#24 Cousin Kelly’s Family Secret
(with spoilers for SVConfidential)
This was always one of my favourite SVK books. Why? Because I was an intelligent child (despite my reading of SV to an age much, much older than I should have been) and I grew up to be an English teacher. And this book has- wait for it- CONTINUITY! A fact my young self appreciated.I know, right? I hear you cry ‘But it’s Sweet Valley! Continuity is to be laughed at- or rather stuffed in a blender and spilt over the Spanish style kitchen and fed to Francine Pascal as she reclines on the sofa in a perfect Size 6/4 depending on her mood and whips her ghost writers when they stop typing and occasionally offers wisdom for them to include in their art “Oh, the Wakefields are having a family crisis? Throw in a Todd punch. He’s not there? Doesn’t matter- write him in. Or have a Ned punch! Ohhh, I’m mixing it up right here, I’m so awesome at writing. And throw in some more references to blue/green eyes while you’re at it.” ’
Come to think of it, my best friend has blue/green eyes and I’ve never compared them to the ocean. I think that would change our relationship quite a bit. Also, I live in Britain so… grey.
Anyway! Our cover has an easy job for the artist- he’s drawn the same girl three times. In the same outfit as our cousins attempt to look like triplets except Kelly has her t-shirt tucked inside her jeans- why? She would look more like the twins if she had them out loose like them. However, this scene does happen in the book so we have our first continuity example.
Ch1- ‘Kelly’s coming!’ aka ‘Fifty Shades of Blue/Green’.
The twins are in school colouring in pictures of turkeys for Thanksgiving. Elizabeth is being a rebel and drawing her turkey blue. That’s crazy Liz. CRAZY. But as Ghostie explains, this shows that she has a vivid imagination and likes daydreaming about magic carpet rides and talking animals. I’m pretty sure both of these featured in some SVTwins books. So…the ghost writer has inadvertently compared the SV writing style to that of a 6 year old. Also- Jessica is the opposite. But they look alike! And can read each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences (really? Do we ever see them do this?)
Jessica doesn’t want a blue turkey for Thanksgiving. She apparently believes Elizabeth’s drawing is going to come to life. Or that blue turkeys exist. Jessica is a moron.
Exposition time! Lila randomly brings up the fact that the twins’ cousin Kelly Bates is going to be visiting and will come to school with the twins. But mystery! Why is she coming early when her parents will be coming on Thanksgiving Day? Now this could easily be explained. It could just be a nice trip for Kelly to hang out with the twins. But no. It’s a mystery dammit!
Continuity alert! Kelly’s parents are Laura and Greg- if you have ever read the SVH#45 Family Secrets, you’ll know that Laura used to get beat up by Greg and then left him. Kelly being a bitch, blamed her mother for this and repressed every memory until she went out with a guy like her Dad (Freud alert!) and then remembered. Hmm. The cover of that book resembles this- so this is the prequel if you like.
Jessica colours her nails in purple with a crayon because they look pretty and because she is a moron.
Ch2- ‘No Appetite’
The twins have tidied up and got their room ready for Kelly. As she and Aunt Laura arrive, they yell ‘Hi’. Who yells hello when someone walks into the room? That’s just rude. Kelly is hiding behind her mum and talks ‘quietly’. SOMETHING MAY BE WRONG. Jessica wants to show Kelly her new doll who has red hair which grows when you push her tummy button. I used to have one of those but it took too long so I’d just yank the hair to make it stretch and then I’d feel bad for the doll. Why does Jessica have a red haired doll? I didn’t think red heads were allowed in SV unless they had expensive silk shirts. Lizzie wants to talk books- has Kelly read ‘Sailor Seagull?’ That sounds awful Liz. AWFUL. Jessica with the tact of Francine herself then asks why Kelly came early. Why does it matter Jess? But Kelly instantly becomes quiet. SUSPICIOUS. To cheer her up, Jess suggests playing triplets as Kelly has blonde hair and blue eyes (not blue green. She’s inferior you see and has a past.) Liz suggests making up a play- three little pigs? Billy goats gruff? Oh dear. If these things actually happened and Alice and Ned had to sit through them, then I understand their abandonment of the twins later on. Jess, the only one with gumption suggests “Three musketeers” (take that, supposedly well read Liz!) and a spontaneous sword fight ensues. This is actually pretty awesome. Up until Laura leaves and Kelly gets all worried again and won’t eat dinner. The twins can’t understand this. She’s thin therefore she is allowed to eat in Sweet Valley- why won’t she?
Ch3- ‘A Sleepless Night’
Kelly wakes the twins up by crying. Jessica runs off to get Alice (aww. This is exactly what I would have done as a child). Liz starts to feel like crying too (she hasn’t realised the powers of the shoulder pat yet.) Alice comes in and starts rocking Kelly. Sniff. A good parent for once! Whoops, spoke too soon ‘cause then Alice explains to the twins that Laura and Greg aren’t happy being married and might get a divorce. IN FRONT OF KELLY. Who cries harder. Well done Alice. Couldn’t have sent the twins away for some milk and cookies and spoke to Kelly privately and explained to the twins later? No, let’s rub the salt in the wounds. Alice explains they want some time and that’s why Kelly came early. Also, it’s private so the twins aren’t to discuss it with their friends and she wants them to give Kelly the royal treatment. Ugh, awkward! Poor Kelly. In the illustration everyone looks sad- Steven, Alice etc… but Jessica is grinning at her. Oh Kelly- couldn’t you have gone to Robin and Stacey’s instead? Robin was always the coolest cousin.
