I just bought this book at a library book sale for 25 cents. Bargain? Or rip off? You decide! Actually…I quite like the book, plot contrivances and all, and it may be my PMS talking, but the ending actually made me tear up a little. I’m a sucker for sappy animal stories, what can I say. I couldn't find a cover pic, but it shows Ken and Elizabeth playing with a cuuuuute little puppyyyyy. The tag line reads: "Can the twins prove that they're not babies anymore?" That really has nothing to do with the main plot of the book, but whatever.
Sidenote before I begin...I found this book hard to snark, as it deals with an animal abuser, which is the kind of person that I think deserves a special reserved spot in the deepest circle of hell. Also, it's not really that bad of a book. The two main things I disliked about the Twins books were that the twins were always fighting, and Ned and Alice were never around being parental. In this book, the twins work together to save a dog, and Ned actually is a pretty decent dad. I know, right? It's bizarro Sweet Valley! Alright, let's get to the book...
It’s raining (in Sweet Valley?! See what I mean about bizarro!) and the twins are so bored that they are reading glassware catalogues (Jessica) and cookbooks (Elizabeth). Twins’ thought process: glassware + cooking = DINNER PARTY!! Ned and Alice nix the idea on the account of: 6th graders hosting a dinner party = mess in the kitchen and lots of broken dishes. They suggest a backyard cookout instead, but the twins are like, god, Mom and Dad, cookouts are for BABIES. (I hastily cancel my cookout party.) They retreat upstairs to think of something else to alleviate their boredom. They realize that Great-Aunt Helen (of the broken arm and expensive gifts...continuity?? Bizarro Sweet Valley!) is having a birthday soon, so the twins decide it would be totes cool to take a bus ride out to Sandy Harbor (where?) and visit her. When they suggest this brilliant plan to their parents, Ned and Alice actually show some good parenting skills by telling the twins that if they are old enough to take a long bus ride by themselves, they are old enough to earn the money to pay for it too. Sounds reasonable to me!
The twins, still married to the cooking idea, decide they will bake cakes and sell them! Alice nixes that by reminding them that bakeries exist. The twins decide that instead of selling things , they will sell services. And that’s how the Wakefield twins got into the sordid world of prostitution. The end. Okay, not really. They decide to be dog-walkers. Elizabeth makes flyers, but then, because it’s 1989 and no one has a printer, they need to also raise money to make photocopies. The twins hit up Steven for the $5.00 needed to make enough copies, and he, knowing how stupid his sisters are, gives them a loan with 50% interest. Oh Steven. This brings the total they need to raise to $87.50 (the bus tickets for both of them cost $80 even). At school, the twins make copies, and Jessica has to blow off hanging out with the Unicorns after school in order to help Liz hand out flyers. Jess is not happy. Liz shows one of the flyers to Ken, and we learn that Ken really, really, really, really (x a thousand) wants a dog, but his parents are awful and mean and sadistic and won’t let him get one. After school, the twins walk around and hand out flyers to people, even if they say they don’t want a flyer, (No, you will take a flyer whether you want one or not!! -Liz) or have huge dogs that are bigger than the twins. Finally the twins get tired of accosting people, and put flyers on cars instead. I don’t know why they didn’t just hang flyers on telephone poles like I would, but whatever. I am really tired of writing the word flyer. Later that evening the twins get a couple of calls from people who are too lazy to walk their own dogs.
The next day, the twins walk two dogs: a little cute dog named Bitsy, and the giant, bigger-than-the-twins dog from before. Here is where I thought the giant dog would take off running, a la Marmaduke, and the twins would spend the rest of the book looking for the lost giant dog. But I was wrong! I was looking for the obvious cliche, but it was not there! Bizarro Sweet Valley! We still haven’t even gotten to the main plot of the book! Also, here is where we learn that Jessica hates dogs, which is fine until you remember that she was the one who brought home Prince Albert in SVH. Maybe she got over it. Also, why did she agree to walk dogs to make money if she hates them? The next day, they walk the giant dog again, and two little terriers. Jessica does nothing but bitch and moan the entire time. At one point, she makes Liz hold all the dogs while she takes twenty minutes trying on a dress in a store. Liz is pissed. The next day after school, Jessica begs off dog walking as she has Booster practice, and Liz scolds her, but ultimately agrees just this once. But you know Jessica: give her an inch, she takes a mile, as the next day she doesn’t even bother to show up after school, and Liz ends up having to ask Ken to help her with the dogs. Luckily, Ken loves dogs to an almost scary degree, so he agrees, and Liz actually has a better time with him, since he doesn’t make her wait outside while he tries on dresses. Or does he? No, he actually doesn’t. He doesn’t get into cross-dressing until high school, I guess. They go to take the little terriers home and the owner asks if they could watch the dogs for the weekend. Liz agrees, because she has made plans to go roller-skating (it is 1989, after all), and she knows she can stick Jessica with all the work. Ha!
