Thursday, March 3, 2011
SVT Super Chiller #1 - The Christmas Ghost
This is another one of the Christmas stories that I never got around to reading the first time around... Maybe because it's from December of 1989, and I was just turning FOUR at that time. Actually, I WAS able to read at that age (I started early, age 2 1/2), but I mostly stuck to Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears, because I was FOUR. So stop holding that against me!!! (Are there any Berenstain Bears blogs out there? I used to read their chapter books ALL THE TIME...) The cover shows a scared Jessica (I think, her hair is wavy and not in a ponytail) with a blonde girl in front of her. I immediately begin to wonder if perhaps Crazy Margo made an early appearance...
Opening up the book, I see that this too was written by my good friend (and worst enemy), Jamie Suzanne. So we know right away that this one is a real winner. Oddly, this book says "Sarah" on the inside, and the title page says her name is "Sarah Lee", so I know it never belonged to me. So let's begin...
It's Christmastime in Hollis Queens (oh, I'm sorry, I meant Sweet Valley!!), and Jess and Liz are randomly discussing ghosts. Jess is scared of ghosts, but Liz claims they're just pretend (I beg to differ, maybe I'll tell you some of MY ghost stories sometime, but not today). The twins are at the Mall doing some window-shopping, which leads to a totally random description of them. You already know what it says, so I'll skip that like I always do. They switch from discussing the paranormal to talking about gifts. Liz has already gotten Jess's, and Jess hopes that it's purple. On the way out of the Mall, Liz sees a porcelain horse and LOVES it. It reminds her of how much she and Jess loved riding the carousel when they were little, and of course Jess loves it too. Jess tells Liz that she should asks for it for Christmas, but Liz says her parents have already finished shopping and it looks expensive. (I'm picturing this horse as the horse from "A Very Brady Sequel" for some reason...)
They ride the BUS home (ewww, I rode the bus last week and some kid coughed ALL OVER ME the entire ride, plus some random fat guy had to stand because there were no seats, and so I also spent that ride with a giant ass in my face. I hope Liz got the aisle seat!!!!) and Liz babbles about this holiday bazaar (the animated elephant?) that she's putting on at SVMS. She's trying to raise $100 to buy a new laser-thing for the childrens hospital... I doubt that something like that costs SO little, and if it did, why didn't George Fowler just give them the money if their finances were THAT bad?!?! (And, in 'A Christmas Without Elizabeth', their party budget was $386...inflation is a bitch, I guess.) I'm still having a hard time believing that a hospital cannot raise $100 independently and has to reply on Liz for help... But anyways, the bazaar is like a big garage sale/bake sale/junk sale and Liz is all excited about it, but Jess and I don't care that much.
At home, Jess asks her mom to buy her the porcelain horse, and Alice says that it sounds more like something Liz would want. Jess really wants it (why, I wonder? She's not known for keeping her stuff in the best condition, so imagine how long that poor horsie would last before being crushed by the hoard of crap in her bedroom...), so she lies and says that Liz wasn't into it. I don't see why they couldn't SHARE the horse...like, put it in the bathroom or something.
Liz starts baking sugar cookie for the bazaar. Alice helps, and Jess totally blows them off to help Lila plan her Christmas party (no, not the party that Janet and Joe have with the HIGH SCHOOL BOYS, this is a DIFFERENT one...3 parties, 1 Christmas break!!!!!). For whatever reason, Lila's party is on Wednesday (another weeknight party?!?! What the hell am I supposed to do on FRIDAY and SATURDAY?!?!). We randomly learn that Alice is "well-known throughout Sweet Valley for her decorating skill", just kind of thrown in there. Jamie Suzanne describes -in detail- Liz's cookie baking and decorating, and mentions that Liz also made ginger snaps. (Mmmmm...my gramma used to make those specially for me every year!!!!) Steven comes in and tries to eat the cookies, but Liz is a Cookie Nazi and a bitch, so Steven has to settle for cake (seems like they ALWAYS have some cake in their kitchen...do they buy cases of it?!?! I wish I had cake). Because Steven needs something to go with his cake, Ned comes home and starts grilling hamburgers for dinner as he admires the dozens of cookies that Liz made. Liz is proud of her work, but she wishes that Jess had been able to help. (And I wish someone would realize that this girl has ATTACHMENT ISSUES along with her OCD and depression...)
