Tuesday, June 7, 2011

SVT Super Edition #8 - Jessica's First Kiss

In honor of summer finally arriving, I thought I'd break from my posting schedule (yet again) and break out some camp-themed books. I found this one in the pile, and I actually remember reading it!!! My mom bought it for me to read at summer camp, and I finished it the first day. I remember hoping that I too would get my first kiss at camp. I didn't, at least not THAT year!!! The next year was another story...

Cover Impressions:
We have a very large campfire with extremely high flames that almost look like someone threw some of that magic fire dust from "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" on it. I remember that the main theme in this book was Liz being super clean and perfect, while Jess refused to shower for some reason, so I assume that Liz and Todd are the couple on the left. Liz's face looks weird, and her jaw looks almost...unhinged for some reason. Todd appears to be giving her a fist pound while he looks at Jess across the fire. Jess looks a hot mess, in contrast. She has shit in her hair, and she appears to be covered with mud. I think that's Aaron Dallas next to her. Aaron seems to be checking Todd out, and I wonder if I have stumbled upon a long-lost prequel to SVC...

The back cover promises "A wild romance" (because they're CAMPING, and they want ROMANCE, I guess). It also promises a twin switch, so I just know this will be a GREAT book. (or not...) Did anyone notice that the title of this book can be abbreviated as "JFK"? That amuses me for some reason, and I hope someone asks me what I'd doing so I can respond with, "Just blogging about JFK!" That would make me seem smarter, I imagine.

Oh yeah, one more thing. The inside of this book has an ad for a WEBSITE. That just seems weird for Sweet Valley to have a website... (This book was published in April of 1997, which means Liz and Jess have been in the 6th grade for ELEVEN years at this point.)

The book begins with Jess and Lila discussing SVMS's upcoming trip to some place called Bannerman's Estate. They're super excited because this is a week-long trip and they don't have to go to school, except for like one class a day, and -best of all- Jess doesn't have to see Steven for an entire week!!! (No wonder he likes Liz better.) And the entire Unicorn Club will be there. Yay!!!!

Lila is excited for another reason. She's been to estates before, and she tells Jess all about them. There's Jacuzzi tubs in every room, tanning salons, Olympic-sized pools in the basement, a masseuse, and an entire box of chocolates on the pillow every night. She also tells Jess that there's an evening dress code (fancy-style), and she's looking forward to seeing Bruce "in tails" every evening. Me too, Lila!!! This place sounds sweet!!!

Across the hall, Liz is in her room, writing some sort of stupid chant about camp. It really sucks, so I won't even bother transcribing it for you. Even Liz admits to herself that it's super lame, and she decides to close it out with a few lines about Todd. Because nothing cures LAME like T-Wilk...NOT. She imagines herself strolling hand-in-hand with Toddy on some scenic trails... Thankfully, Jess and Lila choose that moment to invade Liz's room. They tell her all about how fabulous Bannerman's is going to be, and Liz laughs at them. (Liz also asks Jess if she wants to switch places as part of their April Fools' Day tradition...April Fools' is the following Saturday. Both twins agree that it's childish, and they decide not to do it.)

Liz quickly crushes Jess and Li's spirits. She breaks out the Bannerman's Estate info packet and shows that that it's actually A CAMPGROUND!!!! Like with tents and sleeping bags and bugs and trees... The worst part- no TVs, microwaves, or blowdryers!!!! Li says she'll have to spend hours packing all of that stuff, but Liz points out that they're FORBIDDEN items. There's not even any electrical outlets!!! Jess and Li are crushed, and Lila insists that she NEEDS her laptop and modem so she can E-mail her dad. (He's in some place called Rangoon. I Googled it, it's in Burma and it's most commonly spelled "Yangoon".) Jess sees Liz's lame chant/poem on her desk and reads it out loud for Lila to laugh at. She gets bored about halfway through, and she misses the lines about Todd, but Jess and Li know what it's about anyways. They laugh at Liz and leave her alone to finish packing.

