Check out that cover. The color here is a little more ... pronounced than the book I own. On my cover, the girls' makeup is more subtle, and their hair doesn't look quite so yellow. Otherwise the covers are the same. Look -- Liz has matching barrettes! Though you can't really see them in this picture. But you MIGHT be able to see that Jessica (unlike Liz) is wearing her lavaliere necklace!
So we begin Deadly Summer (nice generic title) at the Sweet Valley News, where the twins are still interns. Was this their first or second junior-year summer? Was it the same summer as the coastal bike trip? Who knows. Anyway this is the fourth book to take place at the News, and whatever summer it is for the twins, it's almost over. Liz and Jess are grabbing lunch in the cafeteria (wait ... didn't the last Super Thriller start there, too? Get some originality, ghostwriters!) They're also reflecting over the many adventures they had that summer, such as the grisly murder of Laurie, and their brush with the mob. They don't think about Barbara (she was too boring).
Anyway Liz and Jess start to argue about the "latest hot trend from England." That would be the Oijua board. Jessica and Lila are way into them, but Liz is a skeptic. Liz can hardly even believe she and Jess are related, despite their identical size six figures, blah blah (doesn't Jess ever get to marvel over their differences?).
After work, the twins go to the Dairi Burger, where they meet up with Cara, Lila, Enid, Winston, and all their other friends. Jeffrey's still away at camp; Liz tells Enid all about his latest letter. Before long, the Wakefields are the center of attention. Jess gets everyone talking about the Oijua board; her friends laugh and hang on her every word. Liz speaks up and good-naturedly (because she's St. Elizabeth) makes fun of Jessica and Lila for believing in the Ouija. But Lila doesn't take it well. In fact, she storms away! The others are all silent because they know "how Lila is" (rich but insecure). Speaking of rich, Bruce Patman shows up about then and announces how great he is (he won a tennis match). Elizabeth thinks about how stuck-up Bruce is, with his constant bragging and his 1Bruce1. Enid snarks to Elizabeth that Jess should ask the Oiuja board if Bruce will ever win at Wimbledon, and Liz snarks back that if it said yes, Jess would have to realize how stupid it was. Then Liz looks at her watch and is all "OMG I have to go baby-sit for Mrs. Bartel!" (Who?) Before she leaves, Lila storms back over to the table to announce that she, too, is leaving. Jess goes with her. Oh yeah... for some reason, Jess keeps referring to everyone as "y'all" (and Bruce keeps calling them "you kids").
Over in Lila's lime green Triumph, and all the way to Fowler Crest, Lila stews about Elizabeth. Lila to Jess: "Your sister just acts so superior sometimes, I could scream." Hee! Jessica vaguely defends Elizabeth, but when Lila suggests playing a joke on Liz to teach her a lesson, Jess is all for it. So much for twin loyalty. They decide to use the Oiuja board; Lila pulls some obscure knowledge about a delayed concert out of the air, and they plan to use that bit to convince Liz that the Ouija is for real. They get right to work on their joke -- the very next night, Jess convinces Liz to give the Oijua a try. Liz agrees, and scoffs all the way through their session. But wouldn't you know it ... right after Liz quits the session, she gets a call from Seth (the editor at the paper) who tells her that the big summer concert has in fact been delayed. Liz gets all creeped out and wonders how Jess and Lila could have guessed such a thing. She's starting to believe...
And Jess and Lila aren't even remotely done with their joke! The next morning, Jessica sees how weirded out Liz is and urges her to give the Ouija board another try. (Jess has hidden Liz's journal and wants the Ouija to "find" the journal.) Liz is growing obsessed with the Oijua board so she says yes. They have their session, and sure enough, the Ouija board finds the journal for Elizabeth. Liz is almost a full-fledged believer! Liz goes to baby-sit for Mrs. Bartel's son; she vows not to think about Ouija boards when she's on the job.
Meanwhile, Lila and Jess are out shopping when they decide to end their big joke with a bang. Their big finale will be to pick somebody who Liz can't stand -- and then they'll use the Ouija board to convince her that person is deathly ill. If she falls for it ... they win! The obvious choice for the dying person is Mr. 1Bruce1 himself. Jess just thinks it will be funny if Liz believes that Bruce is dying. Lila has more of an ulterior motive; she wants Bruce and Liz to actually fall in love. Apparently, Lila still secretly loves Jeffrey -- and if Bruce and Liz fall in love, then Lila can have Jeffrey all to herself.
