly offers to ride with her since Kimberly knows so much about horses. The Unicorns are fairly supportive, and I do like to see that. [Dove: Being British, I translated this as Mandy would be on a separate horse, on a lead rope. Apparently not. Apparently it means she will be on the same horse as Kimberly, which is pretty much the least safe way to get over a fear of horses. FFS. One falls (and it’s likely, if you’ve got someone who’s terrified), both fall. And falling safely is an art. It’s not really something you can do with a human of equal size attached to you. Unless you’re a pro-wrestler, and, as far as I know, neither girl is.]

Before they head out to meet Herbert the Hottie, they check out the day’s events, which include riding lessons, lunch, more riding, a big barbecue for dinner, and line dancing.

Ellen doesn’t know what it is, and fair enough on that. Lila calls it goofy, Mandy thinks it’s pretty cool and even knows how to, at least a little. She promises to teach Kimberly to dance since Kimberly will help her ride. [Dove: Except Jessica, Ellen, Lila and Mandy actually took a class in line dancing as part of their PE course. They hated it.] [Raven: Blimey, that’s next level recall from Dove… Great work!]

Line dancing can be a lot of fun and quite complicated! And it’s not just a country western dance, either. Here are a couple of the ones I love to dance:

Part of what I love about line dancing is the community of it, the way strangers come together to dance the same basic steps which are then manipulated to show your individual style. It’s a social conversation, a feeling of belonging even if only for the few minutes of the song, it’s seeing yourself one part of something bigger. There’s a similar feel to a marching band performance, the group precision, but with more room to show your own personality.

I went off on a tangent about social dancing, specific dance moves versus line dancing, shared culture, etc., but all that’s doing is distracting me from what we’re actually here to do, which is recap this book, so I’ll get back to that.

Kimberly daydreams about Herbert the Hottie and manages to walk right into Mandy. This, understandably, makes Mandy worry about whether Kimberly is the person to help her ride. Fair point. If she’s already walking into people…

The girls try to impress Herbert the Hottie (how early they get up, taking guitar lessons, Lila’s father owning a couple of ranches in Wyoming SINCE WHEN but also I’d believe it), but finally Kimberly moves them on to the horses. I can’t believe I’m glad for Kimberly in this moment, but I am.

Horse time! I love horses.

Kimberly chooses (or is chosen by) Catalina, a 4-year-old chestnut mare with a white stripe down her nose (my first horse had a white stripe down his nose, and I loved him so), who looks young and full of energy and, more important, big and strong enough to carry two people.

You, uh, should probably mention that to Herbert the Hottie one of these minutes.

Sure enough, when Herbert the Hottie learns that Mandy is inexperienced and afraid of horses, he takes her under his wing even though all the girls start offering to have her ride with them. On the one hand, as much as I hate girls fighting over a guy, them stumbling all over themselves to try to share a horse with Mandy is kind of hilarious. On the other hand, it’s also stupid because there’s no way a dude ranch would allow unknown riders to double up, and at least one of them should have figured that out.

Which he doesn’t allow, to his credit. He also doesn’t check Kimberly’s saddling job before she mounts, which is a big oversight that could leave the dude ranch with a lot of liability when something goes wrong.

Lila’s horse startles her and she falls into horse manure and loses her mind. Not unexpected and also, a fair reaction to flat out landing in a pile of shit.

Herbert the Hottie talks to the girls about various places they’ve been, including Kimberly living in Atlanta and Herbert the Hottie off to Mexico (and Jessica, too, or at least she claims to love it). His favourite place is right there on the ranch, though.

Kimberly’s jealous of Mandy getting to ride with Herbert the Hottie (and fair enough on that, riding together can be pretty intimate) and tries to talk her into being scared again (which is a shit thing to do). She then gets upset that Herbert the Hottie tells her ride at the end of the line, but that’s where you put an experienced rider and she really should know that if she’s as good as she claims.

She’s proud when he tells her why, though, and happy for him to rely on her.

That doesn’t last too long, because soon enough Mandy and Herbert the Hottie are laughing away about her terrible cowboy cries.

“How does that go? Yippie-yo-ho-ho?”

Herbert laughed. “No, not quite, Mandy.”

