Previously: The infamous Devon Whitelaw finally arrived in Sweet Valley, causing Jessica to pursue him sociopathically and Liz to cheat on Todd. But did anything actually happen, you ask. No, not really!
Cover: Features the aforementioned Toddpunch !! (I’m assuming Todd is the guy on the right and Devon on the left). This scene (in the Dairi Burger) does occur in the book, but Liz and Jess don’t restrain them – in Jess’s case, as we shall see, depicting her trying to stop the fight is not only inaccurate but frankly ridiculous…
We begin with the expanded version of the scene in the previous book, where Devon and Liz are kissing passionately in the field behind SVH. Elizabeth is in heaven, but sadly, ‘she couldn’t get rid of two nagging thoughts in the back of her mind – her twin sister, Jessica, and her longtime boyfriend Todd Wilkins.’ OK, so not only has Todd been reduced to a ‘nagging thought’, but he ranks second after Jessica. Cheers, Liz! We are told that ‘Elizabeth’s whole life seemed to have been turned upside down ever since Devon had started at Sweet Valley High a week ago.’ Please to reflect on that. He’s only been there one week.
Meanwhile, Jess and Todd are still at the beach, where Jess has just told Todd she caught Elizabeth with Devon, but Todd is refusing to believe that Elizabeth would cheat on him. Sweet but misguided, Todd, considering this list of cheating examples just from the miniseries:
Figure 1.1: Miniseries cheating of Elizabeth prior to this book
Luke the werewolf (#104-106)
Prince Laurent (#132-134)
Do feel free to add if I’ve missed anybody! Anyway, Jess tells Todd he’s being stupid: "You shouldn’t waste a second crying over my two-timing twin… Millions of girls would be all too happy to have a guy throw them this kind of romantic beach picnic.’ She then comes on to him (!): ‘Don’t you want to make Elizabeth jealous?’ I think this would be a fantastic addition to the twisted love polygons of Sweet Valley, rather than bringing in randomer Courtney Kane (see below) - just to see a scene where the bewildered Wakefield parents try to accept Jess and Todd’s new relationship would be worth it - but alas, Todd is having none of it and storms off to see the evidence for himself.
Jess is left on the beach thinking over the situation, which provides an excuse for flashback to her pursuit of Devon from the previous book. She melodramatically thinks that ‘Elizabeth has stolen the one guy Jessica had really cared about since Christian Gorman had died in that terrible gang war.’ [#120-122.] Poor neglected Jonathan Cain the vampire (#126-#128), Cameron (#129-#131) and Jacques (#132-#134)! (I’m loving the full listing of titles in the back of this book – it makes catching out blatant lies so much easier!)
Right, I’m going to stop calling out inconsistencies now and get on with the story as we have only reached the end of chapter one… Todd hurries to where Jess told him Liz and Devon were and catches them kissing. He disturbingly thinks (in view of Devon’s earlier stalker tendencies): ‘It wasn’t like Devon had taken Elizabeth by force.’ I find it worrying that this jumps into his mind as a possibility, but then this is Sweet Valley. We then switch to Devon’s point of view; it’s started raining but this only makes Elizabeth look more beautiful, apparently: ‘She looked almost angelic. Her cheeks were flushed pink, and her bright blue-green eyes were sparkling in the rain.’ More sparkling! This is giving me Twilight flashbacks. I could have done without those. Devon and Elizabeth head back inside and go their separate ways. Devon then uses an absolutely classic metaphor to describe his and Liz’s newfound relationship:
‘It was like two electrons that completed their atoms’ outer shells and created a stable compound.’
Hahahaha! I love how the ghostwriter is trying to use a ‘characteristic’ metaphor for Devon by drawing on his ‘amazing’ knowledge of chemistry ie covalent bonding. Oh dear.
Todd confronts Devon in the parking lot but does not punch him. He does however state: "You don’t know what I’m capable of when it comes to Elizabeth."