Once alone, Liz re-reads her lame poem and decides it doesn't suck (umm, no, it DOES!!!!). She decides to expand the ending and it's SO stupid that I am OBLIGATED to repeat it:

"...this young mister and miss will take a quick moment and might even kiss!"

Yeah, now you see why I didn't bother to share the rest of it. I don't see why she's in such a rush to kiss Todd. I guess she doesn't know that that is ALL they will do during the 137 years they spend in high school... Kiss or no kiss, Liz thinks that this is going to be a magic trip. LOL, magic trip!!! Back in her own room, Jess is thinking about Liz's poem as well. She's replaced Liz and Todd with herself and Aaron Dallas. She thinks about him kissing her, and realizes that it will be HER FIRST KISS. (Oh, poor Aaron!!! Another victim of the Wakefield children.)

On the bus ride to the campground, Liz and Todd hold hands and discuss spending some time alone. Winston tells some stupid stories, and Liz starts singing stupid kids' songs to drown Win out (and to annoy the Unicorns). Janet Howell forces Jess to stop the song, but Jess fails and Janet is MAD. She banishes Jess from sitting with the UC, so Jess sits next to Aaron. He's babbling on about some bear show he watched on TV, and how he hopes to find a bear in the woods. (I bet he does!!!) Jess suggests he delay his bear hunting and take a romantic walk beneath the stars, hand-in-hand. Aaron isn't feeling it (obviously) and he switches the subject back to his bear hunt.

At camp, Liz babbles on and on about how much she loves nature and outside and junk. The UC, however, are already failing at outdoor living. There's bugs and mud and rain and gross camp food, and they want to go home as soon as they see the inside of their tent.

On the boys' side of camp, Aaron sets his alarm and wakes up in the middle of the night. He starts screaming that he saw a bear, and everybody freaks out. Bruce stabs the roof of the tent with his pocketknife, and everybody runs outside screaming. (I think Aaron just wanted to see everybody in their PJs, but he insists he was just playing a joke.) Nobody sees a bear, so they go back to bed. A new student (a 7th grader named Dennis Asher) figures out that Aaron was lying, and he forces Aaron to sleep under the hole in the tent. And of course, it rains all night.

At breakfast the next morning, Liz is looking perfect and more beautiful than ever. (Gag me.) The fresh air is making her all glowy and refreshed. She loads up her plate and joins Todd for breakfast. He has pineapple syrup on his pancakes (ewww, I'm allergic, and that would probably KILL me), but Liz refuses to try any. She hates pineapple, even though Jess loves it. Jess likes pineapple soda and pineapple pizza, gross. The UC are not early risers, so they end up sleeping through breakfast. Liz wakes them up before their daily class and announces that, since everybody else has already signed up for the good classes, the UC will be stuck going to a history lecture.

the Unicorns wake up and realize that they all look like straight crap. They're full of bug bites and covered in mud, but they refuse to shower. There's sulfur in the water, and it smells like rotten eggs. Jess calls it "disgusto", and that's like the third time I've heard that term in this book. Did anybody ever actually say that? Doubtful.

Liz and Todd go on a nature walk after class is dismissed. She finds a four leaf clover and gives half of it to Todd so he will also have good luck. It's super lame, almost as lame as her lame poem of lameness. Lame!!!!

Back to interesting people, Jess has again set her sights on Aaron. (Why does Jess always go after what she cannot have? This pattern started early.) He also looks like crap from having to spend the night under the leaking roof. He bitches about this, and tells Jess that he despises Dennis. She again tries to entice him into a romantic walk and, as soon as she reaches for his hand, he begins to scream about bears again. Jess freaks and jumps into a bush to hide. Aaron laughs at her and she starts to cry. She runs away, humiliated, and sees Dennis swimming in the lake. She realizes he's kind of cute. She also decides that, since she's mad at Aaron, she likes Dennis for bullying Aaron. And it couldn't hurt to make Aaron jealous... She starts to approach, but then realizes that she's covered in disgusting, so she turns and heads back to camp.