“Yodel-ay-ee-hoo?” Mandy asked.

“I think that’s on the Swiss dude ranches,” Herbert said. “Maybe up in the Alps somewhere.”

“Heidi’s dude ranch, you mean?” Mandy joked.

Cheesy but cute.

Jessica’s also annoyed at Mandy and she and Kimberly even complain about how convenient Mandy’s fear of horses was. She never mentioned it before and now she gets Herbert the Hottie all to herself. Of course she’s faking it.

Good fucking god, you two. [Raven: And this is why the original Unicorns need to fucking GO.]

And if Mandy ends up actually faking it, I am going to be D O N E with this damn book.

They ride for a few hours before stopping for lunch, and that, too, seems like quite a ride with a bunch of preteens (a) they don’t know the extent of the girls’ riding skill and (b) only send one staff member along with them, and him a teenager himself.

Lila tries to talk her way into riding with Herbert the Hottie after lunch because she’s saddle sore, but as Kimberly points out, one saddle is the same as the other. Also, two people on a horse is even less comfortable than one if you’re not used to it.

Kimberly tries to convince him to show her harder trails, ones that challenge her more. He says the tough riding is south of the ranch where there are fences to jump and streams to cross. If she comes back another weekend, he’ll show her.

She, of course, takes this basically as a declaration of love.

Jessica’s gone off in the direction of the pond and starts screaming for help. The girls are terrified she got bitten by a rattlesnake, which is a fair concern! But she tripped over a rock, she says, and thinks she’s broken her ankle it huuuuuuurts.

God these drama queens. [Raven: This is it. This is the book.]

Herbert the Hottie carries her back to the picnic blanket while she swoons and talks about how she could ever ride back on her own now.

This finally boots Mandy off Herbert the Hottie’s horse (heh) and over to riding with Kimberly while Jessica rides with him and he leads her horse.

Well played, Wakefield. Well played.

Jessica terribly sings old country tunes on the ride back, her pain apparently gone as she jokes around with Herbert the Hottie. Kimberly fumes that she apparently doesn’t have any friends at all.

Back at the ranch house, Herbert the Hottie says Jessica might need to go into town to see the doctor if her ankle is broken. Are you — please tell me you’re teasing her, because there’s no way you actually think it’s broken.

Jessica waves that off but isn’t quite so casual when Kimberly points out that even with a sprain, she won’t be able to do any dancing.

It’s a miraculous recovery then!

Kimberly argues with Jessica over faking an injury, Ellen’s all dreamy over how it was like something from a romantic movie, and the girls end up fighting because they all like him. Kimberly flat out tells them that they may all like him, but she’s the only one who should spend time with him because it was her idea to come in the first place and she’s the only serious rider.

Oh, Kimberly, you know that’s not going to get any of them to back off, particularly not Jessica and Lila.

Mandy and Ellen try to talk Kimberly down once they’re alone, but Kimberly’s having none of it. She calls Mandy out on faking her fear, and Ellen is shocked at how cruel Kimberly is being.

Later Kimberly and Herbert the Hottie groom the horses together and she brings talk around to the harder trails again. Some of them even he wasn’t allowed to ride until a few years ago; those aren’t for tourists but for the people who live there. He also likes to ride at night, and there’s even a trail just perfect for moonlit rides called the Moonlight Madness Trail. A little too on point but not as boring as Sweet Valley’s naming convention.

Herbert the Hottie calls her pretty and then a cute kid and then Kimmie. She hates being called Kimmie but decides she’ll happily put up with it from him, especially when he talks about them maybe sharing the first dance that night.

Dance clothes!

Kimberly starts off in a white blouse with tiny flowers embroidered at the collar and a short black skirt. Jessica tells her it makes her look about ten.

Jessica: Short red dress with black polka dots that ties at the back and black flats, with silver earrings. Kimberly tells her it looks like something she would have worn in fifth grade, and then takes back the silver barrette she loaned Jessica during the drive up.

They argue over Herbert the Hottie (Kimberly’s only jealous, he only pities Jessica, Jessica’s pathetic, Kimberly’s pathetic, blah blah blah) and it all results in Jessica storming out of the room with all her stuff and Ellen having to move back in.

