Also, while editing the tags (and didn't that take forever!) I discovered that this here's my fiftieth post to this fabulous community. Happy birthday to me! My present to myself, in case you were wondering? Strawberry Freddo Frogs, and lots of 'em.
The only thing I'll say about the cover art is that I'm glad someone over there finally worked out what a lavaliere actually is.
Before I begin, here are a few things worth knowing, just to make it all a little easier -- Elizabeth now lives in New York, working as a journalist and just generally trying to help the franchise capitalise on the success of Sex and the City. Jessica is still in Sweet Valley, and she and Elizabeth aren't on speaking terms anymore. Got all that? Time to recap.
Elizabeth and some guy named David come home after a busy night of being New Yorkers, just in time to hear the phone ring. Since it's so late, Elizabeth assumes it's California calling. Awful, traitorous California. She emos about how she feels like a faulty Maserati. Or something. We're two paragraphs in, and already I can tell that this book is going to be appallingly written. Liz lets the call go to the machine, and hears Jess leaving her a message telling her to call her back. David's all, "Whoah, that girl sounds just like you!" and to get him to shut up, Liz sits down next to him and starts turning on the charm. Well hel-lo, Sex-Having Liz! Distracting a man by hinting that you're in the mood for lurve is totally a Jessica move, but here Liz is, making sure the loveseat lives up to its name.
But of course, this is Elizabeth we're talking about. Before we get down to the good stuff, we need some exposition on this David fellow. Apparently he's her boss, and they work together for an online Broadway magazine. She describes him as being a "semistranger," not like Russ, a friend of a friend with whom she had only the weepiest of orgasms. Liz decides that she doesn't want to fuck her boss after all, so she talks about some interview she has to do for the Show Survey (their magazine/newspaper thing) and hurries him out the door. Ahh, there's the Liz we all know and love.
Liz sits by herself, drinking wine and thinking about how lonely she is and how everyone she ever held dear has betrayed her in one way or another. She thinks about her freshman year at SVU, when she won a competition to have her play produced and Jessica ended up starring in it, which, wow. That's continuity, people. Remember that, because what you're about to hear next will shatter a purist's heart -- Bruce Patman is Elizabeth's best friend. Elizabeth's best friend is Bruce Patman. No matter how many times I read that, it still doesn't make sense to me. Last time we saw Bruce Patman, he was kidnapping his own girlfriend for sport. It's like he took all his badass chips and cashed them in for a shot at friendship with Elizabeth Wakefield. Makes a girl want to cry, don't it?
There's a weird little flashback here to Double Love, only it's from Elizabeth's POV. She remembers how horrified she'd been when Jess told her that Todd Wilkins was into her. Then there's a flashback within the flashback about the very first time Liz saw Todd in kindergarten. He was so scared and so sad that he had snot all over his face and wouldn't let go of his blankie. Hmm. I do so hope that years from now, when I'm old and grey, that that will be my lasting memory of Todd Wilkins.
Chapter Two is when we finally find our way back to Sweet Valley, where Jessica is upset that Liz didn't pick up her phone call. Now we find out why -- she's in a relationship with one Todd Wilkins, who is now a promising sports writer of some description. Todd thinks about how his life in Sweet Valley has become increasingly more difficult since making the decision to...how do I put this nicely?...pork his ex-girlfriend's twin sister. Despite the book mentioning several times that ZOMG Todd luvs Jessica, Toddles can't stop thinking about what a unique and beautiful snowflake Elizabeth is. Seriously. For like a page and a half, it's Liz this and Liz that. Toddles, do we have to get them nametags or something? Would that help you?
Segue: Todd's predicaments poses a rather interesting moral question -- how long is it okay to date a girl before deciding that you like their twin better? Todd is still condemned, because any answer to that question would still be less than an eternity and a half, Toddles.
Todd tells us that about a year ago, Jessica married a man named Regan Wollman, who is so important to the story that he's not mentioned again for ages. During Jessica's divorce from Regan, she'd moved in with the then-engaged Todd and Liz, and began to fight with Todd a lot. Jessica interrupts Todd's train of thought by telling him that she doesn't want to go to Lila Fowler's party, which, what? Are you kidding me? WHO ARE YOU?! Jess comments that everyone in Sweet Valley hates her and Todd for what they did to Elizabeth, and Todd comforts her and calls her baby. Which skeeves me out, because Todd should not be calling Jessica 'baby' under any circumstances. They decide to go the party anyway.
Double Love flashback time, only this one's from Jessica's POV. My gosh, these things are weird. Francine's basically just rewriting the first ever Sweet Valley High book, and adding different character perspectives that aren't really necessary. I mean, the books weren't that hard to follow. It's not like any of us stopped and thought, "Hmm, I wonder what Enid's motivation for this scene really is."
Anyway, sixteen-year-old Jess spends most of this flashback telling the audience that she thinks Elizabeth is better than her in every way, and it's hard having to come in second to your own sister every single time. Which goes a long way to explaining why Jessica would want to snatch up Todd for the Phi Epsilon dance before Liz does. She does hilariously describe Liz as being comfortable and boring, "like nurse's shoes," and then goes on to say, "I can't let anyone know that inside, where it counts, I'm vulnerable and insecure and total mush." Jessica, I know I'm not an expert on being a character in a novel or anything, but I don't think you're supposed to just come out and tell us that about yourself. I do believe that those are conclusions we're supposed to come to about you based on your actions. This is like Sweet Valley as ghostwritten by Stephenie Meyer.