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with a deadly summer. Well, the ghostwriter finally gets to that, 46 pages into the book. That's when the twins go back to work ... and hear about the mad bomber, Donald Redman. He just escaped from the psychiatric hospital! He's 32 years old, a paranoid schizophrenic, highly excitable, and assumed dangerous!! This time, Liz gets all excited, while Jess is the skeptic. Jess thinks the police will find him before the paper even goes to press. Liz calls Jess a "pessimist" ... but she's too busy and excited to let her twin's lack of enthusiasm get to her.
Liz and Seth get to work on finding out about Redman's background. They learn that he was a straight-A student at Sweet Valley High, that he made trouble with his teachers, and that he was obsessed with a beautiful, popular, homecoming-queen type of girl. He was expelled -- and he has a police record -- because he kidnapped the beautiful girl! Liz and Seth also find out that Redman ended up in the psych ward after he tried to kill his parents ... with a bomb!!!
So, Liz spends the rest of the day obsessing over Redman. Jess brings up the Oijua again, and this time Liz readily agrees to a session. But first she has to go baby-sit again at Mrs. Bartel's house. At this point, Liz's mind is whirling with thoughts of both the Ouija board and the mad bomber. She casually mentions Redman to Mrs. Bartel, and Mrs. Bartel turns "chalky white." Actually Mrs. Bartel is so freaked out that she cancels Liz's baby-sitting job. Liz berates herself for being so preoccupied that she would mention an escaped psycho to a young, single mom.
But back to the Oiuja board ... now that Liz isn't baby-sitting, it's time for Lila and Jess to put their big finale into action! Lila and the twins all gather round the Ouija, and Lila and Jessica make it say that Bruce has some terrible disease. According to the Oiuja board, Bruce knows that he's dying but keeps it a secret. Stupid Liz falls right into the trap. She feels sorry for Bruce and muses that maybe his arrogance is just a cover-up for fear. Lila mentions that Bruce will be at the Beach Disco that night; they put away the Oiuja board and decide to go. They bump into Bruce and Liz "acts nice to him" by agreeing to dance with him. Bruce wonders WTF? and asks Liz "what was it I said?", pointing out that she usually doesn't have much to say to him. Liz gives him a "searching" look; she doesn't want to force him to talk about his deathly illness, so she just says (in a 'choked' voice), "Nothing." Bruce is all, "Oh okay" and continues to dance with Liz. This chapter actually ends with Liz thinking, Poor Bruce ... you don't have to pretend anymore. Poor Bruce. Hahahaha! I love this plot.
The next day, Liz and Enid are hanging out at the beach when Enid announces that Bruce Patman "and his electric ego" are coming over to join them. (What's an electric ego?) Enid is very surprised when Liz tells her to lay off -- and even more surprised when Liz agrees to go walking with Bruce. On their walk, Bruce says cryptic things like "You really know how to make life worth living" and calls Liz 'Goldilocks.' Elizabeth feels a "warm, compassionate friendship" for Bruce. Jessica and Lila also happen to be at the beach; Lila is thrilled to see Bruce and Liz together, but Jessica decides that she's tired of the joke. She makes Lila promise to confess to Liz. But Lila swears that she just wants to do one more thing before confessing! So Jessica reluctantly agrees. Later, Jess and Lila go to the Wakefield house ... and see that Bruce had been there. He's STILL hanging out with Liz! They try to use the Oijua board that night, and Lila tries to hint (through the board) that Someone wants to send a message to Liz, but for whatever reason the Oijua doesn't appear to be working. But Lila is delighted when Elizabeth wonders "Could it be Bruce? Or Jeffrey?" (Lila loves that Liz thought of Bruce before Jeffrey...)
Back at work the next day, Jessica is so very bored that she decides to sneak out with Lila to some horror movie. She makes Liz promise to cover for her. A little later, the phone rings, and Liz picks it up -- only to hear a "sexless" voice whisper, "This is a friend calling." Creepy! It turns out to be the mad bomber, and he's calling to make a bomb threat to the paper. You'll never guess where the bomb is. It starts with a Valley and ends with a Cinema ... yes, the bomb is (supposedly) at the very place where Jessica snuck out!!!! Liz freaks out, but fortunately it turns out the bomb threat was fake. Redman even left a note that says 'Got ya. See you next time, kids.' (Did he really write "ya"?) The twins stand around outside the theater with all their friends, talking about the bomb. Jessica notices that Bruce is there, too, and she storms over to give him a piece of her mind. She lets him know that Liz doesn't really like him, she just thinks that he's dying and that's why she's acting so nice. Jessica expects Bruce to back off because this news isn't flattering to his ego. But instead, he seems ... amused! Much to Jessica's chagrin, Bruce just strolls away with a chuckle.
