Title: Sweet Valley Kids #4: Elizabeth’s Valentine
Author: Francine Pascal/Molly Mia Stewart
Tagline: One of the twins has a new friend!
Description: Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield can’t wait until Eva, the new girl in their second-grade class, arrives from Jamaica. When Elizabeth is picked to show Eva around school, the two become friends, and Jessica begins to feel left out. After all, she and Elizabeth are supposed to be best friends.
To get back at her twin, Jessica ignores Elizabeth and pretends to keep secrets from her. She even pretends she has a new best friend. Elizabeth can’t understand why Jessica is being so mean. Everything’s a mess, and it’s up to Eva to help Elizabeth and Jessica become friends again!
Oh, sure, the one character of color in all of Sweet Valley is the one who’s made to solve these little white girls’ problems. *eyeroll* (This part of the story isn’t actually as egregious as the description makes it sound, but I was ready to go on a rant about how certain people are expected to perform the bulk of emotional labor for everyone around them.)
I read a shit ton of Sweet Valley Twins and SV High starting around age 8 or 9, but I don’t recall ever reading any SV Kids. So again, we have a book I’ve got zero nostalgia for. But I read the first book in this series around a week ago to prove a point to myself about how the twins’ ages and birthday are really messed around from series to series (Sweet Valley continuity is . . . not really a thing), and I decided to recap this one for Valentine’s Day, since it is ostensibly a Valentine’s book. Turns out Valentine’s Day is really just the backdrop and doesn’t really inform the main story at all, but . . . such is the wonderful world of Sweet Valley.
We open with Jessica Wakefield (whose seeds of sociopathy have been planted but haven’t fully sprouted yet) waking up in the morning, sick of being sick, because she’s missed the last three days of school due to having the flu. She wants to go back to school. No, she hasn’t body-swapped with Goody-Two-Shoes Elizabeth ( . . . what would an identical twin body-swap even look like?), she’s just bored with being at home and wants to meet the new girl joining the class today.
Elizabeth pops into the bedroom to see how Jess is feeling, and thinks to herself that they’re identical on the outside, but not on the inside! Well, let’s cut you open and see, shall we? Wait, no, what am I doing; they’re seven for fuck sake. Anyway, Elizabeth likes school and reading; Jessica likes playing with her friends. I take this to mean that Liz hates playing with her friends and would rather be doing their taxes.
Jessica mostly wants to go to school because they’ll be making Valentine cards in class today, and the new girl, Eva, will be coming from Jamaica and Jess wants to be picked to be her host. (This phrasing makes me question if Eva is really the alien queen from The Faculty.) She just knows if she’s not there to be picked, then the honor will go to her second-best friend (after Liz), Lila Fowler, because Lila has been to Jamaica on vacation so obviously she’s the logical choice to show the new girl around. I . . . I guess that logic makes sense to a seven-year-old?
Jessica insists she’s going to school, because she doesn’t want to stay home and watch TV because all the shows are for “babies” (dude, you’re seven!), reading is boring, and breakfast and lunch in bed suck because her bed is full of crumbs! Ugh, Jess, do you want ants? Because that’s how you get ants. Mama Wakefield needs to be changing your damn sheets, or at least shaking them out every once in a while.
Speaking of Mama Wakefield, she waltzes in, feels Jessica’s forehead, and announces that she is absolutely not going back to school today. Have fun wallowing in your own filth for another day, Jess.
At school, Lila announces to Liz that she’s sure to be picked to host the new girl, since she’s the only one in class who’s been to Jamaica. Yes, Lila, and I’m sure the actual residents of Jamaica didn’t dread dealing with tiny entitled white tourists, either. (I was born in Bermuda (military dad), and my mom likes to tell stories about how the Bermudians were chill with the military families, but fucking dreaded dealing with the American and British tourists because they were all so rude and clueless, and probably a little racist, too. Also, everyone who lived there a while was able to tell the difference between American and British tourists on sight, apparently.)