Jess tells Liz that Todd knows about her and Devon. Jess then indulges in some sociopathic scheming. Following a path of dubious logic, she concludes that seeing Todd with somebody else might make Elizabeth run back to him, leaving Devon free for her and Elizabeth all by herself. Jess? Devon Does Not Want To Date You. Please give up. (He really isn’t worth it.) Jess hence phones Lila and asks her to get in touch with Courtney Kane, an old flame of Todd’s (I haven’t read many of the early SVH books so I haven’t heard of her before, but it says here that she and Todd had a fling while he was attending Lovett Academy.) Lila says that Courtney still has a thing for Todd and will definitely be onboard for Jess’s cunning plan.
School! A special assembly is called and Mr Russo announces that there will be a science fair. Chem class! Devon makes rock candy crystals. How? And also, is that not a bit dangerous using lab equipment that’s probably contaminated from millions of other experiments? He feeds one to Elizabeth. Please let her die. Sadly no. Devon refuses to enter the science fair when Mr Russo brings it up.
Elizabeth bumps into Todd later on. She can’t think how to explain herself to him: ‘Elizabeth swallowed guiltily, wondering what to say. That Devon made her see fireworks?’ LITERALLY. Ha ha very funny ghostwriter! Todd is stupid and says he’ll forgive her mistake. Elizabeth says ‘It wasn’t a mistake.’ Todd dares her to look him in the eye and say she doesn’t love him any more:
‘Feeling challenged, Elizabeth did as he said. She stood up straight and stared directly at him. Todd looked back at her with his pained, coffee-coloured eyes.’
She can’t say it to him. I mean, could you?
He gives her the ring he bought for her (hereafter known as The Ring), insisting she take it anyway, then exits.
Elizabeth and Devon go to Casey’s after going to see Hitchcock’s Rebecca at the movie theatre. ‘"What a beautiful story!" Elizabeth said dreamily.’ This would not be my first reaction to Rebecca (I won’t go into details in case anyone’s not read/seen it – if you haven’t, though, do so immediately) but yeah, whatever you say Liz. They then make ridiculous comparisons to Wuthering Heights: ‘It has the same haunting, mysterious quality, doesn’t it?’ Now, I admit it’s a long time since I read Wuthering Heights, but I can’t think of a single similarity. Try Jane Eyre instead, guys! However, I will give the pair of them credit by saying that the rest of their date is actually quite sweet, or at least not dysfunctional.
Makeover alert! Lila and Jessica dress Courtney up to look more ‘Todd’s style’; she wears ‘a long, wraparound black skirt of Lila’s with a scoop neck, ivory-coloured Lycra T-shirt. Her hair was swept up elegantly on her head.’ Todd sees Courtney, Jess and Lila walking across the parking lot later on and reacts thusly: ‘Todd stood rooted to the spot, his mouth hanging open.’ Haha! I think that’s score one for Jess. Although she does have to be melodramatic: ‘Jessica looked back at him and mouthed a word. "Revenge."’ Later, Todd considers Liz and Courtney, but actually has quite sensible thoughts on the matter; he considers using Courtney to make Liz jealous, but decides that this isn’t a good idea. Sorry for the lack of snark here – barring Jess (as always) I was amazed at the level of sanity displayed at this point in the book! But don’t worry, we know it all descends into toddpunching eventually!
Jess gives herself a makeover in an attempt to attract Devon: ‘Her hair was brushed back conservatively, and she was wearing a lot less make-up than usual… She was wearing a plaid miniskirt with a white top, low-heeled sandals, and a pair of diamond stud earrings.’ At this rate, Sweet Valley will consist of nothing but Elizabeth Wakefield clones. She sees Devon and arranges a tutoring session with him after school.
Devon and Jess meet for tutoring. They sit down, open the chemistry textbook and then hilariously quickly descend into arguing. Devon says to Jess "Actually I wasn’t surprised to hear that chemistry wasn’t your thing… you’re obviously not the most scientific person on the planet," which is pretty uncalled for, but Jess’s reaction is great; she shoots to her feet, grabs her bag, and yells (in the library!) "Devon Whitelaw, you are so clueless!" She trashes Liz, and then storms out. Hee!