The next chapter takes place at Mrs. Bartel's house (I wonder if Mr. Collins gave Liz a good reference for her to score all this baby-sitting?). Liz is reading a book about Oijua boards or something when the phone rings. It's ... nobody. She wonders if Someone really is trying to contact her? Then the phone rings again, and this time it's Bruce. He casually pretends to be dying (making comments like "It's just so hard, you know?") and he asks to come over. Elizabeth feels sorry for him, but says no. Tired, confused about Bruce, Lizzie turns on the TV to get away from it all. Half an hour later, the doorbell rings, and thinking it's Bruce, Liz gets up to answer it. But instead of Bruce, she finds a strange man! He asks for Mrs. Bartel and claims to be an old college friend. Liz says she'll take a message. Then the guy peers at her and asks for her name, all, "You ... you look like someone I used to know." This unnerves Liz (I suppose it would unnerve me, too). She repeats that she'll leave a message, and the guy says "Thanks" all monotone, and leaves.
A little later, the doorbell rings yet again. This time, it really IS Bruce. Is he going to pull a Dear Sister on Liz? No ... he just acts all little boy-ish and "vulnerable", all under the guise of pretending to be dying. Liz thinks he might kiss her, so she briskly suggests lunch the next day and tells him to go home. Bruce actually says "I know when to back off", and then he actually leaves (but before he does, Liz gets another prank call).
In the next chapter, Jessica is in the Wakefield's sunny Spanish-style kitchen, doing the dishes (gasp) when Liz gets still another prank call. Jessica thinks Lila's behind the calls. She's tired of the Oijua joke and tired of Bruce hanging around Liz! Speak of the devil -- just when Jessica starts to think about Bruce, she hears a knock at the door. Guess who! It's Bruce! Liz acts nice to him some more, while Jess grumbles. Then the doorbell rings. I'm starting to get tired of all these people coming to the door. This time, it's ... OMG, it's Jeffrey! He's back from camp early!!! Jess is all "What are you doing here?" Jeffrey grins, "showing perfect white teeth" (was that detail really necessary?) and says that he came to surprise Liz. Needless to say, Jeffrey's not happy to find Lizzie with Bruce. But nothing big happens... yet. Bruce just acts cocky; and Jeffrey does pull Liz aside but she assures him that there's nothing going on.
The next chapter finds us suddenly at the football stadium, where everyone's gathered for a big back-to-school rally. Including a concert by Sweet Valley's one band, the Droids! Elizabeth and Jeffrey are joined in the stands by Bruce, which Jeffrey is clearly unhappy about. But Liz tells him not to worry. Dana Larson introduces the show by saying "This is a little gig we do each summer." They're a bunch of 16-year-olds, just how many summers have they been together? (Oh yeah ... time warp!) Anyway the Droids play their song "A-Plus" (lame) and Bruce and Jeffrey act all tense and (according to Liz) "like dogs circling a bone." Liz thinks that she's the bone ... and she doesn't like it. She leaves them alone and goes to get a soda.
For some reason, our tasty bone decides to wander around SVH first (she's "deep in thought") and as she wanders a corridor, she bumps into Chrome Dome Cooper. He looks like he's going to faint, so Lizzie asks him if he's alright. Chrome Dome blows her off and runs back toward the football field all panicky. Nosy Liz goes to follow him, but right away she bumps into another man. It's Mrs. Bartel's college friend from the other day! What is HE doing there? Liz and the "college friend" do double takes at eachother, then the college friend runs away and Liz shrugs and goes to find Chrome Dome. It turns out he was in a panic because that mad bomber Redman called Sweet Valley High with another bomb threat!!! Oh no! Chaos and mayhem ensue as Chrome Dome cancels the rally and orders everyone to evacuate. Liz gets all tearful and runs toward the stands to find Jeffrey and Bruce (meanwhile not giving a thought to Jessica, who I assume is also there). Everyone tells her she's going the wrong way. But Mr. Collins saves her and makes her get off the field. SOMEhow, Liz and Mr. Collins end up near the bomb squad -- where they find out that Redman left another fake. Everyone worries and wonders ... when will he strike again?
Back in the safety of Casa Wakefield, Jessica calls Lila and tells her to stop prank calling Liz. Lila acts indignant and says that she only called a couple of times. Jessica says "Okay okay" but she wonders who's been calling her sister. Later all of the Wakefields are eating breakfast and somberly talking about Redman. Liz sees his picture in the paper and starts to doodle hair and a beard on it. Suddenly she realizes ... he looks familiar ... the mad bomber pictured in the paper looks just like Mrs. Bartel's college friend! Liz thinks about calling the police but she decides to call Mrs. Bartel first. Liz is all "Your college friend looks just like that bomber" but Mrs. Bartel just laughs and assures Liz that he really is just a friend.
