Jessica is super-excited because an exchange student from Santa Dora is visiting their school. You read that correctly. Santa Dora is apparently a tiny European country, situated between the south of France and Spain, on the Mediterranean sea coast. That doesn’t sound quite right to me. I’m guessing the name comes from Andorra, a tiny European country situated between France and Spain. Decidedly not coastal. Fun fact: the military budget of Andorra is three dollars!
You may be wondering when Jessica gained an interest in geography. Actually, she’s interested in the Santa Doran royal family. I wonder if that will be important later? She thinks living in a country with a monarchy sounds romantic and exciting. Eh, it’s not so great.
The exchange student in question is called Arthur Castle.
This description of the Santa Doran royal family is fabulous:
She flipped open Elizabeth’s book to a picture of King Armand II and Queen Stephanie, seated on side-by-side thrones, wearing purple velvet cloaks and diamond studded crowns.
Sounds very Posh and Becks.
Predictably, the Unicorns love the purple. They decide to throw a Santa Doran themed party for Arthur, because there’s nothing better than going to another country hoping to experience their culture only to be presented with an inaccurate version of your own. And be expected to applaud it.
The day of Arthur’s arrival, the Unicorns have created a huge banner saying “Welcome Arthur” in their homeroom. Amy is surprised Arthur isn’t wearing a folk costume. Elizabeth, because she is amazing, notices that Arthur appears very capable with new situations and meeting new people. Arthur introduces himself to the class. The Unicorns perform a welcome cheer and produce “traditional” Santa Doran pastries. The Unicorns try so hard it makes me personally embarrassed.
In science class Arthur is confused by the thermometer. He asks Elizabeth for help. Turns out he’s used to the Celsius system, and in the US they use Fahrenheit. Deciding that Elizabeth is a better breed of person than those he met earlier, he asks to meet her after school. He has a lot of questions about America, and Elizabeth has many questions about Santa Dora. In particular, Arthur wants to know why a girl would refer to herself as a unicorn. Ah, the eternal question.
They meet after school, but when they try to leave Arthur keeps getting asked questions about Santa Dora, which he seems unwilling to answer. Elizabeth asks him how it feels to be a celebrity. Arthur’s answer is basically “What? Celebrity? Why would I be a celebrity? How silly hahahaha!” He is frustrated that he’s gone across the other part of the world, only to have his class learn about the place he just left. Also, Elizabeth explains the Unicorn thing. It sounds so dumb to have it explained that I laugh for ages.
Elizabeth meets with the Sixers staff to discuss their special Santa Dora edition. What, does nothing else happen in this town? They decide to make Arthur a scrapbook of American things, which is quite nice. She tells them about Arthur’s wish to see American life, so they decide to take out loads of places. Including the pet store. Really American, that.
They take Arthur to the mall. He doesn’t know what a Frisbee is, but seems delighted by one. Arthur buys a football; baseball; stuffed Texas longhorn steer (is this a stuffed cow?); a pair of Indian moccasins; a jack knife (won’t get that through customs); a Johnny Buck album; a Confederate Army cap; two pairs of jeans (jeans don’t exist in Europe); The Wizard of Oz, Little House on the Prairie, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and an illustrated history of the Texas Rangers. He appears quite confident in his English skills. They go back to Amy’s house, and eat oatmeal cookies. But when they ask him questions about life, he’s shy and evasive: “My father works in government… I have to go now.”
More embarrassing attempts at cultural inclusion at school. Arthur makes plans to go to the beach with Elizabeth. They play Frisbee, and get milkshakes. But as Arthur goes to pay, a Santa Doran note falls out of his wallet – with his face on it!
Arthur Castle is in fact Arthur Castillo, son of King Armand and Queen Stephanie! He reveals all to Elizabeth – for once, he wants to be treated like a normal person. Slumming it, eh Arthur? He’s sick of having to go to cultural events like museum tours and local symphonies. Elizabeth promises not to tell anyone.
Before school the next day, Arthur’s mother calls him and keeps him on the phone so long he misses homeroom. Elizabeth isn’t in their first class – but he catches her in the hallway. He tells her not to mention to anyone that he’s a prince, despite her promising not to yesterday. Elizabeth Wakefield’s word is her bond!
Is anyone surprised to learn that was Jessica? And yes, she now knows all. And of course she’s telling, because why would Jessica want to make anybody’s life easier when she could get some attention?
Emergency Unicorn meeting. Do you think they have magic rings, like the Captain Planet kids? Jessica tells all. They decide to add a throne to the party they’re planning for Arthur. You know that throne is going to be smothered in crepe paper. Then they spend like half an hour practising how to curtsey. I can’t believe they’re supposed to be the cool kids.
The next day Arthur gets to school and everyone starts calling him “Your Highness” and curtseying. Everyone knows. Arthur has to go along with it, so he doesn’t give the Santa Doran royal family a bad name. Arthur calls Elizabeth and confronts her. She’s upset. He’s upset. Everyone’s upset.
Meanwhile Jessica is rushing around gleefully spreading gossip that she heard from “someone”. She feels genuinely bad when Elizabeth tells her Arthur isn’t speaking to her. But not bad enough to own up.
Arthur has to go through the usual prince-approved activities, as mentioned earlier. By now Jessica realizes the spotlight is no longer on her, but the prince. And so, she isn’t interested any more.
Arthur chooses Jessica as his escort to the party. That could be an interesting Sweet Valley university plotline, but it won’t be happening in this episode. Elizabeth stays home, and Arthur has a crappy time at the party. This leads Jessica to have a crappy time, so she finally comes clean. Arthur leaves the party to find Elizabeth, who is at home making up his scrapbook. They make up. Arthur asks her to come to the party, but Elizabeth decides she would rather miss her friend’s last night in Sweet Valley to make him a scrapbook. Whatever. Arthur goes back to the party and has fun.
The next day Arthur goes to school and everyone treats him normally, because Jessica made them. He is pleased. Then he, Elizabeth and Jessica go to the consulate dinner together. He goes away and nobody mentions him again, although I think the dog in Sweet Valley High is named after him. How kind of them to remember.
Finally,the title. Elizabeth comes nowhere near to becoming a princess in this book, unless you count standing next to a prince. By that measure, I was in the same room as Neil Gaiman last night. Therefore, I’m him.