Ch4- ‘Three Peas in a Pod’
The girls wake and decide to dress like triplets. They all have jeans and blue tshirts. I could believe that. Jessica is excited about everyone seeing them and they cause a big fuss. Even Crystal Burton, a third grader comments on them. That’s a great name. She was probably too interesting and well rounded to stick around in Sweet Valley for I’m sure she’s never heard of again. Todd says they don’t look exactly alike but it’s pretty close. Which means, I’m sure, that in The Sweet Life, whilst Jess is off having copious affairs, Todd will seek out Kelly and have it away with her. Then when she’s too much of a simpering wimp, he’ll then go find Robin whom I’m sure looks like the twins too. But she’ll kick his ass because Robin’s awesome.
The twins introduce Kelly to the teacher. However, Lila is suspicious! And doesn’t believe that Jessica doesn’t know why Kelly is here early. My word, these kids have long attention spans! Someone throw a sparkly unicorn at Lila and distract her. You know this means trouble.
Ch5- ‘Jessica’s Big Mouth’
Really- every single Sweet Valley book could have a chapter called this.
Hey let’s set up the next book! Continuity! Todd’s going skiing soon with his family. Jessica thinks he’ll fall down a hill and become a big snowball. She’s a witty one. ‘You’re the one who’ll be a snowball!’ says Todd. Gasp! He knows something they don’t know! Liz goes outside at break to play with Kelly. Kelly wants the swings so they go on the swings. She’s a martyr that Liz. Kelly observes Lila and asks her name- clearly she can sense that she’s in the presence of a higher awesome being. Liz says it’s Miss Know-it-all. Ha! Lila comes up and demands why Kelly is here early. Lila, I love you but let it go! Kids would not care about it! Now Lila’s not talking to Jess, not playing goodcop/badcop, not shining a light in anyone’s eyes, has asked ONE question- and Jessica caves and shouts out that Kelly’s parents might be getting divorced. Wtf Jessica! Liz shouts at her, Jess apologises and everyone starts asking Kelly questions. ‘Crystal Burton’s parents got divorced’ says Lila in a ‘hushed’ tone. Lila, I’m pretty sure your parents are divorced at this point, why are you acting like this? Liz tries to change the subject to a good television programme about…. Elephants. Umm. Well played? Then she tries science homework. Amy Mcslutton says she feels very sorry for Kelly and Kelly starts to cry and run away. I would too Kelly. I would too.
Ch6- ‘Lila’s Idea’
Jess feels bad. She didn’t mean to tell (yes you did). However Lila reminds us of Crystal Burton and says she told Lila she’s glad her parents got a divorce! Why would a third grader tell Lila this? ‘Cause Lila’s awesome. *proud* Lila runs off to get her. Liz and Kelly come back and forgives Jess. See this is why Jess acts the way she does in high school- she gets away with everything! Lila and Crystal come over. Crystal explains that she’s happier now as her parents aren’t fighting, she sees them both. Also- two sets of presents! At least- the ghost writers doesn’t say so but I know that Jessica and I are both thinking it. Wasn’t Jess in favour of her parents’ divorce in SVH? I can’t remember why but I’m sure she supported Alice’s dating Mr Collins. That’s messed up right there. And since Alice also looks like the twins, supports many questions raised about Roger.
Kelly still seems sad. Jessica thinks a good way to cheer her up is to send her over to Todd and try find out the big secret he has. No Jess, don’t! He’ll just hit on her, now or in the future! Or even hit her since that’s the guys Kelly goes for! Actually, by The Sweet Life, Francine will probably have forgotten that the twins even have a family. And they’ll probably be a size2. This idea does cheer Kelly up though and she goes off after Toddles.
Ch7- ‘Kelly’s New Secret’
Dinner at the Wakefields. The twins get stuck putting dishes away (is this the first time we ever see Jess do this?) and Kelly gets to eat ice cream in the ‘TV room’. I will never understand the Wakefield home. So they share a room just now- which has a bathroom attached- which has another room through there… that they never think till middle school to give it to one of the twins? Do they have a lounge- a living room- a tv room….and what is a Spanish style kitchen? What makes it Spanish? Anyway. The kids talk divorces and how horrible it must be. Steven knows someone whose parents are getting divorced. ‘Don’t say to Kelly!’ warns Liz.’ I’m not stupid’, replies Steven. Take that Jess! Kelly comes in and says that she knows Todd’s secret but she’s not telling. That sounds wrong…. How much domestic violence can this girl suffer? However, she seems happy and not even a tickle fight can make her tell. Then Greg and Laura interrupt by phoning. Gits. Sad face Kelly exits the room.