The next day is BAZAAR DAY!!!!! Everybody loves the Christmas and Hanukkah decorations (which I imagine were made by Aaron Dallas, since he's the ONLY Jewish guy in Sweet Valley), and people buy up everything like crazy to help support Liz's charity of the moment. Liz, Amy, and Maria (black Maria?) go to Liz's to count the money they made. Alice is waiting for them with lemonade and "special cookies", whatever that means... (Go ask Alice!!!!)
Later, Liz finds Jess searching for the Christmas gifts that their parents have so cruelly hidden from them (my mom used to write a list of what she had gotten everybody, so my sister and I only had to go to the trouble of locating that list...it was always hidden in her purse, and she STILL does that!!!). Jess finds the horse, of course, and both girls wonder who the horse is for. Liz hopes against all hope that it's actually for her, but we all know that Jess is superior and Ned and Alice love her more, so she's getting it. Ha.
Liz is disappointed that her holiday bazaar only made $47.35. She wonders how she can raise the remaining money, and she thinks her problems are solved when she sees an announcement in the newspaper. Some actor named Beau Dillon (is he related to Matt and Kevin? Entourage = FAVORITE show!!!!) is coming to SV to promote his new movie, "Tender Hearts". It's about a kid that gets cancer and almost dies, but then she doesn't (Hey, how does he know Mandy Miller?!?!), and Liz thinks that Beau is exactly who she needs for her fundraiser. She writes him a letter and asks him to help her. (She thinks he can get her a private screening of his new movie or maybe some old costumes for her fundraising, but I'm smarter than her so I know that that stuff is handled by STUDIOS, not the actors themselves...but whatever.)
SVMS has a holiday party (ANOTHER PARTY?!?! My count for this vacation is up around SIX PARTIES at this point, and we still have like 3 Christmas books to go...), and Jess and Liz sing with the choir (continuity- Holiday Mischief!!!! I liked that book), and the "crowd cheered wildly" as Liz sang a solo. They must have ALL gotten some of Alice's "Special Cookies"... Oh wait, they were just cheering because they got excused from school after the choir sang, and now it's WINTER BREAK!!!!! (again) The ENTIRE 6th grade is invited to Lila's party that night (I wonder if she had a Super Sweet 16?!?! Some girls get Mercedes, some get Range Rovers, Lila gets a LIME GREEN TRIUMPH!!!! Take that, bitches!!!!), so everybody's in a fabulous mood. Especially Liz, because there's a letter from Beau waiting for her when she gets home!!! He's coming to help her (he invites himself over to her house, and I begin to wonder just what kind of guy this Beau character is...my gut is telling me that he's shady and I shouldn't trust grown men who go to strange houses to meet 12 year-old girls...), and Liz and Jess are beyond THRILLED!!!!
It's time for Lila's party!!!! Jess is wearing a lavender sweater, a black mini with leggings, and dangly earrings, and Lila's ensemble is described as "expensive-looking". (More of JS's creativity at work right there...) Everybody finds out that Beau is coming and they freak out about it, until Lila says she doesn't believe it, and she doubts he will even show up. So everybody agrees with her and loses interest fast.
The next day, the twins clean their house and wait for Beau to show up. Sadly, Beau is a no-show, so Liz decides to go to the hospital and pity some more sick kids to take her mind off what an ass he is. Jess stays home alone and thinks about how she's going to protest Beau's next movie and DESTROY HIS CAREER!!!!! (Quick Jess, just go Rothlisberger!!!!!) She's not mad that he isn't helping sick kids, she's just mad that he didn't show up, and now she looks like an idiot and a liar. Beau-No-Show finally DOES show up (his limo broke down, SV is just FULL of broken-down limos, it seems!!!!) and he mistakes Jess for Liz (because Liz didn't bother to tell Beau that she has a twin), but Jess doesn't realize it because she's STARSTRUCK!!!! (Future GROUPIE, mark my words!!!!) Beau doesn't have time to discuss anything that day, so he -get this- MAKES A DINNER DATE WITH HER!!!! (I can maybe overlook showing up at a house where a 12 year-old is alone, but making a SOLO DINNER DATE with someone that age is UNFORGIVABLE...even I would have to decline if SVT Bruce asked me out.) At this point, I would like to point out that Jess could save herself a lot of trouble (and me as well, because the book would effectively end right here...) if she just said something like: "Hey, Liz, Beau showed up after you left. He thought I was you, so I played along and now you have a dinner meeting to discuss this stupid fundraiser-thing...", then everything would be fine. But Jess doesn't think to do this, so she just lets Liz sit around and mope all through dinner about Beau blowing her off.