Time for Lila's party now! Yaysies! Turns out, Lila has invited the ol' gang to hers and Ken Matthews's house. Because in the last several years, Lila and Ken got married, which is actually kind-of nice. As much as I love Lila and Bruce together, I don't really want her to be with him if he's going to be some pansy-ass FOE. (Friend Of Elizabeth.) Lila, we're told, is exactly the same as she was in high school, only with bigger boobs and three-quarters of a college education under her Prada belt. Lila leads Todd and Jessica into the house, where we find the rest of the Sweet Valley gang, all of whom are supposedly super-dooper successful, and yet still live in Sweet Valley. And when I say 'the gang,' I mean:
Ken Matthews, NFL star. Separated from Lila but still pretty awesome.
Caroline Pearce, real estate agent and breast cancer survivor. Still as gossipy as ever.
Jeffrey French, dentist. Back in Sweet Valley after his plot-convenient big move to the east coast.
AJ Morgan, in love with Enid. Yes, that Enid.
Enid Rollins, doctor. Described wonderfully by Jessica as being a "pretentious, egotistical shit."
Robin Wilson, still thin for now. Putting her insatiable appetite to good use as a food critic.
Jessica is immediately accosted by Caroline, wanting to know all the gossip about the Jess/Liz/Todd love triangle. Jess decides that now would be a good a time as any to stand up to the Caroline, telling her that she's mean and horrible and enjoy your cancer, bitch! Okay, maybe not that last bit. I know this is like a Sweet Valley gritty reboot, but it'll never be that gritty. Jessica tells Lila, "Why did you invite me when you knew this pig was going to be here?" and she and Todd stage a ridiculous Jerry Maguire-esque walkout. Nobody else follows them. Jessica is worried that they won't come to hers and Todd's wedding now. Wait, they're getting married? They've been together for eight months, eight months of drama and betrayal and deception, and they've decided that the best thing to do is to wed one another? Oh, you guys.
Back in New York, Elizabeth is trying to get an interview with an arrogant, angry little playwright man named Will Connolly. Who is Todd Wilkins's doppelganger. Of course he is. You can't be a character in Sweet Valley and not have a doppelganger somewhere. I just love that Todd's seems to be as psycho as he is.
We get another flashback, this time to a moment in SVU. Liz is sick with the flu, and is asking Jessica to go to Jim Regis's (who?) party with Todd so he won't have to go alone. Did this happen in some book I never read? Oh wait, it's senior-year SVU, aka what was supposed to happen before the ghosties botched the whole thing and sent Liz off to be a maid in London. The flashback is boring, but soon we're back in the present, with Liz thinking about how crazy her senior year of college had been. This actually interests me, because I have to know how we got from there to here. At what point in the year did Liz have Bruce Patman neutered? Did Jessica really hate Todd, or is it like in primary school when you're meanest to the boy you have the biggest crush on? The only hints I get is that Todd and Bruce grew apart over the year, which is interesting, since they were never really friends at any stage. Oh, and Todd and Winston had a huge falling-out, which is more than a little disappointing.
Back in Sweet Valley, Jessica is giving us her very own flashback of Jim Regis's party. She'd gone with Todd in Elizabeth's place. Because apparently Todd needed an escort or something? He's too precious to go out at night by himself? Toddles, grow a backbone. Anyway, Jessica and Todd go to this party together, and everyone mistakes Jessica for Elizabeth. At first Jess tries to explain, but then Todd thinks it's so hilarious that they play along, holding hands and being overly affectionate with one another. At this point it's actually pretty funny and harmless, but if we remember one thing from the original Sweet Valley series, it's that Todd Wilkins can't help but fuck things up. Seriously. All the things. Todd fucks them up. In the car on the way home, Jessica is still joking around with him when he decides he wants on that. There's inappropriate touching. He invites her up to his room, and they "make love with an otherworldly passion," thus beginning their torrid, month-long affair.
Segue: I know Jess is technically the bad guy of the piece for stealing Elizabeth's beloved boyfriend, but in my humble opinion, we should be lynching Todd. Because here's where it's at -- you don't have sex with your ex-girlfriend's twin sister. You just don't. It's not a thing we do here in polite society, Toddles, and you are an icky, icky man for thinking it's okay.
Now it's Todd's turn to talk to us via flashback, which makes me happy. Time to explain yourself, Toddles. Of course, he never does. He just mentions that "not once did she ever look like Elizabeth to me." How could she not, Toddles?! I get that they're separate people and all, but you're carrying on an affair with a woman who looks exactly like your girlfriend. At some point, don't you think he has to stop and think, "There might be something seriously wrong with this." Surely even subconsciously, there'd be comparisons made between the two. It does cross my mind that maybe we're so far back in time that Elizabeth still isn't putting out, which means that Toddles is basically just completing the Elizabeth jigsaw using pieces of Jessica. Which is so, so sick.