Liz is excited about the new girl, and thinks maybe they can be friends, proving that she started her “new best friend of the week” trope in fucking second grade. Eva is introduced to the class, and this writer (I’m assuming this is a ghost writer just like all the other Sweet Valley series) is apparently relying on the cover art to inform us this is a character of color, because she’s only described as having dark eyes and a fluffy ponytail. (I mean, she’s from Jamaica, but that doesn’t definitively mean black. Let’s remember in Mean Girls Lindsay Lohan was from Africa. And you can’t just ask people why they’re white, Karen, oh my god!)
Apparently the teacher, Mrs. Becker, had told the class that Eva would have an accent that sounds a little bit British, so she’s obviously never heard a person from Jamaica speak before.
Lila informs Liz (and anyone who will listen) that Eva’s dress is a special Jamaican dress, but it turns out to be Eva’s old school uniform – a blue jumper with a white blouse underneath. Lila, you are . . . well, you’re you.
For some fucking reason, Mrs. Becker seats Eva at Jessica’s empty seat, right between Liz and Lila. Did nobody bring in an extra desk for the new student? Is she going to have to sit on Jess’s lap when she comes back to school?
Liz and Eva greet each other like normal human beings, while Lila brags to Eva that she’s been to Jamaica. Eva apparently chooses to ignore this. Then Mrs. Becker assigns Liz to show Eva around, because Liz has the highest Social Studies grade, and I guess that’s important when it comes to dealing with people from other countries. At least Liz won’t be constantly screaming in Eva’s face that she’s been to her country and knows more about it than Eva herself. Elizabeth squeals and informs Eva that that’s her; she’s Elizabeth! And Eva responds, “E for Eva. E for Elizabeth. And E for Excellent!”
Okay, that’s obnoxious and precocious as hell.
And of course Elizabeth laughs and thinks to herself that she knows they’re going to be good friends!
This book is reminding me why I don’t want kids.
At lunch, Lila barges in on Liz and Eva, and announces that she, Ellen Riteman, and Amy Sutton (Elizabeth’s best friend after Jess) will be sitting with them. Ellen points out that Eva has an accent and demands that she “say something long.” LOL what the hell, Ellen? Eva doesn’t seem to mind, and says “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,” which Lila then tries to imitate in Eva’s accent but concludes that it sounds better coming from Eva.
Amy asks if there are sharks in Jamaica, and Eva makes a joke, which everyone laughs at but Lila, who declares that sharks are horrible and only tomboys like them. That’s a dig at Amy, who it seems started her tomboy career in grade school. Also, fuck you, Lila, sharks are awesome.
The next morning, Jessica is well enough to come back to school, and she walks into class to find everyone clustered around Eva. Todd Wilkins is showing her his baseball glove, and Amy is braiding her hair. So, Tomboy Amy knows how to braid hair? And on top of that, she knows how to braid Black hair? In Sweet Valley? The whitest town in the world?
Jessica is annoyed and pouty because no one notices she’s back, and she thought they would all make a fuss over her. Of course she did. Jessica came out of the womb a narcissist. She complains to the teacher that someone (Eva) is sitting at her desk, and Mrs. Becker thinks for a moment, and then comes up with a brilliant solution! She asks Amy, who sits on the other side of Elizabeth, to let Eva take her seat. Okay, but then where is Amy going to sit? Oh, wait, she has Amy move to an empty desk.
What? There are empty fucking desks in this classroom, but you decided it made more sense to make other kids give up their desk to the new girl? Their desks, which have all their books and papers and things in them? What. The. Fuck. Teachers in Sweet Valley are the absolute worst, what the hell.
Elizabeth introduces Eva to Jess, and Jess is unhappy that Liz made a friend that’s not her. Or something. Then she checks to make sure everything in her desk is where it’s supposed to be, although she’s always made out to be such a slob that I don’t know how she’d tell the difference.
Mrs. Becker announces that Valentine’s Day is next week, and they’ll be making their cards the day before (including “secret” valentines), so Jessica’s fear of missing out was unfounded. Liz whispers to Eva about the cards, and Jess is pissed because how dare Elizabeth whisper in class to someone who’s not her! Then Lila snarks to Jess about Eva’s jumper (the school uniform she’s still wearing, because she hasn’t been shopping for regular clothes yet), and says she doesn’t like Eva very much. Jessica agrees, and they begin to plot Eva’s murder together. Haha, no. If Lila wants someone dead, she’ll just pay a servant to do it.