Ch8- ‘We Love You’
No news. They just called to say hello. Jessica’s worried about her parents divorcing. She’s such an attention seeker, there’s absolutely no reason to worry about this with Alice and Ned (Ned not even having had a line in the book yet.) You won’t be worried in a couple of years Jess, you’ll be setting your mum up with hunky horny English teachers and phoning teen party lines as a cry for help! Alice says they won’t ever (bit of an optimist). However she and Ned do have a good parenting moment where they explain that disagreements means they have different opinions and that’s normal. See, they’re not all bad. But why’s it different with Greg and Laura? Probably because he’s an abusive git. Jessica decides to cheer Kelly up by all of them sleeping in the sofa in the den. Three in a bed. Somewhere, future Todd’s head explodes. This idea sounds horrific to me- who has to go in the middle? I’d be claustrophobic. And extra-kicky. Before they fall asleep, the twins declare their love for Kelly. Ick. I feel sorry for her but the girl has no personality.
Ch9- ‘Elizabeth’s Plan’
In the park! Liz has an idea. She finds McSlutton, Eva (who?), Ken Matthews (woo hoo!), Toddles and Winston. I love Winston. Always have. He’s a NICE guy. Funny. Brave. Doesn’t cheat. So of course he must be turned evil and killed off. >L Liz needs them for her idea. Ken doesn’t want to sing a song (yes you do Ken! And you want to sing hand in hand with Todd. “Come- take my hand. No- that’s not my hand…”) Amy’s hanging upside down from the jungle gym. She’s very bendy- it’s practice for the future. Liz wants to make Kelly Queen of the Park. Eva smiles and says it’s a good thing Lila’s not there. Bitch, don’t even. Winston makes a ‘goofy’ face and wants to be a jester. Liz goes round and recruits other kids and because they all know Kelly’s problems, they all say yes. This is Sweet Valley remember. In my town, you’d get bottles and rocks chucked at you. Liz shouts out ‘Hear ye, hear ye- make way for Her Majesty, Queen Kelly!’ Jessica instantly knows what Liz is trying to do. She’s a bright spark that Jess. They stick Kelly on top of the slide as her throne. She declares free ice cream and chocolate for everybody and they all cheer! Poor saps, they think this is real. Winston tells a joke. Liz picks up a crumpled piece of tin foil from the ground and makes Kelly a crown which she puts on. Ewwww Liz! That could have had anything in it! If it came from the carpark outside my flat, it would definitely be remnants of heroin. Kelly announces that there will be a ball every day. That’s not overly ambitious for Sweet Valley. However, in the midst of the fun (really? Fun?) Laura and Greg arrive. Oh noes!
Kelly slides down the slide and goes away with her parents. The twins walk home. It’s very tense. They walk into the living room and find everyone sitting there. Laura announces that they’re not getting a divorce. Just like that? What a weird family moment. Greg says they have problems but they’re going to work them out. No Greg, the problem is that you are an evil but charming git! This is the same man who, in book SVH #45 turns up late for his daughter’s birthday claiming he saw a table (?) which was perfect for her but couldn’t get it shipped and so….brought her nothing at all.
And here lies my problem with this book. It was written after the High school story so….although this is a happy ending to the little kids reading it, when you think about it in the wider context- Laura is staying with this man who will put her through domestic violence and will severely psychologically damage their daughter. This is not a happy ending! It’s the first step to Kelly, being found by random Sweet Valleyers in a monkey suit, barefoot, crying hysterically because her abusive date (Rick Andover maybe?) reminded her of her dad going on one of his rage filled rants, throwing things around whilst Kelly hid under the table…. Serious problems here. Read the high school book though, it’s good, Kelly reunites with poor Laura and all is well. J It’s Sweet Valley, y’all.
So everyone is in a joyful mood. They say what they’re thankful for. Kelly says she’s thankful for having a family that loves her. Gag. We don’t hear what everyone else says. Alice probably says she’s thankful for getting some good parenting moments in the book. Liz probably says she’s thankful for having Jessica in her life and for the term ‘doormat’. Steven’s probably thankful that he is consistently amusing and awesome in the Kids and Twins series (Lord knows it all goes to pervy hell in High School). Jessica is probably thanks for her blonde hair and blue/green eyes and unicorns and purple and shiny objects and sister’s boyfriends. Ned probably punches a wall for no reason other than Francine attempting some “layering” of the characters. And Toddles, somewhere (probably staring in at the window), is thankful that there’s another blonde twin to move onto after the inevitable Jess divorce.
Talking of Toddles, what’s the secret? Aha, the Wilkinses are going skiing and have invited the Wakefields to go with them! ….Really? Why? They’ve never seemed friendly. And why was Kelly so excited about this- she’s not invited! Do you think years down the line, Alice and Ned and Todd’s parents and sometimes invisible sister/brother will all get together and recall the time Todd lived with Elizabeth and slept with her sister then married her? I don’t think they will think this ski trip such a good idea then. Awkward!
My first recap! :D Hope you enjoyed.