In New York, Elizabeth still hasn't had the chance to interview Will Connelly the Todd-alike. She decides to go to a bar to drown her sorrows, and meets a sexy Irish bartender named Liam who Liz thinks is exactly Jessica's type. Just when she's starting to enjoy herself, Will shows up and is all, "Hey, it's the Show Survey chick!" Thankfully Liz is at one martini down and chock-a-block full of liquid courage, so she yells at him for being an asshole. Talk about transposing. The two of them angry-flirt for a little while, before getting drunk and going back to Will's place. Unfortunately, there is no afternoon-delights action. Will gives Liz the script for his play, and she goes home to read it. Oh, poor Willy. I know this is supposed to be the new, liberated Elizabeth, but she's blue-balling dudes all over the place as though she's back at SVU or something.
Back at her apartment, Liz gets a call from her mother, inviting her to her grandmother's eightieth birthday. Liz naturally doesn't want to go to any sort of family function where she might run into Todd and Jessica, and I hate to say it, but I really don't blame her. If my sister ran off with my boyfriend, I wouldn't exactly be champing at the bit to see them together. Liz wonders if it's "too early in the relationship" to invite Will. Um, Liz? What relationship? No really, what relationship? You guys didn't even kiss. You told him he looked like the bastard who left you for your twin and he gave you reading material. Although, if these two ended up getting married, their kids would look the same as Todd and Jess's kids. And that would be awesome. If I was a Wakefield relative, I'd have fun with that.
Anyway, Liz calls Will and asks him to come with her to California, and he's all, "uh..." He jokingly suggests she take that random bartender guy Liam, since he's the sort of guy Jessica would go for and it would drive her nuts. Liz then hatches her craziest plan probably ever -- she'll take Liam to the party, Jessica will fall for him, the wedding will be called off and Elizabeth will be standing in the corner, wringing her hands and laughing maniacally at the destruction she's created. Holy. Shit. Liz has finally learned that people like Jessica can only be beaten at their own game, and she is running with it.
Flashback time. This one is during Jessica's second marriage to the not-at-all-stupidly-named Regan Wollman. They're living in France, and everything is wonderful...except for the tiny little marriage breakdown they appear to be having. Apparently Regan is quite a bit older than Jessica, and he gets angry when she cheats on him. I suppose he's a bit funny that way. Jessica decides that the mature thing to do in a situation like this is to pack her bag and sneak off to the airport when Regan's not looking, like she's in some sort of skit. At the airport, she's convinced that people must think she's behaving like a terrorist, looking over her shoulder all the time, but thinks, "there's no way I look like someone who's going to waste two-hundred-dollar jeans on a bomb." Well, okay, Jess. I'll tell the afterlife to reassign your seventy-two virgins.
Elizabeth heads on over to Liam's bar to put her grand plan in motion. The two of them get along famously, and it turns out that Liam the Irishman has family in LA (what?), so being Liz's plus-one to Nana Wakefield's birthday party isn't such a stretch. Liz assures him that they're not going all My Best Friend's Wedding on these people, that they're just friends and that's how she'll introduce him, but still. It's only when she gets home that she realises what a ginormous, scheming bitch-monster she is, but convinces herself that she's not doing anything wrong by taking a guest with her.
Another flashback. Jessica's on her way home from France, and Elizabeth gets the feeling that Todd really doesn't want her to move in with them. Which he doesn't, but not for the reasons Liz thinks. For naked reasons. When she gets home from work, Toddles has gone to the effort of making a Welcome Home Jessica banner, which Liz loves so much, she describes it as being "really ugly, like the handiwork of any cruelly untalented ten-year-old." Which, judgemental much, Liz? Your gratitude is really overwhelming. Also, Cara Walker (who is now Steven's wife) brought round a dessert earlier, which makes Liz think about how much of a dick Steven is for carrying on affairs behind his gorgeous wife's back. Because once the Judgement Train starts a'rolling along, there's no stopping it.
Flashback update -- it seems Winston got rich off a dot-com venture with Bruce, and now he's sort-of alienated himself from everyone else. Liz and Todd seem pretty pissed about it, but hey -- that's what happens when you're rich enough to tell everyone to go fuck themselves. I look forward to the day when that happens to me. (When I get rich, not when I get told to go fuck myself.)
The next chapter (not a flashback) starts by telling us that Jessica now works for a natural cosmetics promotion company called MYFACEISGREEN. No, my caps lock isn't broken, and neither is my space bar. That's actually what it's called. You think after the Tofu Glo debacle, Jess would stay away from that sort of thing, but in Sweet Valley, there is no learning from past mistakes. If this book is teaching me anything right now, it's that. Jess also tells us that Lila's father Richard is the backer of the company, and I wonder if Lila's old father, the one named George, had anything to say about this.