The family celebrates Christmas that night by singing carols and reading 'A Christmas Carol', plus some other stories. Then they each open one gift (I always hated that tradition, so when my parents divorced I demanded that gifts be opened on Christmas Eve, and I've done it that way ever since). Jess opens one from Lila, it's a FREAKING POSTER (WOW, Lila really spent A LOT on her "best friend" this Christmas, NOT!!!), but Jess loves it because it's a UNICORN POSTER. It seems unfair to me, especially when Jess says that she got Lila a pair of unicorn earrings (SV stores must stock up on purple stuff and unicorn paraphernalia in anticipation of the FIVE Christmases it has every year). Liz opens her gift. It's from Amy, so I bet it's a book...yep, it's a book. Amanda Howard, of course. Steven opens his gift and it's a biography of his "favorite basketball star". (I wonder who that was...1989, good year for basketball...I'm guessing Steven's favorite player was either Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson. He seems like a Lakers guy, so probably Magic.) I think I like Steven's gift the best. I wish somebody had gotten me a biography of DAVID LEE last Christmas, then I could recap it for you!!!! Everybody has a fabulously terrific Christmas Eve -except for Jess, she's still feeling guilty. But still not guilty enough to TELL LIZ WHAT HAPPENED (and put me out of my misery!!!!).
Jess goes to bed and hangs her new poster on the wall. She looks at it, and she thinks it's eyes are following her around her room (did she eat more of those "Special Cookies"?!?!). She lays in bed and stares at her lamp. It suddenly changes into the lamp that she and Liz used to have back when they shared a bedroom. Instead of being pink, it's now a CLOWN. (OMFG, I'm OUT!!!!!!! That's it!!!! SarahLynn has had enough!!!! I do not do clowns.) Jess always HATED that lamp, and she broke it on purpose years ago (hahahaha!!!!), but somehow it's come back. The damn scary clown scares Jess -and me- even more as it calls her a liar. (I think I would go sleep in Liz's room if I were her...) Suddenly, it's back to normal (thank god), and Jess is left trying to fall asleep. As she lays in bed, she thinks back seven years to Christmas morning when she was five. She and Liz had gotten a huge dollhouse and "scores of other presents" that year. (BRATS!!!!) She looks at the clock and notices that it's MIDNIGHT. Her bed starts to shake and a little blonde girl appears in her bedroom.
The little girl introduces herself as "The ghost of Christmas past". (Sure, Liz gets a GUARDIAN ANGEL, and poor Jess is stuck with a damn GHOST...real nice, Jamie Suzanne!!!). Jess thinks it's a joke, and she guesses that Steven set it all up, but then she realizes that the little girl is...HER!!!!
Little Jess takes Big Jess to the park. They see the old carousel (it has since been torn down, spooooky!!!), and Little Lizzie and Jessie are riding it. Lil Liz wants to ride it again, but Lil Jess wants to do something else. Little Alice (haha) actually feels like being a parent that day, so she lets Lil Liz have her way and the girls ride it again even though Jess didn't really want to. Big Jess watches this and thinks about how she ALWAYS gets her way these days, but she's happy that Lil Liz got what she wanted that one time.