Mrs Margot tries to teach Kimberly some line dancing but knows so many moves that Kimberly keeps getting dizzy and confused. Which is fair! It can be hard for people to learn a bunch of different moves. That’s why a line dance is generally better taught one step (heh) at a time and not just individual moves first.

Ellen tries to order everyone to stop fighting but I don’t see that going very well. They’re all excited by the buffet at first and it does sound good (burgers, ribs, salads, soda, extra hot and extra sweet barbecue sauce).

Kimberly says the hamburgers are buffalo burgers and I can’t decide if she’s being honest or trying to scare them off the food. That’d be a big loss, because buffalo burgers are delicious.

She also tries to intimidate them by talking about how much Mrs Margot taught her when it comes to dancing.

Ellen again tries to get them to stop fighting and people start turning on her for being a goody-two shoes.

They badger Mandy about faking her fear until she’s in tears and Herbert the Hottie comes over to check on her and then offer to teach her how to line-dance starting with the very first song.

Kimberly loses her shit over this, but manages to rein (heh) it in enough that he doesn’t notice how angry she is.

Later Ellen and Kimberly are pretty much the only ones not dancing and, of course, Kimberly is fuming that Jessica and Mandy keep being too close to Herbert the Hottie.

Ellen and Kimberly join the floor for Boot Scootin’ Boogie. Kimberly nearly kicks Jessica and then Mandy, which makes her so happy, and then Herbert the Hottie gives her a thumbs up and comes back to join them, complimenting Ellen on her dancing.

He then moves on tot dance with some of the little kids, and Kimberly is furious that Jessica and Mandy spent so much time with him.

The dance (it was surprisingly hard to find a video of this and I gave up after a bit; this one isn’t the best):

Mandy and Jessica are impressed by the beauty of the night, the dancing, the mountains, the full moon — and yet still no werewolves.

Herbert the Hottie comes to dance the last dance with Kimberly — right up until Jessica “accidentally” dumps a full cup of red punch all over her white shirt. Goddamn, these girls.

Kimberly storms off back to the suite and decides that she does not want to be a Unicorn any longer, not when it means being in a club with Mandy and Jessica.

The rest of the girls come back in sometime later all aflutter over the dance. Kimberly fumes and eavesdrops, but when Ellen comes to their room, doesn’t want to take it out on her because Ellen hasn’t done anything wrong.

She settles in to try to figure out a plan and decides that it is a beautiful night with the full moon, perfect for a ride, and if she feels that way Herbert the Hottie must too.

Kimberly finds it very creepy to be outside by herself but is determined to take Catalina up the Moonlight Madness Trail. It takes her awhile but she finally finds a small sign with MMT and a quarter-moon carved on it.

She knows she should take it slow because she’s not familiar with the trail but instead she sends Catalina into a canter and then into a gallop. [Dove: *headdesk* Well, that’s a good way to break your horse’s leg and your own neck.]

Kimberly freaks herself out, is scared by an owl, and rides Catalina straight toward a huge redwood log across the trail. She hesitates, Catalina balks and rears, Kimberly crashes to the trail, hitting her head hard and twisting her ankle all the way around.

Catalina runs off and Kimberly is alone on a trail too injured to walk and terrified by all the things that might be around her. She does not want to spend the entire night out there but knows she has no real choice, no one will realise she’s missing until the next morning.

Fifteen minutes later, though, she hears multiple horses coming up the trail and Jessica shouting her name. It’s Jessica riding bareback and Mandy on Catalina! [Raven: So… many… Pervy… Steven… jokes…]

Mandy went to talk to Kimberly after everyone went to bed and once they realised she was gone they went to check the barn. Catalina found them there, Jessica was certain that horses went to find help when their riders were hurt (“Or is that Lassie…” Oh, Jessica.), and yet there’s no real explanation for how they knew the right trail to take or how they got there that fast when they’re both inexperienced riders, particularly Mandy, but okay, I just want this done. [Raven: Well, they explain that away as Mandy “overheard” Herbert and Kimberly discussing the trails, and presumably the Moonlight Madness one, earlier in the book, so…]

Kimberly apologises for how she’s been acting since they met Herbert the Hottie, as do Jessica and Mandy. They agree to go to a beach in Hawaii instead of a dude ranch next time and to make sure it has no boys to distract them. [Dove: The ghostie is probably unaware that the last time the Unicorns went to Hawaii, it wasn’t the greatest trip ever.]