Flasback, Todd's POV now. Todd decides that he's definitely over Jessica -- he's just really uncomfortable around her, and can't help but feeling the urge to punch things when she starts talking about her husband. Yeah, Todd, that's progress. He decides that perhaps his affair with Jess can be blamed on "too much to drink," which oh-most-definitely excuses away a fairly well-organised month-long relationship. Then he thinks about sex with Elizabeth, which, as a Sweet Valley fan from way back, absolutely blows my mind. Sure, he calls it "making love" like Liz has no doubt trained him to, and I'm sure she makes it all tender and shit, but Liz and Todd having sex? Liz and Todd having the parts necessary for sex and more importantly, using those parts to have sex with each other? Baffling.
Over to Jessica's POV. This is starting to make me dizzy. I'm also beginning to hate getting Jessica's perspective on things, because she uses the word 'like' a lot. A lot a lot. Laguna Beach a lot. Anyhoo. Todd and Jess have words, right in front of Caroline Pearce, who is just randomly there now. I don't know where she came from; she's just there, like a glitch in a computer game or something. She doesn't hear anything incriminating, but Jessica storms out anyway. She decides to go down to the beach, where she sees a familiar man's body, which she describes as thus: "Broad shoulders, neat waist, good legs. So many men have spindly legs, but not him. And they're in great shape and not too hairy." Fairly innocent, until you realise she's talking about HER BROTHER. Motherfucking Steven, people! Steven Wakefield her brother Steven Wakefield. Everyone in this book is sick. Truly, truly ill in the head.
As Jessica walks by, she sees that Steven is not alone. She thinks he must be with one of his many extramarital whores, and she's not wrong. Except that it's Aaron Dallas. Steven Wakefield and Aaron Dallas are caressing one another on a public beach. Way to be stealth, you guys. Steven sees her and is all, "Yeah, so I guess I'm gay now." Jess says she won't tell anyone, and when Aaron treats her like shit and says that he doesn't believe her, Jess admits that she really hates that guy. Then she namedrops Neil from SVU, which is pretty awesome, and decides that it's okay that Steven's gay because he's her brother and she loves him. I have to say, though, the Neil thing throws me. I was under the impression that Francine considers only the first few SVU books canon, but Neil came in really late in the piece. Now I don't know where the line is.
Segue: It's not really all that surprising that Steven turned out to be gay. I'd probably turn gay too if all of my romantic prospects were just random people who looked like Tricia Martin. There are only so many dead ex-girlfriend doppelgangers the universe can throw at a person before they discover that the best way to shoot them all down is simply to say, "Not unless you grow a dick, bitch."
Steven tells Jess about his struggles with his sexuality, and how he'd had those sorts of feelings even before he met Tricia, so there goes my theory. Aaron's backstory is a lot simpler -- he went to San Francisco where, according to Francine, you either are gay or you become gay. I'm not sure which one applies to Aaron, but the point is, San Francisco happened, and he's gay now.
Flashback within a flashback: we get the skinny on the night Steven and Aaron first hooked up. It makes me really uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all homophobic, but there's something off about it. Sort-of like how I feel when Liz drinks alcohol and has sex. I feel like I've known Steven my whole life, and now he's different. And what about Billie? Sure, her boy-name-as-a-girl-name thing makes a lot more sense now, but they were so good together! And now he's going on thirty and bringing Cara down as well? You're mean, Steven, and I don't like you anymore. Also, it's not okay to go out with Aaron Dallas. It's not okay for anyone to go out with Aaron Dallas.
Look at that, another flashback. Actually, considering the last flashback was the beginning of Steven and Aaron's relationship, I guess that makes this one a flash-forward. Basically, Jessica finishes talking to Steven on the beach, then drives straight over to his house to tell Cara that her husband is gay. That's some good lookin' out there, little sis. I can't believe Aaron Dallas was right about you.
Back in New York (and the present, in case you were very, very lost) Elizabeth goes to see how Will's play is coming along. Afterwards, the two of them go out to lunch, and she admits that she took his advice and asked Liam to her grandmother's birthday party. Will's like, "I wasn't serious, you know," but Liz insists that she's only taking him as a friend and it's mutually beneficial, since all of Liam's Irish relatives live in California for some reason. Will sees right through this, of course, and accuses Liz of scheming to break up the happy couple. Liz says, "Fuck you." In fact, this is the second time in the chapter she's said the word 'fuck,' just drops it right in there like she's aware of its existence or something. The fact that Francine even knows the word 'fuck' is insane to me, but for Liz, of all people, to drop the inaugural Sweet Valley F-bomb? This really is a gritty reboot.
Elizabeth goes home and immediately receives a call from Bruce. I bet he's the one who taught her the F-word. Bruce tells her that Alice has organised for him to be her date, and when Liz tells him that she already asked someone else, he gets upset and hangs up.
Cut to Bruce, sitting in his mansion being rich or whatever Bruce does for fun. He thinks about how he's in love with Liz. Nooooooo! I'd like for that to be more surprising, but it's not. He always did seem to like Liz, all throughout high school. The fact that's he's a sad, pathetic shell of a man, pining for a woman who doesn't love him and never will, is really the worst thing I can say about SVC Bruce. In this chapter, we find out that Bruce's parents were killed in a car accident and he became a changed man, a man who slowly realised that all the nerds and feebs and losers he looked down upon (like Liz and Winston) were actually kind and caring and -- you know what? Screw it. That's not what happened to Bruce. I'm making my own little rewrite here. Bruce's parents were killed, that much is true, but he became tortured and hell-bent on revenge. He changed his surname by deed poll from Patman to Wayne, then used his fortune to become...well, Batman. Bruce became Batman. That's what happened there. Let's move on.