That weekend, Jessica is miserably watching the terriers when Lila comes by and asks her to hang out. Now, we all know Lila is more interesting than a couple of dogs, so Jessica really wants to go, but she can’t leave the dogs by themselves. Luckily, Ken just happens to be walking by, and he loves dogs (in case you forgot), so he offers to watch them while Jess goes off to play with Lila. Elizabeth and Jessica get home at the same time, and Liz starts to yell at her about responsibility, but just then a dude in a sports car drives up.
All we really learn about sports car dude is that he drives a nice car, has a little white dog, and “looks mean,” so obviously he must be evil. I don’t know how he got the Wakefields’ address either, as their flyer only had a phone number on it. He asks the twins to watch his dog for the week, for $20 now and $20 later. The twins agree, as this will bring them to exactly $80. He leaves the dog (named Joe) with them and takes off. The twins are all excited about all their money, but then Ken realizes the dog is acting really weird and keeps backing away when Ken tries to pet him. No, Ken doesn’t smell bad, the dog is actually being abused! The kids realize this more fully when they try to give him a bath and discover cuts and bruises all over him. Poor doggy! :( They give him some food and water, make him all clean and pretty, and decide to be extra nice to him for the week they have him. They consider telling their parents what’s going on, but they remember how Ned and Alice told them to earn money without complaining so they decide to keep it to themselves. Wow, they’re dumb. Even for 11/12 year olds, that’s pretty freakin stupid. And what a stupid dog abuser…he just leaves his obviously abused dog with a strange family and thinks they won’t notice?! Okay. I mean…I’m awfully glad he did, for the dog’s sake, but...it seems a bit unrealistic to me. Whatever. What do I know about the thought processes of dog abusers, anyhow? Plus, it’s Sweet Valley.
Ken and Liz walk home together the next day, and Ken shows Liz some special bruise-healing cream he bought for Joe, among other goodies. Ken and Joe play together, and it’s very heart-warming. Even Jessica the dog-hater comes home early from a Unicorn meeting to check on Joe. Altogether now: awwww. Sniffle. Slowly, but surely, Joe starts getting over his fear of humans, and the cream Ken bought heals his bruises completely. The kids realize that the mean dog abuser guy will be coming back on Saturday and they start worrying about what will happen to Joe.
The kids try to think up a plan to save Joe. They think about calling the police, but d’oh! all of Joe’s bruises have healed up, so they have no evidence. They think about taking him to a shelter, but figure that Mr. Dog Abuser will look for him there…unless Joe is disguised!!! Luckily, Jessica happens to have some black hair dye lying around waiting for 5 years from now, when Jessa Fields can be unleashed, so the kids dye Joe’s hair and give him a haircut for good measure. They do a really crappy job of course, so poor Joe comes out a sort of mottled gray. Ken decides he doesn’t like the shelter idea after all, and the kids take Joe over to Ken’s house so he can beg his parents to change their minds. However, the Matthews’ take one look at poor uglified Joe and say no way Jose. Then Ken remembers that he has a cousin that lives out in the country and has a bunch of dogs already. He probably wouldn’t mind another! What a great plot contrivance! And also, this makes Joe’s crappy disguise completely unnecessary!
The next day, which is Saturday, the kids all go out to Ken’s cousin’s ranch. Cousin Fred agrees to keep Joe, and everyone is happy. Fred even makes some pancakes, because what’s Sweet Valley without pancakes? Then, Ken and Joe have to say goodbye. :( Next, the twins head home and Ken decides to go home with them so they can all face Mr. Bad Guy together. They tell him that they accidently lost Joe while walking him, and Mr. Mean throws a fit. He even threatens to sue Ned! Then he stomps off without paying the twins. Wah wah.
The next day, Ken calls with some bad news: Joe has run away from Cousin Fred’s ranch! The kids go looking for him, but can’t find him anywhere. Eventually, they decide they have to tell their parents, and head home to Casa Wakefield, only to find Joe waiting for them! He ran away to be with Ken! (Oh, it’s raining again, so his hair dye all washed out, and he’s back to normal) However, stupid Ned Wakefield went ahead and called Mr. Dog Beater. Gah. Fail, Ned. Mr. No Good shows up and finally Ned starts getting suspicious that Joe seems to hate his owner. The kids, lead by Ken, accuse Mr. Evil of his dog abusing ways, and Ned actually listens to them. See, he can be a good dad when it counts. Mr. Mean finally is like, fine, well I didn’t want a dog anyway, so nyah nyah nyah, and stomps off in a huff. Just then, Ken’s parents show up, and when they realize how much Ken loves Joe, their little hearts grow three sizes, and they allow Ken to keep him. Plus, Joe is all pretty again, so they won’t be an embarrassment to the neighborhood. When Ned figures out that the twins didn’t tell him what was going on because he and Alice told them not to complain about working, he about hits the roof. Stupid kids! Reporting abuse is not the same thing as complaining about work! After he gets done being amazed at his children’s idiocy, he agrees to pay them the $20+ they still need as a reward for saving a dog’s life. So, everyone is happy. Joe gets to live with Ken (yay!), and the twins get to go visit their Great-Aunt Helen. The end!
I don’t know when this trip happens though, as the next book is April Fool! and there’s no mention of any bus trip in that one. Oh well.