Todd is doing basketball practice and thinking sensible thoughts about moving on. (I know, I was shocked too!) He bumps into Courtney wearing another Elizabeth-style outfit (‘a pair of light cotton pants and a delicate white blouse with tiny pearl buttons’, if you’re interested. I know we all need to learn how to dress like Liz so we too can attract lots of men and be forced to cheat on them!). Courtney pretends she’s waiting for Jess. Then Todd sees Liz* go past with a stack of books; she waves at him and he notices she is wearing The Ring. This angers him; ‘This time Elizabeth had gone too far.’ He heads off to have pizza with Courtney.
‘"Success," Jessica whispered, an evil smile on her face.’ Reading back the stories I wrote when I was a kid a few years back, I wondered why all my bitchy-girls-at-school were quite so twisted. I think I may have found the source of my inspiration. She heads to Lila’s car: ‘Lila was waiting for Jessica to help her put the final touches on her plot to get back at Elizabeth.’
Courtney and Todd have a great time at the pizza place, and actually recount some vaguely amusing incidents from their time together. I find myself liking them as a couple. Jess checks out that they’re there, then dials the Oracle office, where Elizabeth is apparently working late. Note that we haven’t heard anything from Elizabeth herself about extra work she has to do for the Oracle. Hence I’m sure you can read the subtext in this scene:
"Hello. Can I help you?" a cheerful male voice responded. Jessica recognised the voice as belonging to Mr Collins…
"Hi, Mr Collins, it’s Jessica Wakefield. Is Elizabeth there?""Hi, Jessica," Mr Collins responded, his tone friendly. "If you hold on just a minute, I’ll get her for you."
'A few minutes later, Elizabeth answered the phone, slightly out of breath.’
Mr Collins! What have you been up to? Note that when we get back to Elizabeth’s PoV, she doesn’t mention this episode at all. Clearly repressed!
Anyway, Jess tells Liz to drop some work off for her at the pizza place. Todd and Courtney are still there and having a terrific time. I continue to like them together. They eventually start kissing. Naturally, Liz walks in at the opportune moment (why is the world of Sweet Valley geared to the success of Jessica’s sociopathic scheming?) and rushes out again. Jess observes the success of her plan and is highly satisfied: ‘Elizabeth is getting exactly what she deserves.’
Liz drives around thinking about the situation. She considers her and Todd’s relationship: ‘They’d been through so much together, from him moving away to her brief thing with his best friend, Ken Matthews, o their many silly breakups.’ Liz, I’m not sure Todd thought those were silly so much, as they usually involved you CHEATING on him. Remember BruceLukeJoeyLaurent? But then she thinks…
wait for it…
something rational! ‘This is how Todd must have felt seeing me with Devon, she thought… he must have felt equally hurt and betrayed.’ Elizabeth, it’s called empathy. I’m sure it’s glad to make your acquaintance at last. Note: different thing from sympathy, which involves a larger amount of sanctimonious shoulder-patting. She continues: ‘If she wanted to move on, she had to let Todd do the same… She was going to show Todd just how much she really did care for him – by letting him go completely.’
Liz announces to Jess that she is going to encourage Todd and Courtney’s relationship to try and make Todd happy! HA. Jess is furious and retreats into a sociopathic sulk.
Let us take a moment to reflect. This is a rare time in Sweet Valley. It is a brief epoch in which the little-seen virtues of sanity, rationality and maturity are for once uppermost. Devon and Elizabeth are happy. Todd and Courtney are happy. Elizabeth and Todd want the other one to be happy. Jessica has been foiled in her sociopathic scheming. At this point in the book, I wondered how this could possibly end in toddpunching, when the amount of sensible thoughts thought by a number of the characters in the last few chapters had probably exceeded the net total of sensible thoughts thought in the previous 138 SVH books.
Alas, I did not take into account Jessica Wakefield and her incredible volcano.
Onwards! Jess decides that she must enter the science fair to impress Devon with her scientific aptitude and prevent Liz and Devon from winning the grand prize, a weekend in San Francisco. (Devon has now reluctantly agreed to enter.) Liz and Devon are working on a dulcimer, a stringed musical instrument. Meanwhile Jess teams up with Bruce, her lab partner, to make something, though she has to force him to enter by promising to spend the day scrubbing his mansion. HA. I hope they do actually include this scene. Maybe it’s in #140. However, Jess and Bruce can’t decide what to make. Jess suggests a piano cocktail: ‘It’s a miniature piano… When you play the keys, the piano makes a cocktail.’ LOL. However, they eventually have to fall back on Bruce’s idea; a volcano.