Bruce recalls the day he discovered Todd and Jessica's affair, and while the old Bruce would have used this information to finally prise the woman of his dreams from Toddles's arms, he decides that the noble thing to do is to keep the secret. Which I can't argue, because Batman is all about nobility, and Bruce became Batman, remember?
Flashback time -- Elizabeth tells Bruce that she and Todd have set a date for their wedding, and Bruce realises that he must tell Liz about the affair he thinks may have possibly happened five years ago. He thinks that the old Bruce would be handy to have around in this situation, and admits that maybe his personality change wasn't so great. After all (and I quote), "You're not an asshole like Winston." I love that Winston's entire life now is just him being an asshole. Nobody mentions him except to say, "Oh, Winston. That guy's an asshole."
Liz calls Bruce to complain about how her fiancé is working and her sister is sulking in her room. Bruce offers to take her out for pizza. Of course, when he goes to pick her up, he can't help but talk about how breathtaking she is. He even describes her as being like a Monet. Which, as anyone who's seen Clueless well knows, is so not a compliment. Anyway, Bruce takes that full-on Monet Elizabeth out for pizza where they see Robin Wilson, talk about wedding dates, drink alcohol out of real glasses for a change...and oh yeah, Winston dies. Yep, that happened. Ken Matthews runs into the pizza place (where he knew Liz and Bruce would be?) and is like, "Winston's dead!"
Now would be a good place for a segue, but I don't have the strength. Winston's dead, you guys. This is what happens in Sweet Valley when a nice guy becomes an asshole. You can be an asshole all you want in high school as long as you absolve yourself of your sins and/or become Batman. But Winston? Winston was swayed by power and greed and money, and that son of a bitch had to die. It's Francine's way of saying that even in the grittiest of reboots, someone immoral will be killed and sent to Hades. I'm just sad that it had to be harmless ol' Winston.
Despite the fact that Winston just died and I want to learn more about Winston and his death, we get an Aaron/Steven scene. They're in the kitchen, making a salad for dinner. Because that's all gay guys eat in Sweet Valley. Aaron says, "Turn around so I can put the anchovies in," and I laugh uncomfortably, thinking that might be like a sex thing. (It's not.) The two of them talk about how Aaron doesn't want to get stuck sitting next to Jessica, and also, that he thinks Todd is hot. Uncomfortable.
We get another flashback. This time, Steven's just found out that Jessica told Cara that he's gay. He goes round to Jess's and tries to attack her. Todd actually has to hold him back, which is a nice change from all the times he's the one being physically restrained. Steven decides that the best course of action is to disown Jessica and refuse to take any sort of responsibility for the whole debacle.
Back in the present, Todd and Jessica are having dinner as well, "only instead of salad, it was Chinese takeout." Because the gays have taken the salad and ruined it for everybody! Basically, it's all tense over there and there's more angsting about Liz.
Finally -- finally! -- we get back to the dead Winston thing. It's another flashback, of course. It starts off with Jessica crying right after her fight with Steven, and Todd comforting her. Elizabeth comes home with Bruce, clearly distressed, and Jessica thinks that they've been caught out. But don't worry, it's only Winston dying that has Liz so rattled. Jess is like, "Phew, thank God for Winston's convenient death!" As it turns out, Winston fell off his own balcony. Or jumped. What are the odds that we'll find out later that he jumped because he was lonely? During all the sadness and confusion, Bruce has just enough time to give Jessica the stinkeye, so it's good to know what his priorities are.
Time for Winston's funeral now, which is a little weird. I can't believe I'm witnessing Winston's funeral. Jessica says, "The only advantage of dying young is the big turnout you get at your funeral," as though that's something that ought to be said. Elizabeth is horrified that Caroline Pearce is telling people that Winston killed himself, even though the coroner ruled it to be a drunken accident. During the service, Jessica mentions that it's still kind-of sad, even though "I know he turned out to be a real shit." Jessica, are you messing with me right now, or is this how you were taught to respect the dead? Even I have more respect for Winston, and I'm the snarker, and also not at his funeral right now. Liz isn't much better, calling him "disgustingly misogynistic" and talking about "what a bastard he became." People, this is a funeral! Act accordingly!
After the world's most angry and bitter funeral, everyone goes to Winston's house for the wake. Only they don't treat it like a wake; they treat it like a high school reunion. As Liz says, "The attitude might as well be, Winston who?" WINSTON WHOSE FUNERAL THIS IS, YOU GUYS! Holy St. Francis. Even during the original series, I always knew these characters were vile, shallow excuses for people, but they generally tended to mellow out a little for funerals. Maybe shed a tear, pretended to be sad, said something insincere but profound. It was their bit. It's a good thing the cancer didn't kill Caroline Pearce, because I can only imagine her funeral would just be a bunch of people standing around going, "Thank fucking Christ!"
