Brace yourselves, guys. There is one competent adult in Sweet Valley. I know, right? Freaky. However, he only appears in this book and never again, so I guess the other adults tracked him down and killed him for making them look bad for constantly leaving their children unattended so they can, I don't know, attend coke parties or something.
That's the cover. I don't know which twin is which here, since they pull a twin switch at one point and this could be it. The one in yellow could be Liz, since she's rocking the barrettes and the disapproving look, but the one in pink just looks so much like a kiss-ass that I really can't be sure. Maybe we should throw a disadvantaged kid at them and see which one pounces on him. That'll settle it.
The kid on the right just has to be Todd, though. Todd always seems to be on the SVK covers. Plus, he looks like a total dork. Hey, Todd! Fix your damn collar!
The book starts with Elizabeth and Jessica at the blackboard, doing math problems. Jessica can't figure out twenty-four minus thirteen, so she asks Liz for a "teeny tiny hint." Elizabeth tells her the answer is eleven. That's...not how hints work, Liz. But then again, Jessica "Sixty-Three Crayons Short of a Box" Wakefield still has to work out what an eleven looks like, so maybe Liz didn't take all of the challenge out of it after all.
Oh, and somewhere in there we learn that the twins look alike, but Liz likes homework and Jess likes psychologically torturing people she doesn't like. Or maybe it was daydreaming. I kind of skimmed that part.
Their teacher, Mrs. Becker, clearly isn't feeling well. She's been sneezing and coughing and sniffling for days, which leads me to ask why the woman felt compelled to show up for class every day and infect a bunch of seven-year-olds. Maybe she secretly hates them all.
Mrs. Becker turns pale and faints, and Elizabeth runs off to get the principal. Meanwhile, Lila pulls Jessica over to the teacher's desk under the pretense of looking for smelling salts. It becomes obvious that she only wants to see what's in the middle drawer, which has a "No Trespassing" sign on it. Lila is snooping? LILA?
Oh, and Mrs. Becker? Have you actually ever met any second graders? Telling kids they can't look in a drawer is only going to make it more tempting for them. Plus, why a forbidden drawer? Is that where you keep your meth lab or what? (In case you're wondering, it held her purse, gradebook, lotion, nail clippers, and perfume. Lame.)
Still unconscious, Mrs. Becker mutters something about cheese and all the kids freak out. Charlie Cashman says an alien took over her body. "A lot of aliens invade sleeping bodies. Then when you wake up you aren't the same person anymore." No, Charlie, that's not aliens. You're thinking of Margo.
The kids start bickering, and finally their teacher wakes up. Elizabeth finally shows up with the principal, who stays with the kids while Mrs. Becker goes home. The twins spend about two seconds worrying about their teacher before they forget her and begin talking about how exciting it will be if they get a substitute. This lack of concern just supports my ongoing theory that Mrs. Becker is a really shitty teacher.
The next morning, Mrs. Becker is out with the flu and all the kids are peeking in the door at the substitute teacher. Charlie says everyone should sit in different seats, but Caroline says she won't—and she's going to tell on them. Jerry McAllister punches (JerryPunch?) her in the arm and says that if she does, he'll get her at recess. Ooh, I bet he'll get drunk and crash his car into her motorcycle.
The kids all go in and sit in the wrong seats. Elizabeth, for reasons unknown, is cool with this plan to torment the new teacher. I call shenanigans.
The substitute, a skinny man with curly red hair "that stuck out at the sides," introduces himself as Mr. Pinecone. Really? Pinecone? Why didn't the writer just name him "Mr. Victim," for crying out loud?
The students throw things, confuse him, and generally disrupt class. Jessica and Elizabeth argue over which twin is Elizabeth, and Liz is shocked and horrified to find that harassing the teacher makes him feel bad. How totally unexpected.
The next day, the kids find an empty classroom. While they (minus Elizabeth) switch seats again, the new substitute teacher walks in, slams some books on the desk to get everyone's attention, and intimidates Charlie until he falls into line in the space of about thirty seconds.
Next, he introduces himself as Mr. Marshall, turns his back, and says, "If anyone wants to change seats before I take attendance, this would be a good time." They all switch to their correct places, and Mr. Marshall turns around and smiles. "Fine. I'm glad we're getting the day off to a good start."