Saturday morning, Mama Wakefield makes animal-shaped pancakes for the girls (“See this circle? That’s a snake eating its own tail. It’s never too early to learn about the ouroboros and the infinite circle of death and rebirth!”), and reminds Liz that Amy is coming over to swim in their above-ground pool. No matter how many times I’ve read that this is an above-ground pool, my brain insists on picturing an in-ground pool. I’m shocked that the Sweet Valley Home Owners Mafia allows eyesores like above-ground pools.
Because this is a book for seven-year-olds, there are illustrations. So, they’ve at least built a deck onto the above-ground pool to class it up a little.
Elizabeth asks her mom if she can invite Eva over to swim, too, and Mama says she’ll call Eva’s mom and ask. How she has their number is anyone’s guess. Then she reminds Jessica that she can’t swim because it’s a little too chilly and she doesn’t want Jess getting sick again.
That . . . that’s not how viruses work.
Jess pouts, and Liz wonders why she’s in such a bad mood, then hopes she’ll just cheer up already, GOD!
Amy arrives and she and Liz cannonball into the water. I’m not sure how they got a run-up on this above-ground pool, but okay. Also, Elizabeth has an inflatable shark, so I’m sure she’s wishing Lila were around to shove it in her face.
We’re told that Amy goes from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end on a kickboard, and I’m very confused right now. While I was reading this, I asked Boyfriend if he’s ever heard of an above-ground pool having a shallow end and a deep end, and the expression of confusion on his face matched mine. How? See, shit like this is why I’ve always pictured an in-ground pool. Talking about deep ends and shit . . .
Anyway, Amy is trying to learn to swim, and Elizabeth tells her Eva is a great swimmer, which she proves by doing all sorts of water-acrobatics when she shows up. I’d also like to mention that Eva, a black girl, jumps into the water with abandon, no swimming cap, and apparently not a fuck to give about what that’s going to do to her hair. Look, I’m white, but I’m led to believe that’s going to fuck up her hair royally and this is something no black woman would do. Or let her kid do. But, you know. Sweet Valley, y’all.
Elizabeth makes a fuss over Eva’s water gymnastics and asks her to teach her, leaving Amy sitting by the pool stewing in her own jealousy. Liz doesn’t notice, because she’s so enamored with her new friend, who is just like a mermaid!
Liz finally notices Amy isn’t in the pool, and sees her and Jessica sitting in lawn chairs whispering to each other. Amy declines getting back in the pool and continues talking to Jessica, and Elizabeth wonders if Amy and Jess have a secret. Really? Just because they’re talking to each other? Goddamn, Liz.
Eva asks Liz if Amy is mad at her, which Liz thinks is a silly idea. Then they get out of the pool to look in some bushes because Eva heard a cat meowing. Are you sure it wasn’t just Mac and Foster?
The next day Papa Wakefield asks who wants to go to the park, and the twins are game, but Big Brother Steven says it’s for babies. Dude, you’re nine, and the park is literally for everyone, you tool.
Oh. Liz also says the park is for everyone, and asks Jessica to confirm. Jess is glad Liz is asking her opinion, because that’s how it was supposed to be, and Jess is happy to have Liz all to herself again. Hello, Baby Sociopath.
The twins and Dad ride their bikes to the park, which is apparently full of kids from their class, because that’s just how things work in Sweet Valley, I guess. Jess is glad Eva isn’t there, and then she and Liz take off for the seesaw. Lila rides up to show Jess her new bike, but Jess only has eyes for her sister at the moment and blows Lila off. Careful, Jess. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a book where Lila learns to use witchcraft against those who don’t give her the attention she feels entitled to.
Lila tries to entice Jess into playing on the jungle gym, or playing tag, then stomps off in a huff when Jess turns her down.
Then Liz sees Eva and jumps off the seesaw, almost sending Jessica tumbling to the ground. Hahahahaha!