Thankfully we're transported back to the modern day. I couldn't have taken much more of that. Jessica has just found out that Elizabeth is going to be at Nana Wakefield's party and is convinced that she'll just ignore them. Jess tells Todd a story about how she pretended Caroline Pearce was invisible in the seventh grade after Caroline had spread it around school that Jess had let AJ Morgan touch her breast. Which is crazy, because AJ Morgan felt Jessica up in the seventh grade and I was denied a book about this?! Shirt on or off? Over the bra or under? This is not what I should be focusing on, and yet, I feel like this revelation will end up being the highlight of the book.
Flashback story time. Jessica tells Todd that the ex-husband she skipped out on without so much as a farewell is coming to Sweet Valley. Todd's all, "Rah, I'll protect you!" and flexes his biceps. (Probably.) Regan shows up and immediately accuses Todd and Jessica of having an affair. Todd realises that it's been fucking forever since he punched someone, and hey, this Regan guy is as good as any. Elizabeth comes home from work to see Toddles beating the shit out of Jess's ex-husband in the kitchen and demands to know what's going on. Regan tells her to open here eyes and see what's right in front of her, that sister and boyfriend over there are boning. Regan storms out, but it's too late. Elizabeth knows. She knows. Todd and Jess are like, "Crap."
Back in the present, Elizabeth has just touched down on Cali soil again. She reassures herself that bringing Liam to the birthday party is completely innocent and not at all her way of trying to break up Jess and Todd. Then she decides that there's no danger of Liam falling for Jessica, since you can't be attracted to one twin and feel nothing for the other, and Liam feels nothing for her. Which is a hideous statement for a twin to make, especially one who's so pissed off at her ex-boyfriend for finding her twin sister attractive. Has logic completely left the building?
Time for Nana Wakefield's party. They actually call her Grandmommy, which is so unnecessary that I refuse to go back and edit all the instances in this recap that I called here Nana. Elizabeth arrives with Liam, nervous as hell and rightfully so. Liam offers to punch Todd if that'll make Liz feel better. Haha, oh, Liam. Little do you know that you just signed yourself up for a world of pain. Liz tells him something to that effect, so he says he might punch Jessica instead. Remember though, he's Irish. Punching is the only way they communicate, sort of like Todd, only they eat more potatoes.
Meanwhile, Jess is inside, still freaking out about how Elizabeth's going to act. She's already receiving the cold shoulder from Steven, Aaron and Bruce. Elizabeth arrives with Liam, and Jessica admits that even though she looks New Yorkier, they've still managed to cut their hair in the same style. Freaky. Everyone is super excited to see Liz, especially Grandmommy and Bruce. Not for the same reason, I'd imagine.
Eventually, Todd and Jessica are left pretty much alone with Liam and Elizabeth. Liz introduces Liam to them without actually making too much eye contact, and is relieved to see that Jessica doesn't seem to fancy him. Because even though it was, at one point, about breaking Todd and Jess up, now it's more about proving that dickhole Will Connelly wrong. Elizabeth's need to be right trumps everything, you see. She is a little disheartened at Jessica's reaction, taking it to mean that she's more in love with Todd than ever.
Liam, however, is taken aback by Jessica. After all the awful things he's heard about her and despite the fact that she looks exactly like his platonic friend Liz, Liam disproves Liz's wacko theory about twin attraction and finds himself head over heels in love with Jessica. Jess doesn't seem to notice, though, and the four of them move to the table to find their seats. Hilariously, Liam's been placed between Steven and Aaron, which would've gotten awkward at some point had Liam quickly managed to find a solution. He swaps seats with Steven so he can sit near Jessica. In Elizabeth's words. "Oh, shit." Yeah. She knows that swear word, too.
At dinner, everyone talks about everyone else's business, so long as it has nothing to do with the Jess/Todd/Liz fiasco. Steven mentions that Lila and Ken are definitely over, after he moved out and she failed to notice for two weeks. Heh. That's our Lila. Bruce tells everyone what Caroline told us all at the start of the novel, which is that Enid and AJ are secretly playing doctor. Which was an hilarious play on words when I thought of it, but then I kept reading and discovered that Enid is a gynaecologist. And I feel like it's time for a segue.
Segue: Enid being a gynaecologist freaks me out. Nothing against vaginas or anything -- I have one, and I haven't really had too much of a problem with it thus far. The fact is, gynaecologists are doctors (who just freak me out in general) who decided, at one point in their lives, that they want to spend their careers looking at lady parts. I don't understand this. And the worst part is that now gynaecology will always be associated with Enid. Every time you go to the gyno, you'll look at that seemingly normal person fishing around down there like they're searching for Sarah Madre's lost treasure, and you'll think, "This person was an Enid Rollins in high school." It's enough to make you will a penis into existence.
All this talk of gynaecologists makes Ned uncomfortable, so he changes to the subject to opera. Much classier than vajayjays. Jessica says something that makes Liz laugh, so she tries a little too hard and accidentally calls Liz their guest. Liz tells her that she's most certainly not a guest in her own family. It's only then that she realises that she and Jessica managed to get the same haircut on opposite ends of the country without consulting one another.