However, the next segment is from Mrs. Bartel's point of view. I bet you'll be very surprised to read that her "college friend" really is Donald Redman, the mad bomber. Not only that -- Redman is Mrs. Bartel's brother. Worst of all, he still remembers "Melanie", the beautiful yet mean girl who he kidnapped years ago. Melanie -- get this -- looked just like Elizabeth! Now that crazy Redman has seen Liz, he thinks she's Melanie, and he wants ... revenge. After hanging up with Liz, Mrs. Bartel agonizes over whether or not to turn her one and only brother in to the police.
From there, we move on to a CD store. Jeffrey's shopping for CD's when he just happens to run into Bruce. They almost-fight over Liz; Bruce calls Jeffrey "Ranger Jeff", and Jeffrey shoots back that Bruce is "scum." Bruce brags about having a date with Elizabeth. Jeffrey storms away, all angry at Liz. Then it's back to the Wakefield's split-level house (later in the day). The phone rings, and Jessica's less than thrilled to hear that it's Bruce. She gives the phone to Elizabeth. This time Bruce REALLY lays it on thick with the "dying" act, practically sounding suicidal. He manipulates Liz into meeting him at the high school tennis courts. She rushes off, instructing Jessica to tell Jeffrey that there was an "emergency" and that she'll be back as soon as she can. Some more time passes -- Lila comes over. Lila and Jess muse over the Oijua board and Liz. Finally, Jeffrey does come over. For some reason, Lila answers the door -- and she's still all into her plan to have Jeffrey all to herself. She hints that Bruce and Liz are at the tennis courts making out or something. So Jeffrey decides to go to the tennis courts and find out just what's going on between Liz and Bruce!
The next chapter begins with Donald Redman's point-of-view. Hee! Redman's not as fun as Psychotic Margo, but he's still a pretty entertaining nutcase. He thinks about all the "fools" who have underestimated him all his life, and the "smug, idiotic" doctors. Oh yeah, while he's thinking all this stuff, he also happens to be at Sweet Valley High ... making a bomb. A REAL bomb! Suddenly Redman hears voices (real ones, not in his head). It's Liz and Bruce, out in a hallway. Stupid Bruce is still going on with his suicidal act ("I don't know how much longer I can go on, Liz") and Liz, falling for it, is all "You have to keep fighting!" Redman flattens himself against the wall so they won't see him. But he takes a peek, and he mistakes Liz for Melanie. He turns "splotchy red" and thinks to himself that she's out to get him. He thinks, This time I won't just steal you. This time, I'll kill you. As someone pointed out on Amazon -- every summer for the Wakefields is a deadly summer!
Back over to Jessica and Lila. They're bored so they decide to have a séance. At first, it's all fun and games with the Ouija. But then the board spells out that "EW" is in danger at the stadium. Jessica's all "That's not funny, Lila!" but Lila swears it isn't her controlling the board. Jessica decides it's her "twintuition" at work and that Liz really is in danger. She panics and decides that she must go to the stadium and save Liz! With Lila by her side, Jessica runs out at the door and ... runs right into Mrs. Bartel, who was coming over to warn Elizabeth about her crazy brother. How's that for synchronicity! They all call the police and head for the stadium together.
Speaking of the stadium -- Bruce is STILL going on about how depressed he is, how he can't take it anymore. Liz gives him a hug, all "Oh Bruce... I know!" She thinks she feels him kiss her shoulder, but a split second later she feels guilty and thinks his lips were just quivering because he was crying. Bruce and Liz stare into eachother's eyes, and Liz feels a "deep bond." That's when a voice cuts through the air, all "What the!" (What the what?) It's Jeffrey. And he's LIVID! There's some wacky hijinx as Liz finally, finally realizes she's been made a fool of. She runs away in tears, leaving Jeffrey and Bruce on their own. Crying, and berating herself, Liz contrivedly decides to hide out in the Utility Room, in case Jeffrey might come looking for her. Of course, that's where Redman is -- and Liz sees the case with 'TNT' on it a second too late. Redman's got her!