Jessica is pissy that Liz told Eva about the park, like she wouldn’t have figured out on her own that it existed, and Eva offers to buy them both ice cream. Jess declines and wonders if Elizabeth likes Eva more than she likes her.
So, we’re more than halfway through this book that’s titled “Elizabeth’s Valentine,” and so far valentines have been mentioned, what? Twice?
At the bus stop on Monday, Charlie Cashman, who likes to tease the twins, teases them by yelling, “Twinnie! Look-alike!” at them. Yes, Charlie, you have grasped the concept of identical twins. They do, in fact, look alike. Gold star.
Elizabeth notices that Jess seems off, but she has no idea what she could be mad about. When the bus comes, Jess hurries on and sits with some third-grade girl so that Liz can’t try to sit by her. Ooh, burn!
When they get to class, Jess stomps off when Liz suggests they say hi to Eva before checking on the classroom hamsters, then she sees Lila ignore Jess. Elizabeth can’t figure out what’s going on or who’s mad at who and why.
At lunchtime, Jess makes a big deal about Amy sitting with her, turning away Liz and Eva. Liz has no idea what’s going on, because Jess doesn’t like Amy; she thinks she’s too much of a tomboy. Oh, just wait til you all get to high school, girls.
The next day, Mrs. Becker announces they’re going to make their valentines, and asks for a volunteer to pass out the art supplies. Caroline Pearce volunteers, but fuck her, I guess, because Mrs. Becker chooses Jessica and tells her to pick someone to help her. Jess stares Liz down, then chooses Amy, who jumps up and shouts, “Hooray!” Like, I know you’re only seven, but Jesus Christ. Take it down like ten notches already, Amy.
Amy whispers to Jessica that she was supposed to have Liz over after school, but she wants Jess to come over instead. Jessica doesn’t like to play the same games Amy does (I’m assuming Amy likes Monopoly, while Jessica prefers to hunt humans), but she wants to make Liz jealous so she agrees.
Jessica tries to sit next to Lila at an art table, but Lila gets up and moves, leaving Jess puzzled. Why, oh why is Lila acting this way?
Mrs. Becker announces that the first valentines they make will be for their secret Valentines – she knows everyone has someone special they want to give a valentine to! Lady, they’re fucking seven. Todd gets teased about his secret valentine, so he crumples up the card he was making and shoots a look at Elizabeth. At this rate, he should have her knocked up before fifth grade!
Amy asks Jess who she’s making her special valentine for, and since she always makes it for Elizabeth ( . . . special, indeed), she decides to make this one for Mrs. Becker instead. Amy quickly copies her idea, much to Jessica’s annoyance, but she just asks what they’re going to play when they go to Amy’s house; does she have a dollhouse? Amy makes a disgusted tomboy face and tells her no, she has a fort; they can play pirates. Jessica thinks that sounds terrible – it sounds messy! Well, so is bathing in the blood of your enemies, but I don’t see that stopping you, Jess. Also, fuck you, playing pirates sounds awesome! Think of how many people you can make walk the plank!
The next day is Valentine’s Day, as Elizabeth remembers when she wakes up. She starts to put on a red sweatshirt, and Jess is annoyed because that’s what she was going to wear! The book then tells us that the twins “sometimes” dressed alike, but the first book of the Sweet Valley Twins series would have us believe that sixth grade is the very first time they ever dressed differently and Jessica had to trick Liz in order to accomplish it. I know, I know, Sweet Valley continuity isn’t a thing.
On the way to school, Liz tries to think of a way to make Jess and Amy like her again, but she doesn’t even know why they’re mad at her! I mean, really? You can’t figure it out? I thought you were supposed to be the emotionally intelligent one here, the Savior of Sweet Valley! Sure, Jess and Amy are being petty little shitheads, but you really don’t realize their feelings are hurt because you’ve been blowing them off and making such a big deal about Eva?
Elizabeth and Eva feed the class hamsters, and Liz thinks that the hamsters are identical and best friends, and she starts crying. Eva says she’s sorry Liz is sad, and asks if Amy and Jess are mad because Liz likes her.