Liam starts talking to Jessica, and this horrifies Elizabeth even though this had subconsciously been her idea all along. She can deny it all she wants, but as if it isn't true. Throughout the night, Liam refuses to leave Jessica's side, and Jessica just sort-of puts up with him, like a stray dog or something. Todd is getting punchier and punchier as the night wears on, and, just as Ned goes to get the birthday cake, it ends in a verbal slinging match. Todd yells at Jessica, Jessica yells at Elizabeth, Steven yells at Jessica, Jessica yells at Todd, Aaron yells at Jessica, Jessica yells at Aaron. And Elizabeth? She screams at Jessica for being a liar and a boyfriend-stealer, and then turns to Todd and calls him a shithead. Yes, a shithead. Everyone starts yelling and screaming at one another again, until Alice, dear old Alice, throws down her napkin and screams, "Ned, bring out the fucking cake!" The entire scene is so outrageously funny and paints such an amazing mental picture, I actually thought about embedding the YouTube video, until I realised of course that it only exists in my mind, and I can't upload that to YouTube. (Yet.) I just...wow. That scene made the entire book worth the money I paid for it. Francine, I love you.
Todd and Jessica are going home from the, uh, eventful eightieth birthday party, and fighting about whether or not Jessica was flirting with Liam. They decide that the healthiest thing for their relationship is to go to bed angry. Which always ends well, as we know. During the night, Jessica makes her getaway.
The fighting continues at LAX as well. Liz and Liam have words, and then Liam makes her really angry by reminding her that she got what she wanted in the end -- revenge. Back at home, she meets up with Will, still angry about the fact that he accused her of trying to break up Todd and Jess, to finish her interview with him. After some food and some alcohol, they end up back at his place, doing the McNasty. This is the first Liz sex scene in the book, and it's a little odd. I never read the one where she does it in London, so this feels like a defining moment that Liz is sharing with me. (And, obviously, Will.) I feel as though I should take her out for cocktails and have womanly talks with her or, now that she's officially sexually-active, book her in for a pap smear with Dr. Enid.
Elizabeth leaves at about 2am after hardly any post-coital snuggling, leaving poor old Will alone like some filthy whore. Go Liz, you independent woman you. She gets to her apartment building, and the doorman is super confused and is all, "I could've sworn you got here a couple of minutes ago!" Liz thinks nothing of it, but by the time she gets to her apartment door, she realises his mistake. Jessica is sitting there with a sequinned backpack and a Prada bag, and my first thought is that I really want both those things.
Jessica tells Liz that she left Todd. Liz doesn't have a great deal of sympathy for her and is more like, "Great, have fun, good day," and when Jess starts to pour her heart out, Liz is all, "I said good day!" Then Jessica asks for a hug, and Liz reluctantly obliges, but finally holding her dear sister again triggers something in her. There's a lot of crying and hugging and then everything's fine again. Just like that. Never underestimate the power of a hug, my friends. Elizabeth still has the Liam thing on her conscience, though, so she asks Jess if she was flirting with him and Jessica denies it. Liz tells her she must really be in love. All seems to be well in the Wakefield camp once more.
The next morning, Todd comes to get Jessica. Oh, that's right. Jess just left him in the middle of the night. Ah well, all is forgiven pretty damn quickly. They decide to go home without so much as a conversation about why Toddles went to sleep next to Jessica, but when he woke up, she was in New York. There's a moment where the doorman from last night watches Jessica, thinking it's Elizabeth, and is happy that "the nice lady in 7C who always looks so unhappy had finally found someone in her life," which is all the more funny by the fact that it's not Elizabeth at all. She's still relatively unhappy and lonely. Heh.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, meets up with Will and admits that her plan with Liam and Jessica accidentally worked a treat, but the wedding's still on and she's going to attend. Then she decides that she and Will are going to be friends with benefits, which, wow. Elizabeth Wakefield is going around the big city having casual sex like it ain't no thang. Samantha Jones, you could learn a thing or two.
A couple of weeks later, Elizabeth is getting ready for opening night of Will's play. She thinks it's fabulous, but criticises that two of the characters aren't sexy enough together. Because Liz knows all about sexy now. After the play, Will discovers that his parents came from Chicago to watch it...and they brought his fiancée, Wendy. The next week, Liz gets a call from Will, who tells her that Universal Pictures wants to turn his play into a film, and he's going out to LA, with Wendy. He's all, "Thanks for being my fuck buddy, though." Liz is dejected.
Later that month, Elizabeth flies back to LA for the big Wakefield-Wilkins wedding. Bruce picks her up and fills her in on what happened when Todd discovered that Jess had left him. Hint: he lost his shit. This seems to shock Bruce, and he even says, "You know how cool he can be." Todd....Todd Wilkins, Bruce, really? Are you confusing him with your butler, Alfred? Anyway, Todd had a rage blackout and took off for New York, but by the time he returned with Jessica, they were changed people. Even Aaron admits it, and he's fucking Aaron. Bruce eventually drops Liz off at the house in Calico Drive and tells her that he has a surprise for her later. Then he takes off, probably because there's crimefighting to be done, and he became Batman.