Yes, a volcano. I’m sure we’ve all made one of those. I did it in second grade. But onwards, onwards!
Bruce makes a five foot tall volcano from wire and paper mache, then paints it brown. Jess hilariously objects to this: ‘How about if we paint it purple? We could even add tiny yellow flowers or moons.’ Old Unicorn habits die hard. Bruce then pours soap, water and red food colouring into the volcano, then adds dry ice to make it bubble. Um, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the whole point of the volcano experiment was to use vinegar and baking soda, then explain how come it causes that reaction. I guess Bruce and Jessica are just interested in the aesthetics of it. Anyway, Jess is impressed, even though they obviously don’t have a chance of winning. I just want to know why the paper mache isn’t dissolving with all that water sluicing down it.
Todd and Courtney go out on a date to her country club. But, oh woe! Suddenly things are different! ‘Todd had to sit through an excruciating formal meal with Courtney’s parents.’ This is classic: ‘Courtney’s parents were nothing like his own. They were stiff and pretentious, with an affected manner of speaking that sounded vaguely British.’ How jolly awful for you, Todd! Bad luck old chap!
Anyway, Todd now finds himself ‘strangely repulsed by her [Courtney’s] appearance’ and wishing the evening could be over. He realises that Elizabeth, not Courtney, is the one for him. This is silly. T and C had such a good time before because they were laughing about pretentious formal occasions… what is with the shifts in C’s character? I’m sure she was horrible when she appeared before, but she seemed fine this time around (except for taking part in Jess’s sociopathic scheme in the first place, but if one lives in Sweet Valley, I expect one gets used to making concessions to one’s conscience). Anyway, this makes the plot kick back into gear.
The science fair! Love the descriptions of the judges: ‘Mr Anderson was… wearing round red glasses and a flowered yellow tie. Mr Baines, on the other hand, with his long, thin frame and scraggly beard, looked like a mad scientist.’ I always appreciate the way Sweet Valley avoids crude stereotyping.
The volcano is initially a success; oddly no-one comments on the second-gradeness of it. ‘It had been running steadily for the past hour, hissing and sputtering, bubbly red steam gurgling forth from its mouth like lava.’ IT WOULD HAVE DISSOLVED BY NOW. On the other end of the spectrum, Lila and Amy have apparently made ‘a miniature silver robot that was powered by a handheld remote control.’ This is quite impossible, so I’m assuming Mr Fowler (he’s into computers, right?) gave them some help. The other projects similarly range from implausible to stupidly simple: Ken and Bill Chase make a magic mirror (how?), ‘that distorted any images reflected in it,’ but Sandra and Jean create a rainbow on a screen ‘through the use of a large prism catching the rays on the sun.’ I’m thinking that took about a minute to set up. Everyone is impressed by Liz and Devon’s dulcimer, of course.
The judges come round. When they arrive at the volcano they hilariously try to say nice things about it: "Very nice… You’ve constructed a volcanic form out of chicken wire and paper mache. And you’ve made it almost life size as well!" This is art, not science. And not good art. Jess gives a terrible explanation of the ‘scientific principles underlying their experiment’; she firstly gets carbon monoxide and dioxide mixed up, then stumbles over merely explaining that when you put dry ice in water it releases CO2 (no of course she doesn’t use the actual chemical formula! I’m merely attempting to shorten this dull scene!). Bruce comes back with extra dry ice and Jess puts too much in. The volcano explodes (‘large pieces of paper mache began to fly off the sides’ Yes finally!) and the judges are not impressed. However, it’s ridiculous how it’s implied that if the volcano hadn’t exploded, they would have felt any differently about its scientific value…
Devon and Liz return to their dulcimer to find two of the strings have been cut.* Hence they don’t win the science fair, to which I have the same objection I just stated above; why not, if the scientific principles of their experiment were sound? Devon goes temporarily insane in his pleasure at not getting any more attention: ‘To Elizabeth’s surprise, he began to laugh. "Devon?" she asked, her eyes widening. But Devon just tilted back his head and laughed and laughed.’ End of chapter! He and E really do deserve each other.