Lil Jess continues their journey with a stop by Sweet Valley Elementary School. Lil Liz and Lil Jess are in 2nd grade and straight out of a Sweet Valley Kids book. They're even dressed alike. Jess thinks about how much fun that used to be, and about how close she and Liz were back in those days. Proving this, Lil Lila shows up and asks Lil Jess to have lunch with her, but LJ declines because she wants to eat with LL. Big Jess thinks to herself that she would probably go with Lila without a second thought for Liz these days, and she feels even more guilty. At lunch, the lunch lady forgot to give Lil Jess her cookie (not a "Special" one this time, sadly), so Lil Liz shares hers. It's actually pretty sweet, and it makes me want to read some SVKids books after this. LIL BRUCE (OMG!!!!) is sitting at the next table and he witnesses this. He teases the twins and calls them "babies" (haha, some people never change), and Lil Jess stands up to him. She calls him "Bruce Fatman", which is such an appropriate 2nd grade insult. Even I have to laugh at her in this scene, she's just such a lil badass!!!! Nobody messes with Lil Jess's sister, dammit!!!! Not even you, Bruce!!!!!
Lil Jess takes Big Jess home and Jess gets to witness one of the many Christmases that they had during their 2nd grade year. She sees herself getting a makeup kit (at age SEVEN, way to go, Ned and Alice!!!!) and Liz getting a coloring set. They also get some identical gifts, and some dolls (no, not magic elf dolls or Prince dolls...those come later). Lil Liz isn't thrilled with her doll (I guess this was before she realized that not every kid gets gifts...), so Jess switches dolls with her without even thinking about it, because she doesn't want her "best friend" to have a bad Christmas. Big Jess thinks about how she would never do that now.
Jess wakes up after that. She's back in her bed, and it's now 1 AM. her house is eerily quiet, and she sees a glowy white light outside her bedroom door. Me, I would hide in my covers and make somebody else investigate it, but Jess is braver than me so she goes into the hallway and sees a UNICORN standing there. (No, not Janet or Lila or even Ellen, an ACTUAL UNICORN!!!!) The unicorn is even PURPLE, but it's still a scary sight for Jess. The unicorn is obviously the ghost of Christmas present, so Jess climbs on its back and they fly out the window. (Again with the flying in the Christmas stories...)
The unicorn takes her to Beau's house (and I bet Beau LOVES that). Jess hears him talking on the phone about the incredible 12 year-old he met that day (ummm, yeah, he's CREEPY), and Jess thinks he's talking about her until she remember that he thinks she's Elizabeth. Again, she feels guilty. I think the title for this book should have been "Jessica's Magical Guilt Trip"...
The unicorn brings her home so she can witness Christmas morning. She sees the entire thing through Liz's point of view (thoughts and all), which is super confusing to me. I don't get why she was an observer earlier, but now she's seeing it firsthand... Anyways, she watches herself open a gift and immediately snap at Liz that she CANNOT borrow it. Liz just takes the abuse and thinks about how sad she is (again, somebody check her for depression...), and Jess asks the unicorn if she can tell herself to stop being such a bitch and behave differently. Sadly, she cannot.
The unicorn then proceeds to take Jess back to book #1. Jess witnesses the scene where Liz comes home and cries to Alice about Jess being a Unicorn. It's actually pretty on-point, so I won't go too in-depth on it. Basically, Liz cries, and Jess does too.
Again, Jess is back in her own bed. It's now 2 AM, and she still feels that nagging guilty feeling. She tries to forget about it and fall back asleep, but her room disappears and she opens her eyes to find herself outside. She's laying in a field of flowers in the woods beyond Secca Lake. She meets the next ghost- Christmas future, and it's the scariest one of all!!!! It doesn't speak, and it wears a hood so she can't see it's face. The ghost leads her to a group of teenagers in the woods, and she sees a gorgeous blonde in the center of the group. It's her!!!!! She wonders what the point of this lesson that she was supposed to learn is, especially since she's obviously just as popular as she's ever been, and she's HOTT too!!!! All the boys love her, and most of the girls too. She's also super nice to everyone, and when she walks away from the girls, 12 year-old Jess hears the girls wondering why somebody so nice has such a bitchy evil sister. Jess wonders what happened to Liz, and why she couldn't help her be popular too. We learn that there's a trick being played on said sister (these girls are Phi Beta Alphas, and this is an initiation), and it's set up to be a failure. Nobody wants Liz to join the sorority!!!!! Jess hears some crying off in the distance and goes to investigate.