Secret Valentines are apparently handed out one by one in front of the whole class, presumably to shame the losers of Sweet Valley who weren’t special enough to receive a decorated piece of construction paper from a classmate. Elizabeth gets one that says “To my secret valentine, you are a special friend,” deduces it can’t be from Jess or Amy, then sees Eva smiling at her. Oh ho, “special friend,” hmm?
While the rest of the cards are handed out, Eva passes Liz a note telling her she knows how to make everyone friends again. Then she’s very mysterious about the whole thing, and tells Liz she’ll tell her tomorrow.
The next day, Jessica notices there’s something different about Eva, but she can’t put her finger on it until Liz exclaims that Eva got new clothes! Yup, she’s wearing jeans and a regular shirt just like everyone else. She’s also got a huge smile on her face, like she has a huge, exciting secret, Jessica thinks. Sitting down at her desk, Jessica is mad at everyone – Eva and Elizabeth for spending so much time together; Lila for being mad at her; and Amy for making her play pirates when she’d rather be sacking and pillaging a village for realsies.
During class, Eva passes notes to Jess, Liz, Lila, and Amy telling them to meet her by the swing set at recess. Ooh, mysterious! At recess, they convene by the swings, and Eva pulls a long, looped length of string out of a bag and demands everyone hold out their hands. She proceeds to tie them to the swing set, pour honey over them, and unleash an entire colony of fire ants on them.
Okay, okay, no.
Eva begins looping the string around the other girls and herself until they’re hopelessly tangled together. A bunch of kids stop what they’re doing to watch, and Lois Waller asks if this is a game. No, girl, THIS IS SPARTA! Eva says that now they have to get loose. Everyone starts pulling away, which only tightens the string. Ah, they have to work together to free themselves!
Liz and Amy are the first to cooperate, then bystanders start shouting encouragement and suggestions. Lila and Jess are pissed about the whole thing, but by the time they start loosening the string up, they themselves have also started to loosen up. By the time they get free, everyone is laughing and friends again, because that’s how reality works, sure.
Elizabeth whispers to Jessica, asking if she likes Eva now, and Jess can’t remember why she disliked her in the first place. She says she likes her, but she likes Liz best, because Sweet Valley wouldn’t be Sweet Valley without its all-American co-dependent twins!
Some undetermined amount of time later, all the little girls are swimming in the Wakefield’s above-ground pool again, doing cannonballs and generally acting like it’s an in-ground pool once again. Amy suggests Eva show them all how to do water-somersaults, and Elizabeth is so happy everyone is friends again! She’s glad Eva had tied them up! And here we see the beginning of Liz’s bondage fetish.
They all start hearing meowing coming from the bushes, but this time they find an actual cat. And the way it’s written, it seems like the cat is literally saying, “Meow,” so that’s weird. Especially when it says, “Meee-ow” like some sort of saucy vixen.
Anyway, the girls cluster around this cat, and it must be thrilled to be surrounded by five dripping wet girls straight out of the swimming pool. Because cats love water, right? Jessica wants to keep the cat, despite going on in Sweet Valley Twins to nearly murder a dog, but Elizabeth reminds her that Dad and Steven are allergic to cats! They can never have a cat!
Jessica is very upset, because they can’t just let the cat starve! Yes, there is absolutely no middle ground between adopting the cat yourself and letting it starve. It must obviously be one or the other. *eyeroll*
Elizabeth gulps and asks what they’re going to do?!?!?! –
– and the book ends, having successfully set us up for the next book, which is bafflingly titled “Jessica’s Cat Trick.” Is that supposed to be a play on “hat trick”? Or is Jessica literally teaching this cat tricks?
Nostalgia Glasses Off
I still have no idea why this was a Valentine’s book. It could take place at literally any time of year and not affect the plot one bit.
Anyway, I am greatly amused by this series. You can already see Jessica’s sociopathic tendencies, and the beginnings of Elizabeth’s martyr complex. I mean, these books are terrible, but they are greatly amusing for anyone with any knowledge of the twins and their tropes later on. Also, they’re written for babies, so some standards have got to be lowered.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all my “special friends”!