[*Jessica did it]
By the Wakefield pool the next day, Jessica considers the failure of her scheme: ‘Instead of being upset about the snipped wires, Devon was thrilled. Now he and Elizabeth were happier than ever.’ I observe that we are on page 176 of 195, and wonder how toddpunching can possibly ensue so quickly from this point. But perhaps it is the characteristic of toddpunching to strike without warning! Anyway, Liz sets the wheels in motion by determining to give The Ring back to Todd so he can give it to Courtney (trust Liz to go overboard on the saintliness). She agrees to meet him at the Dairi Burger in half an hour. Then a storm starts, lightning flashes and rain begins pelting down. No, really.
Todd and Liz at the Dairi Burger. She tells him she’s really happy for him and Courtney, and gives him The Ring. However, he tells her he wants her to wear it – after all, she did once before. Elizabeth insists that she didn’t and they realise that Jess pulled a twin switch earlier.
Jess insists that Courtney pick her up immediately after Liz leaves to meet Todd. Courtney is in a terrible state: ‘Even though she was usually dressed impeccably, today she was wearing a simple black T-shirt dress and flat black pumps. Her thick chestnut hair was in disarray, falling in tangled waves around her shoulders. The only makeup she had on was a light coat of mauve lipstick.’ Oh horrors! Better not let her out of the house! Jess tells Courtney that Todd and Liz might be getting back together, which is silly, as for all she knows Liz is only going to meet up with him to give The Ring back to him and leave the way clear for Courtney.
Devon turns up at the Dairi Burger just as Jess and Courtney do. I really can’t work out why. He obviously knows about Liz/Todd, as it says he has ‘a harsh look on his face’, so I presume Jess must have told him, but (a) why does he believe anything Jess says by now, (b) when? It says she called Courtney immediately Liz left, and there’s no mention of her making any other phone calls. Oh well.
Liz and Todd talk things through and Liz admits she was jealous of Todd/Courtney. Todd takes her hand just as Devon, Jess and Courtney walk in. Devon tells Todd to get his hands off her and Todd jumps to his feet. They argue and appeal to Liz to choose between them. She dithers. Then Todd falls to one knee, gets out The Ring, and ‘His deep brown eyes overflowing with tenderness, he held the sparkling silver band out to her. "Elizabeth, will you marry me?" he whispered.’…
Yes, Todd did just propose in the middle of the Dairi Burger.
Oh, and at the age of sixteen, this is Liz’s second proposal.
Devon, in a rare moment of awesomeness, ruins Todd’s romantic pose by grabbing him by the arm and yanking him back up to his feet. WATCH IT DEVON. They continue to argue, then shove each other around until Devon pushes Todd into the table, then Todd ‘whirled around, his fists clenched’ and ‘gave Devon a sharp hook to the jaw.’ Yes Devon, you are now the proud recipient of a Todd Punch! May it be the first of many! A full on fight then breaks out and Elizabeth tries to stop it. The crowd of students that are watching help out by yelling "Fight! Fight! Fight!" Hehe. The boys are pulled apart by a couple of football players. Elizabeth storms out in disgust.
Jess fields phone calls as Liz refuses to talk to anyone; she’s locked herself in her room and ‘At times resounding thuds came from the room, as if Elizabeth was throwing things at the wall.’ Jess is upset: ‘Jessica’s plan had succeeded perfectly. But here she was, all alone. Devon hated her. Todd was angry at her. And Elizabeth never wanted to speak to her again. Was revenge really so sweet?’ Sociopathy never pays.
The end! Plus tie in: ‘Now that she’s seen Todd’s and Devon’s true colours, is Elizabeth through with love for good? Find out in Sweet Valley High 140: Please Forgive Me.’* Note that it’s Todd and Devon that have to be forgiven. Not Elizabeth. Cheating always pays!
*(I’ve ordered this one from the library, but our useless library system often takes up to a month to come up with books. Hopefully it will come sooner than that and I will be able to recap it in all its glory! As far as I remember, Todd has yet ANOTHER near fatal accident! And Elizabeth goes on a week in the wilderness to ‘find herself’! I know you can hardly wait!)