That night, everybody sits around the campfire and roasts marshmallows. Liz is in a great mood, and she leads a sing-a-long. Everybody is surprised to discover that Dennis can sing like Johnny Buck, and Jess falls even more in love with him. Winston regales everybody with his version of the history of Bannerman's Estate. He tells a story about twin sisters who love the same man. (Sounds familiar...) He tells the twins he wants to marry one of them, and he asks them to decide. One of the twins grabs a knife (also sounding familiar...) and kills the other so she can marry the dude as her sister. Aaron sits back in the shadows and scoffs at the idea of marriage. He thinks that no self-respecting dude would ever want to do that. (Unless he was marrying another self-respecting dude...oh wait, that thought is about 10 years in the future!!!) Aaron feels sort of bad about scaring Jess and making her cry, but the truth is that he's just not ready for a serious relationship. (Unless it's with a dude!!! Yeah, I am having a fabulous time with this!!!) Aaron goes back to thinking about bears, because he's planned yet another bear joke for the evening.

Jessica listens to Win's story and feels like it has a special meaning for her. (She has no idea just how correct she is!!!) She ponders it all night long and decides that the story is telling her to switch places with Liz. She decides to get Dennis's attention, but since she is so filthy, she will pass Liz off as herself. Of course, she decides not to actually TELL Liz about any of this. Jess figures she can use Liz to catch Dennis's eye, and then she will move in on him when they're back at home and she's pretty again. Confusing, I know. I personally HATE when they twin switch on us!!! (From here on out, when twin switching occurs, I will use quotations to indictate it. ie: "Liz"= Jess) Jess stalks Dennis all morning long and signs "Liz" up for canoeing so she can talk to him.

Jess shows up to canoeing in all her gross glory. She tells Dennis that her twin sister "Jessica" has a major crush on him. But "Jess" is shy, so he should keep his distance and admire her from afar. She also tells him that "Jess" likes to play tricks on people and tell them she's Elizabeth. Thus, she sets it up so, when he calls Liz "Jess" and she corrects him, he won't be suspicious. Wow, I'm already confused.

At dinner that night, Dennis stares at the twin he believes to be Jess. She notices him staring at her and she wonders why. Dennis finally come over and says "Hi, Jessica". Liz doesn't have a chance to correct him, and she thinks he's just confused because he's new.

After lights out, the Unicorns complain about how much camping sucks. Janet starts screaming because she saw a spider. A huge one, with LEGS!!!! The UC decides to take turns standing guard all night long in case the spider shows up again. Jess gets selected for the honor, and she looks even crappier than usual in the morning. That still doesn't stop her from going ahead with her plan. She stalks the activities board again and notices that Liz and Todd have signed up for tennis. She convinces Dennis to sign up and crosses off Todd's name. She adds her name to the orienteering sign-up and also adds Todd. And this is sounding more and more like SVC every time I turn a page... Jess has no idea what orienteering is, but she needs to keep Todd away from Liz and Dennis. In true SVC fashion, Bruce quickly signs up for tennis in Todd's place. Jess goes orienteering and discovers that it sucks. It's basically finding your way out of the woods with a map and a compass, but she quickly manages to destroy both and spends hours lost in the woods.

Meanwhile, Liz is upset that somebody crossed Todd's name off of the tennis list. She accuses Bruce of doing it, but he denies it. She sees Jess and Todd walking to their orienteering class and wonders what's up with that. She also wonders why Dennis keeps calling her Jessica, even after she corrects him like a million times.