Redman calls Liz 'Melanie', and mutters crazy things about making her pay. He twists her arm, and Liz screams. First Redman tells her to shut up, but then he decides that he wants to kill Bruce and Jeffrey, too. So he makes her scream again -- and sure enough, they come running, united now in their efforts to Save Liz. Redman is pleased to have all three of them, and he makes them stand and watch while he continues to build his bomb, muttering more crazy things. Bruce gets all cocky then and speaks up, "You know, if you set that thing off, you go, too." This pisses off Redman, who declares them all "fools" and says "I'm the only one this bomb CAN'T kill! Bwah ha ha ha ha!" Liz realizes that Bruce was stalling for time, so she asks Redman how the bomb works. He casually starts to explain it to her, and pats his bomb "lovingly." But then Liz is all, "Why are you doing this?" which sets Redman off again.
He rants and raves about Melanie, and how everyone is always hounding and persecuting him. Meanwhile, he continues to work on his bomb -- as Liz "and her cute boyfriends" (that's what Redman calls Jeffrey and Bruce) listen in horror to his ramblings. Redman's all "I'm a genius, a giant among men! (Ha!) But I've been betrayed by enemies on every side. So tonight I'm going to blow up your precious football stadium." Even though they're just listening, Redman then demands to know what Jeffrey is doing. Jeffrey's all, "Nothing, man!" Liz tries to insist that she isn't Melanie, but Redman just chuckles, all "Sure, nice try." He laughs maniacally and tosses his bomb's remote control from hand to hand.
While all of this excitement is going on, Jessica's still busy trying to rescue her twin. Jess, Lila and Mrs. Bartel all show up at the stadium, and Mrs. Bartel has to stop Jessica from running inside. Mrs. Bartel also recognizes her brother's car, which frightens them. But soon the cops and the SWAT team show up and set up some equipment so they can hear inside the Utility room, and communicate with Redman.
Back over to that room ... Redman's still ranting and raving, and Liz is sending silent I love you's to Jeffrey, when she hears a voice boom "This is the police!" Redman hears it, too ... he gasps with shock, but then he gets defiant. He opens the door, cackles evilly, and tells the police that he'll never come out! Never! The cops are all, "Come on, Redman, be reasonable." They decide to try another tactic; they get his sister, Mrs. Bartel, to start pleading with him. This time, it almost works, as Redman gets all weepy (after she starts sharing not-very-original memories about how they used to look at stars and constellations). Now Redman is very confused. He even wonders if Liz might really not be Melanie! But then he snaps again, and concludes that it's not his sister talking ... just an imposter.
Jeffrey chooses that moment to lunge at Redman! As they wrestle around (with Bruce's help) Jeffrey manages to knock the remote out of Redman's hand. But Redman's all "Too late, I already hit it! Bwahahahaha!" Jeffrey orders Liz and Bruce to get out of there. Bruce does leave -- but he takes the bomb with him!!! Does he REALLY want to commit suicide? Liz shouts "Bruce! NOOOO!!!" and Redman runs after Bruce, all "Give it back! Give it baaaack!" Liz and Jeffrey grab for the remote and desperately try to rip it apart. But right after they finally manage to do so, they hear ....... a deadly explosion.
Outside, Jessica hears the explosion, too. She acts like she might be in shock or something, and Lila panics. But somehow, Jess "just knows" that Liz is okay. Nevertheless, she acts all shrieky and panicked at first when a firefighter tells her that she can't go inside. Then she gets all weak and trembly and thinks, C'mon, Liz, you've got to come out of there!
Back inside, Liz really is okay. So is Jeffrey. They recover from the shock of the big explosion. Liz remembers Bruce and starts to cry; she wants to go look for him, but Jeffrey tells her "sadly" that "It's no use. No one could have survived that explosion." Liz insists that they go look, so Jeffrey agrees. They make their way to the hallway and see ... a figure limping toward them! Is it Redman? -- no -- it's Bruce! He's sooty and bloody, gagging and coughing, but he's alive. He looks at Elizabeth and says "Hi Goldilocks." Jeffrey doesn't seem to mind this; all three of them hug and cry and laugh. The cops and SWAT team come running to the rescue. Bruce painfully recalls to them how Redman grabbed the bomb from him, and ran away laughing. The cops gently urge the three to go outside. But first they stand around for a minute, thinking about how their experience made them all bonded and BFF now (at least until the next book).
We end with a nice Liz-Jess reunion outside, where Liz makes Jess promise to never go near another Oijua board, and Jess says that she'll only go near it one time ... to throw it away. I'm sure Lila appreciates that, seeing how the Oijua belongs to her (and didn't it "help" Jessica realize her twin was in danger?).
The twins walk away, arm in arm, safe ... until the next Super Thriller!
Happy Halloween, all!