Jess runs through the woods, barefoot and in her nightgown, and searches for Liz. She cuts her ankle on a thorny bush, but she just keeps running because she's worried, She finds her curled up in a ball on the ground, crying hysterically. Jess tries -unsuccessfully- to comfort her, but she soon realizes that it's HERSELF (because her hair is down, and the twin back at the party had a ponytail...that would have been MY first clue). Oh snap.
Jess teleports to the Sweet Valley High football field. She sees Liz sitting in the bleachers, surrounded by admirers. (I'm REALLY bored right now...where did Bruce go?) She looks around and sees herself sitting all alone. Some girls nearby are discussing how much they love Liz (gag me!!!!), and what a bitch Jess is. The girls mention the time she tried to steal Todd from Liz, and the time she played that mean trick on Lois Waller at the Dairi Burger in SVT #1 (that's ALL she's done?!?! Really? I guess this is right after SVH book #1, because she kind of escalates from there). They also mention the time Jess pretended to be Liz so she could have dinner with Beau Dillon. Apparently, he failed to be impressed by Jess, and he was so pissed when he found out she wasn't Liz that he pulled out of the fundraiser and the hospital never got it's full $100... Oh. Shit. That's TERRIBLE!!!! (Really, JS, $100?!?! Lila gets more than that for lunch money.) Jess begs the ghost to stop all the insanity. (As do I!!!!) She's finally starting to see the error of her selfish ways, or something.
Sadly, the ghost refuses to stop (there's a joke here, but I'm NOT making it because I don't find it funny) and it brings Jess to the Dairi Burger. It's Christmas (again, we've had like FOUR of them in this book alone...) and Liz is sitting at a table with her Entourage. She has a PILE (yes, a freakin' PILE) of gifts in front of her. Lila and BRUCE (oh thank god, I was starting to worry!!!!) are there with her. Jess sees that Liz is wearing a gold charm bracelet and thinks -somewhat bitterly- that it was probably a gift from one of her many, many, many friends. Liz = POPULAR, I'm sick of being reminded of this. (And where the hell is Crazy Margo?!?! See, at least there's ONE positive to all of this...or not, depending on your perspective.) Jess sees herself, alone again, at a table in the back. She observes that she looks gorgeous, and stylish, but she just has a bitchy aura about her. She's not all glowy and smiley, and she's become one of those girls that you can tell is just a straight BITCH just by looking at her (I'm sure you know a few of those). Lois Waller is sitting nearby (ahem, Jamie Suzanne, this is a PARALLEL UNIVERSE, so I wish you would have made Lois popular as well, it couldn't have hurt), stuffing her fat face. She invites Jess to sit with her (awwww, Lois is a sweetie, too bad JS isn't taking the moral of her own book seriously), and Jess snaps at her. She calls Lois a loser, and Other Jessica looks on in horror because even she can't believe what a bitch she is.
Bruce and Lila decide to get revenge on Jess for being such a bitch. Bruce struts his sexy ass (hey, he's 18 now...BRUCE!!!!!) up to her table, sits down, and asks her out -TO A DOG SHOW... High School Jess is a dumb bitch, so she accepts, and Bruce goes on to explain that he invited her to the dog show because she's a dog (I think he meant BITCH, but this isn't SVH so he has to do the obvious...) and 12 year-old Jess cries because her high school life really sucks (I agree. That was uncalled for, Bruce, please go apologize!!!!). She again begs the ghost to make it stop.