The girls make it back without any trouble and without getting caught. This dude ranch is one giant liability after another. Good lord, the adulting fail that swept Sweet Valley follows these girls everywhere.

Kimberly tells the others what happened [Raven: Which results in Ellen’s greatest contribution to this book…

“That’s incredible,” Ellen said once I had finished explaining what had happened. “What kind of owl was it?”

I mean… *chef’s kiss* ] [Wing: While recapping, it didn’t make me laugh, but coming back to it with your comment, I did. Separate from the annoyance while recapping, Ellen was fairly funny in this book.]

They all agree to remember that friends come before boys (I don’t believe that at all, we’ve already seen them agree to that and then fail), and Kimberly asks Mandy if she’s ready to rejoin the Unicorns.

Mandy hems and haws (yet again, I’m sure Dove is thrilled with this) because she loves being friends with them but she also loves being an Angel.

Kimberly says she can’t be in both clubs at once, but Elle wants to know why not. Jessica points out she won’t have time for anything if she tries to do that and the rest of them try to talk Mandy into joining them and all the fun they’ll have and how much they need her fashion sense.

Mandy likes all of that, but she also likes what the Angels are trying to do as a club, helping people, etc.

Kimberly suggests the Unicorns help out the Angels at the car wash the next weekend and they sort of leave things there.

The next morning, they see Herbert the Hottie kissing his girlfriend Gladys O’Reilly. What the fuck is up with these names?

It takes all of them to help Lila pack all her shit later that day and they try to figure out what to say when they’re back at school and have no pictures of them with cute boys after all the bragging they did.

They come up with a story about fake boys, and their names are Ben Steel, Joe Grant (as if we need another Joe), Johnny Lonestar and his identical twin Jimmy Lonestar. Kimberly had a line dancing accident and that’s how she sprained her ankle.

Ellen’s the last person Kimberly’s dad has to drop off and Kimberly notices she’s been acting a little weird. Ellen doesn’t want to open up about anything but between her begging everyone not to fight and the short lead-in to the next book, Ellen’s Family Secret, we’re clearly headed for divorce. (If it was a different series, I’d say odds were also good for child abuse, but we’d never see that so directly impact a main character.)

Final Thoughts

Could not connect with this, though it had a couple fun moments. Hate that Kimberly continues to be such a divisive person; I miss the Unicorns we saw in the first couple books. As glad as I am to see something actually change in the story, it feels like we had a real change in how the Unicorns started acting differently and expanded their membership and now that’s been ripped away. Ghostie tried too hard to make Kimberly sympathetic, which both failed and annoyed me.

Come on, series! Give us something better.

[Dove: Wasn’t a fan of this one. The continuity was pretty dire – oh, so Jessica is fine with horses now, is she? And Lila and Ellen are newbies? Ok – and the story was dull as dishwater. I have no interest in watching a bunch of girls fight over a boy. And I continue to loathe Kimberly for being a very basic villain. I suppose if I was being kind, I could say that Mandy had improved in this book, and if I continued to be kind, I could acknowledge that if this Mandy had shown up before the past couple of books, then I’d be fine with it, but I think overall, Mandy as a character is just dead to me. Kind of like how even when Steven’s being a good brother, I loathe him with every fibre of my being. Some times it takes one rubbish book to destroy any goodwill a character can muster. (Although in Steven’s case, I don’t think it’s every occurred to a ghostie to try and make us like him.)]

[Raven: Yup, this was pretty half-arsed. Sure, it had a lot of sass, some genuinely funny dialogue (especially from Ellen), and a half-decent Mandy (I do not bear a grudge like Dove), but the whole Herbert plotline was appalling. It felt like a music-hall cabaret skit or low-rent west end farce, and I just didn’t give a shit. And of course, Kimberly Haver can get in the fucking sea. I want the Newnicorns back in action, at the day centre, bonding with the kids and being awesome.

One thing to mention… is this the first book in which Elizabeth doesn’t make any sort of appearance AT ALL?!]