Slowly, the whole family arrives at the Wakefield house, and it's a much nicer, calmer affair than poor old Grandmommy's birthday party. Elizabeth mentions that she feels awkward around Todd, but her anger seems to have disappeared. Which really pisses me off. Toddles didn't get any sort of comeuppance whatsoever. Literally none. Jessica was hated and ostracised by her friends, but the only friend Todd lost was Winston, and that's 'cause he died.
Elizabeth decides to make a grand gesture, and asks Jessica if they can swap lavalieres. That way, Liz will wear the one with the J on it, Jess will wear the one with the E on it, and Todd will feel left out because nobody gave him a necklace. Of course there's lots of crying and hugging, and then the three of them steal a moment alone together. It all becomes very melodramatic. Elizabeth's like, "I love you guys!" and Jessica's like, "I love you guys!" and Todd's all, "I love you guys, too!" while probably thinking, "I've seen you both naked but not at the same time. Let's remedy that."
After walking away arm-in-arm in front of a setting sun (I am so not kidding about any of those things,) Elizabeth heads over to Bruce's house to see what the surprise is. Steven had told her at dinner that Bruce has recently sold his house, so now Liz is a little worried. When she gets there, she thinks, "Bruce's house was too well-furnished to have been done by a single man with very little interest in decorating." I guess the fact that Queer Eye for the Steven Guy knows so much about Bruce's personal business has Liz a little spooked. Bruce greets her with a glass of wine, just like the good old days in 1bruce1, and Liz's spidey sense tells her that Bruce's secret is that he's in love with a mystery woman. She feels sad, like she's going to lose him, and then chides herself for begrudging her best friend his happiness.
Bruce finally puts her out of her misery -- he's in love with her. He, Bruce Patman, is in love with her, Elizabeth Wakefield, and is moving to New York to be with her. Then he kisses her, and Liz absolutely melts, because "That had never happened before. Not while she was conscious anyway, but that's a long story." AHAHAHAHAHAHA! I love it, Francine, I love it! You are the best for including that.
Anyway, Elizabeth and Bruce have a long discussion about their future. Nahh, just kidding; that was the old Elizabeth! The new Elizabeth and the new Bruce rip each other's clothes off and make passionate tender love, hopefully on some sort of animal skin rug in front of a roaring fireplace. Or in the Batcave. And that's where the book ends officially.
Francine, because she is the best and I love her, gives us an awesome epilogue -- Jessica and Todd's wedding. Liz is the maid of honour. Todd's dad wears a blue tuxedo. Jessica walks down the aisle to 'All I Ask Of You' from Phantom of the Opera, because she's three weddings in and doesn't want to hear 'Here Comes The Bride' again. Heh. And aww. The couplings seem to be a world of wrong, but I'm still kind-of liking this ending.
The rest of the epilogue is basically a catch-up of the old SVH gang, which I am more than happy to detail to you here and now. Because that's what I do, as a recapper. I recap.
Bill Chase became a champion surfer, until a shark bit half his leg off. Jeepers, Francine. Way to blow the saccharine-sweet ending right out of the water. (No pun intended.)
Mr. Collins left SVH after struggling to reclaim his reputation following the Suzanne Devlin incident, even though that happened like a hundred books before the series ended and nobody ever mentioned it again. True to form, he ended up marrying a student. You stay classy Mr. C, or rather, nasty.
Lila gets a mention, but most of it is about how she looked at the wedding, how she was wearing her hair, etc. The married Jeffrey French was her date. And speaking of:
Jeffrey French is still a dentist, like he was at the start of the book. Lila lost interest in him at the wedding, so he danced with DeeDee.
DeeDee Gordon danced with Jeffrey at the wedding. Oh, and she's an artist now.
Charlie Markus married Annie Whitman, "the girl he saved in high school by teaching her to have self-respect." Everything about that sentence bugs me, but okay.
Betsy Martin is a cokewhore alcoholic sex fiend. As far as these bios go, hers is the best so far.
AJ Morgan sells sneakers at the mall and is still banging Enid. As far as these bios go, his is the worst so far.
Roger Barrett Patman is not as attractive as Bruce. Francine's words. He's married to a singer and had a great time at the wedding, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure he died at some point in high school.
Enid Rollins became an alcoholic at the end of high school, and is now super clean and really preachy about it. She wants to run for city council. Nobody can stand her, which is a crying shame, because this is exactly what happened to Winston before his nose-dive off a balcony.
Nicky Shepherd also became a substance abuser, but now he teaches AA in Utah.
Cara Walker-Wakefield sells cakes or something now. I don't know. She's also doing some sort of math degree.
Annie Whitman is a lawyer and a mother. No longer slutty, since Charlie 'cured' her in high school.
Winston is mentioned as not being present at the wedding, on account of he's dead. As is Regina Morrow and Tricia Martin. I just love that the dead ones got a special mention at the end there, just to say, "Hey, we're still dead." Olivia Davidson and Ronnie Edwards do not feature in this section, and neither does Roger Patman, who has put himself in the 'alive' category, and that's where he's staying, dammit! Also, Suzanne Devlin? Dead. Car accident after a few too many glasses of champagne.
Oh, and Alice has breast cancer. Because fuck you, happy endings! You're not wanted here in Sweet Valley!
And that's it. Damn, that book was a lot more complicated than it had to be.