Discipline? Intelligence? Competence? I think I'm a little bit in love with this man.
On Saturday, the twins and some of their classmates are playing at Charles Fremont Park. Um, who is Charles Fremont? The founder of Sweet Valley? A former mayor? The first ever psycho doppelganger? I'm curious, dammit!
The kids play freeze tag and complain about mean Mr. Marshall is. He even yelled at Jessica for repeatedly talking in class. Gasp! Someone actually called a Wakefield twin on their shit! Mr. Marshall, will you marry me?
Then they see the future Mr. melody_powers walking down the street. A police car pulls up next to him, and he chats with the officers inside briefly before getting in and leaving with them.
Ken Mathews thinks the police arrested him. I don't think that's how the police generally carry out arrests, Ken. Although, this is Sweet Valley, so maybe that is how they do it there. "Excuse me, Mr. Criminal, sir? Would you mind maybe putting these handcuffs on and, if it's not any trouble, getting into this police car so we can sort of, as long as it's all right with you, charge you with multiple counts of homicide? Oh, and be a dear and lock the door after you get in, okay?"
All of the kids are freaked out, but decide not to talk to their parents about what they saw. Of course not. According to Jessica, "If my mom finds out our teacher is a criminal, she'll be really angry!" Yeah, Jess, I suppose she might. But I seriously doubt she'd be angry at you.
Everyone is surprised to see Mr. Marshall back in class on Monday. Todd wonders if he escaped from jail. Oh, yeah. Because the first thing any escaped convict wants to do when they get out is teach a bunch of second graders. Ex-cons are really into multiplication tables.
Jessica is afraid Mr. Marshall will "do something bad." Like...mug the seven-year-olds, I guess. I try not to follow Jessica's thought processes. That way madness lies. Anyway, all the kids are super paranoid all day because they're terrified he's going to kidnap the class hamsters or look in Mrs. Becker's forbidden drawer or whatever the hell they think a felon on the run from the law will do in a grade school.
On the way home, Steven catches up with the twins and he and Jessica talk about setting a trap to catch Mr. Marshall. I'm picturing Home Alone, but those two geniuses are probably thinking more along the lines of propping up a cardboard box with a stick tied to some string, then putting an apple inside as bait.
Liz actually acts sensible for once and points out how unlikely it would be for Mr. Marshall to continue teaching if he'd escaped from prison. Unfortunately, Jess and Steven pretty much tell her to shut up, and she does. So close.
At recess the next day, Lila is teaching the girls how to give themselves tattoos. Now, just how wrong does that sound? They're just doing the kind where you draw something in ink on a paper, then lick your skin and press the paper against it so the ink will come off on your skin. Still, the thought of Lila as a tattoo artist is kind of badass.
Suddenly, a police car pulls into the parking lot! The kids race to Mrs. Becker's classroom to see the "showdown!" I cheer because there are only two chapters left in this increasingly ridiculous book!
Inside, Mr. Marshall is talking to a policeman, and he tells the students to take their seats. He announces that it is his last day teaching them, and we come to the most implausible twist of the entire book.
Mr. Marshall, the only adult in Sweet Valley with an I.Q. higher than the average tree, is actually a cop! Not just a competent adult, but a competent member of Sweet Valley's police force! I think I need to go lie down for a minute.
All of the kids are completely blown away by this perfectly simple explanation that anyone with half a brain could have seen coming, and Mr. Marshall is never heard from again. He must have left town, because I bet he'd never have allowed any of that crap with Margo or William White or the other hundred and thirty-seven criminal activities that could have been prevented by the slightest shred of common sense.
Mrs. Becker is back the next day, feeling much better. I think it would serve her right if half her students came to class with the flu and she caught it all over again. Stupid germ spreader.
She tells the class she has an announcement: a new student from Jamaica will be joining their class, and her name is Eva. The class forgets all about my beloved Mr. Marshall as they prepare for Elizabeth's Valentine.
Farewell, Mr. Marshall. I'll always treasure what could have been. Say hi to Todd's sisterbrother for me, okay?