At the evening campfire, Dennis asks Jess (the real Jess) why "Jessica" is acting so weird and insisting that she's Elizabeth. He also wants to know what's up with that Todd guy and why he's all over "Jess". Jess quickly explains that Todd is HER sort-of-boyfriend and he likes to flirt with "Jess" to make "Liz" jealous. (Seriously, I feel like I'm reading a watered-down version of SVC right now. Amazing that even THAT is a recycled storyline...) Jess sees Liz and Todd going off on another nature walk and she quickly decides she needs to keep them apart. She waits a little while and then runs up to them. She shows them her WATCH (which at first struck me as odd, but then I remembered that ELIZABETH wears a watch 24/7, and Jess is impersonating her, so it makes sense) and tells they that they're an hour late for curfew. They run back to camp, only to realize that Jess's watch is an hour fast. Liz gets mad and accuses Jess of trying to keep her and Todd apart. She thinks Jess wants Todd for herself, but -for once- Jess tells the "complete truth" and swears it's not like that. Wow, even the "complete truth" turns out to be a lie with this girl...

The next morning, the Unicorns have reached a breaking point. They're desperate to get out of camp, so Lila marches into the director's office and demands to use the phone so she can call her dad. She's denied, so the UC decided to fake being sick so they get sent home. Epic fail.

While this is happening, Todd is staking out the activity board. He's going to make damn sure that he and Liz are in the same class, so he agrees to let Liz sign them up for basket making. Jess crosses him out again and signs up Dennis. (Important detail: Jess has a slight stomachache.) She signs Todd and herself up for something else so Liz and Dennis are forced to be partners. Liz spends all of class wondering why Jess is spending so much time with Todd, and why this Dennis dude is all over her. She finally figures it all out and tells Todd all about it after class. He's pissed, of course, and he wants to teach Jess a lesson!!!! (I bet he does!!!)

The UC is still trying to go home that afternoon. They have resorted to sending their parents ESP messages when Jess comes back to the tent, looking even worse than before. She's all pale and shit and she throws up all over everything. She gets sent to the infirmary and has to spend the night.

With Jess out of the picture, Liz's scheme falls right into place. Todd's in on it too, of course. She decides to make Dennis fall totally in love with her, and she lures him into the woods for a nature walk. She talks about how "Liz" is the twin that likes to switch places, and she picks up a leaf. She splits it in half and tells him that it will be his way of identifying the "REAL" Jessica. She comes on super strong and tells Dennis that she wants to spend EVERY possible second with him. She wants to go to class with him, and eat with him...

Back in UnicornLand, everybody is envious that the nurse ended up sending Jess home. They decide that their only option is to break all of the camp rules so they can get sent home. They stage a fake fight using ketchup, but the director refuses to send him home. She instead puts them in charge of cleaning the grease traps in the camp kitchen. Gross. I was on kitchen duty at camp one time as punishment for smoking a cigarette and I actually threw up from the grossness of it, and I have a super strong stomach!!! The UC decides that their only remaining option is to escape and hitchhike their way home.

They end the day with yet another campfire. Aaron sits back in the shadows and watches Dennis and "Jess". His jealousy is building, but he's more focused on his latest bear prank. For this one, he's going all out. He slips away from the group and sneaks into the campground's nature center/museum. He steals a bear skin and returns to the fire as Winston starts to tell a ghost story about a bear. He jumps out and everybody runs. Of course, he gets busted and sentenced to grease trap duty with the Unicorns. He doesn't mind this, because the scared looks on everybody's faces made it totally worth it.

Aaron is still upset about the Dennis/"Jessica" thing, so he confronts Dennis that night. Aaron basically tells Dennis to step off and get off his Kool-Aid, and Dennis laughs at him. Dennis thinks he's better than Aaron in every way, so Aaron can just STFU and go back to thinking about boys -I mean BEARS, sorry!!! Aaron wants to fuck Dennis up, Arnold Weisenhammer style (who? They've mentioned him like 5 times), but he doesn't for some reason. SVH Aaron would have, and SVH Todd would have joined in too, but SVT Aaron isn't that cool yet. Aaron simply vents his frustrations by writing "Dennis Asher is a JERK and an IDIOT and a FOOL" in some dirt. As he's "raging", he catches sight of the UC with massive amounts of luggage. He wonders where they're going, and he decides to follow.