The ghost is a total sadist, so it brings Jess back to her house in that obligatory pale, swirly mist that only occurs in Sweet Valley at Christmastime and shows her Liz's bedroom. The walls are full of awards, she has thousands of trophies, she's head of Phi Beta Alpha, Honor Student, and her walls are covered with pictures of friends. Her life is obviously very happy, and Jess's mood is not lifted in the slightest. Jess watches Liz write in her journal. She reads over her shoulder and discovers that Liz loves her life, but she isn't happy. Liz is depressed because Jess never listened to her warnings about her selfish ways, and her life sucks because of it. Liz talks about how it tore them apart over the years, especially after the whole Beau thing. Liz was sure that, because Beau bailed on the fundraiser, all the kids in the hospital suffered (again, ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!!! I'm sure that SV has at least ONE set of parents willing to put up that kind of $$$ to stop their child from suffering). She was never able to forgive Jess for that (way to be a drama queen and make me sit through an entire boring book, Liz...I hate you right now). Jess reads this and cries again (no, I will NOT count how many times she's cried, I feel she's been through enough after the rejection from Bruce), and she hates herself. (Even though, in all actually, she could have told Liz about Beau in the morning and he would have never had to know...ANYTHING TO STOP THIS BOOK!!!!) Liz starts to cry as she writes...AND I must note that this is the FIRST time she has cried...page 171, nonetheless. Jess pleads with the ghost and swears that she can change. She worries that it's already too late (it's not...), and begs the spirit to tell her otherwise. She grabs in and tries to get it to speak, but it's hood slips off and the cloak wraps around her as she sees that there was NOTHING under the cloak. She screams loudly, and I sigh with relief because I only have ONE chapter to go!!!!! That's the best part of the book thus far, but it's STILL better than that episode of the SVH TV Show that I recapped earlier today.
Jess wakes up again. In true SV Christmas Special fashion, everything has returned to normal. But, of course we need the standard proof that this was actually real, so Jess has scraped ankles from when she ran through the woods. She remembers that it's Christmas (and it's 7 AM, the latest she's ever slept on Christmas), so she runs downstairs to find Liz. They make up, express their love for each other, the usual stuff. Then Jess come clean and tells Liz about the whole Beau thing. Because it's the last chapter, Liz has to forgive her for it on the spot, and they hug again. Liz mentions that she thought Jess was already awake because, when Liz walked by her room earlier, she could have sworn her bed was empty. (Cue scary Twilight Zone music.) They go into the den to open their huge pile of gifts, and Mts. Wakefield scares the hell out of Jess when she says, "It looks like Jessica has finally found the Christmas spirit."
long story short, Jess opens her gifts and gets the horse. Of course, she gives it to Liz on the spot and Liz is thrilled. After all of the gifts are opened, they discover one last one. It's for Liz, and it's from that creeper Beau. Inside is a gold charm bracelet, exactly like the one Liz had on at the DB. (Am I the ONLY one who has a problem with Beau and Liz's relationship? The first meeting was awkward, the dinner date was inappropriate, AND now he's giving a TWELVE YEAR-OLD a GOLD BRACELET...*shudders*) Anyways, nobody in the Wakefield house shares my opinion that Beau needs his ass kicked and possibly arrested, so everyone goes on to have the best Christmas ever (we'll see about that!!!!). The End.
In Case You're Keeping Track
*Elizabeth's Cry Count: 1
*Snack/Meal/Dairi Burger Trip Count: 8
Party Count: 2
*Of course, all of the parts with Bruce were my favorite part. Dude, he was EIGHTEEN!!!!! So what if he was kind of an ass, he's just being Miley (I mean, BRUCE, oops).
*Flashing back to 2nd grade and seeing just how much Jess really does love Liz, and vice versa. They were cute as kids, WTF happened?!?!
*Beau. Seriously, I'm still not over his inappropriate behavior. Does he NOT have a PR guy to tell him he cannot go on dates and send expensive gifts to girls in MIDDLE SCHOOL?!?!
*All of these Christmas stories are just pre-exisiting stories that are re-written just enough to pass off as a legit Sweet Valley original...
*Liz only cried ONCE
*I also don't see what was so CHILLING about this. None of the ghosts were evil or anything. I guess in the world of JS, not being surrounded by adoring followers is considered scary...
*Speaking of Jamie Suzanne, why does she INSIST on mentioning food ALL THE TIME?!?! I ate some pretty awesome BBQ while writing this recap, I bet she's super jealous of me and my full belly right now!!!!
*Lois should have been popular. If LIZ can be so well-loved, why can't Lois at least have a boyfriend or a few friends? (Enid, perhaps.)
*Lila is RICH, but she gave Jess a POSTER for Christmas. That must have cost all of five dollars, AT THE MOST!!!!! I would be slightly pissed, but that's just me.
*The school has a CHRISTMAS party. By the time I started school, we weren't allowed to celebrate any holidays other than the regular, non-religious ones. It must have been different in the '80's.