The UC tries to escape, but they got totally lost and run into a bear. They run out of the woods screaming after dropping their luggage, and Aaron is left alone to face the bear. He climbs up a tree to escape and screams for help. Since he's been all Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf, everybody thinks it's another joke and he ends up spending the night in the tree. Karma is a bitch, dude. Even Liz and Todd (who are on yet another nature walk) ignore his screaming in favor of kissing each other ON THE CHEEK!!!

The next day is Saturday, the last day of camp. It's also April Fools' Day, FYI. Jess is back in SV and she wakes up feeling fabulous. She showers like 30 times and scrubs herself clean. She goes to the salon and gets all whored up before going to SVMS to meet the bus. And Dennis, of course.

On the bus ride home, Liz says she needs her space and makes Dennis ride home on another bus so she can ride with her precious Todd in peace. Dennis is stuck on the bus with the Unicorns and Aaron. Everybody is laughing at Aaron because he looks like he spent the night in a tree. The UC denies seeing a bear, and Aaron gets even more shit for that. Everybody makes all sorts of stupid bear jokes, and Aaron thinks about how Jess would have believed him, even if nobody else does. She would have rubbed his back and told everybody he wasn't lying. Dennis is an ass, so he starts talking about "Jess" and how much he misses her already. Aaron again wants to punch him in his stupid face, but they arrive at SVMS before he is able to.

Jess meets the bus looking absolutely perfect. Dennis runs up to her and talks about all the fun times they had at camp. He also mentions eating dinner with "her" the night before. It was pizza, and he had the pineapple kind. Jess says how much she loved the pineapple pizza, and Dennis pauses on that. The night before, "Jessica" mentioned that she hates pineapple, but "Elizabeth" loves it. So he's super confused and believes he's talking to Liz. He approaches actual Liz (who is standing with Todd) and demands to see her leaf. As planned, she fails to produce it and Dennis is super confused and feels a little played. He swears off Wakefields forever. (Smart kid, I wonder if he shows up in any other books? Or was that grounds for banishment?) Jess is pissed, but Liz is happy she got her revenge. She goes out with Todd to celebrate, and Jess goes home to pout.

As Jess mopes about, I begin to feel cheated. I was promised a KISS, damn you!!!! There's only like 2 pages left and NOTHING has happened. Unless you count some kiss on the cheek action between Liz and Todd, and I don't... Lucky for me, Aaron shows up on the doorstep. He's also all cleaned up, and he's on a mission. (No, he's not witnessing for Jehovah or selling Avon...he's on a totally non-gay romantic-type of mission!!!) He apologizes to her for being such an ass, and he tells her that he still likes her. He asks about Dennis, and promises to leave her alone so she can date him. He lets her know that, if she changes her mind, she can always date him. She remembers all of the reasons why she likes him, and tells him that Dennis is out of the picture. He responds by kissing her ON THE LIPS!!!!! Awww...too bad he turns out to be gay.

****The SarahLynn Perspective****
*I'm very upset that I had to read like 200 pages of camping/bear/twin switching bullshit in order to get to the kiss. But, all of that aside, it was well worth it to "see" Jess so happy and to witness this moment in Sweet Valley history.
*I really wish Aaron hadn't turned out to be the gay one. He was one of my favorite characters, and having to make all these gay jokes kind of ruins that specialness. Not that I mind gayness at all or anything. It just would have been easier if they made Charlie Cashman or Rick Andover or Denny Jacobson gay instead of Aaron because they're less involved with this whole thing.
*I knid of want to go camping after reading this. But I hate camping, so I will NOT be doing it. Maybe I'll go GLAMPING though...

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