Thursday, November 16, 2017

SVT #97- Too Scared To Sleep

Intro:  This book is part 1 of the Frightening Four Miniseries!  I’m sooooo excited to recap it for you because these are my absolute favorite Sweet Valley Twins books.  This was written right around the time I progressed to SVH, so I have only read this miniseries once.  I remember it being absolutely terrifying to 12 year old me.

Cover:  It appears to be Elizabeth (based on the hairstyle) and a small child.  The child is wearing pajamas and has scratches on her back.  Elizabeth’s face is very round and her head appears to be too small for her neck.  She also has some sort of weird side bang action happening around her hairline.  There’s a shadow of what appears to be a person in the left hand corner, and a lamp appears to have been knocked over on the right.

Recap:  The inside cover tells me that this was written in July of 1996, so I must have been younger that I thought when I read this.  In July of 1996, I would have been 10 and a half, so no wonder I was so captivated by this.

We begin with a cold open.  It’s Big Bad POV!  In this case, our Big Bad is a girl.  She’s climbing stairs to a widow’s walk and brooding about how the house is her’s and she doesn’t want anyone else to live there.  Unfortunately, a new family has moved in and the girl is displeased.  They have lots of little kids, so I can’t say that I blame her too much.  (FYI- I despise children, so forgive me if I get a little upset by this book because there’s just so many pages of them.)

Our story begins on a Saturday.  Liz and Jess are riding their bikes to the beach for a volleyball game.    They ride past a creepy old Victorian house that is known as the Sullivan Mansion despite the fact that it’s vacant.  We learn that it’s a Sweet Valley tradition to run past it on Halloween, shrieking at the top of one’s lungs.  I shudder at the thought of multiple screaming children and feel sorry for the neighbors.  This book suddenly becomes even more terrifying with that mental image.

Lucky for me, the book then launches into a totally awkward description of the Twins (it seriously just starts out of nowhere, completely unprovoked) as they see a moving truck arrive.  There’s a bunch of small children running around (I’m already having nightmares) and a very stressed-out looking woman directing the movers around, so naturally the twins just gawk at them before barging in and introducing themselves.

The newcomers are the Riccoli family.  Mrs. Riccoli drops everything to introduce the twins to have 5 (!) children.  We have:
Olivia, the oldest
Andrew, 2nd oldest
Gretchen (age 7)
Juliana (age 5)h
And, Nate (age 2)
Jesus fuck, woman!  Time to get your husband fixed!  He must have a very good job if you can afford a 6+ bedroom mansion, 5 kids, and another house in Sacramento!  (Mr. R won’t be moving to Sweet Valley for another 2 months, but I’m going to bet that is a lie that they’re telling the kids.)  Mrs. R is a part-time professor at SVU (which I thought was like an hour away from Sweet Valley, buut I guess it’s only 10 minutes away in this book) so I doubt she’s the one paying the bills.
In true Elizabeth form, Liz offers to help, much to Jessica’s disgust.  Jess reminds her that they’re on their way to meet friends, but before she can drag Liz away Mrs. R gives them her number and asks if they know any good baby-sitters.  Across the country in Connecticut, Kristy Thomas s
Lakes her head in disgust and screams “they took our jobs!”

As you can probably tell, I am not a parent, but I just can’t imagine trusting some random 12 year old kids that you just met with your children!  There’s A LOT of irresponsible parenting in this book, even by Sweet Valley standards!

We jump forward a bit and find our favorite twins at Casey’s with Winston, Todd, and Amy.  As usual, Jess is stuffing her face.  She realizes that she has no money and tries to con Liz into paying for her ice cream, but -oh no!- Liz thought that Jess was paying for both of them!  The new manager (WTF happened to Casey?!), Joe, promptly calls the police and has them arrested for stealing.  The twins go to jail and the book ends there, sparing me from having to read 100+ pages about a boring baby-sitting job!  I celebrate with a cocktail.   Oh, wait...since there are never any consequences for Jessica’s actions, Joe promises to start a tab for the twins and tells them that they can pay him whenever they get the money (assuming he doesn’t get fired first, which is what SHOULD happen).  Liz suddenly gets a Great Idea (!) and decides to start a baby-sitting service.  The Riccoli family alone will be a huge task, so everyone agrees that it’s a Great Idea.  Kristy Thomas then begins to make her way to Sweet Valley (just like Margo, but with even more REVENGE!) to put a stop to this.

Later that day, Winston is on a secret mission.  No one can find out the horrible secret he’s been hiding, because we need a totally lame subplot or something.  His mom is forcing him to take accordion lessons and learn polka!  This leads to a very stupid B plot where Charlie Cashman catches him and blackmails him into paying so his secret won’t be exposed.  It’s just stupid and I won’t waste much time on it.  Basically, Win is afraid of people thinking he’s a super nerd so he goes along with it and is forced to take baby-sitting jobs to get cash for Charlie.  I feel a bit bad for him, but it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.

Liz calls Mrs. Riccoli that night to volunteer the service of her and her friends.  The book tells us that she’s “almost willing to work for free” just to help the lady out.  I don’t really understand this.  She can obviously afford a nanny, yet she’s going to leave 5 fucking kids alone at night with only a couple 12 year olds for supervision?!  I’m beginning to think that she’s lying about her career and is secretly a high end escort from 4 to 8 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Or maybe she’s secretly a member of the Baby-Sitters Club and is using that time to attend meetings via cordless phone like Dawn did when she moved to California.

On Monday, Liz and Jess show up and find the Riccoli house empty.  They barge in and investigate, but then they hear a scream.  The chapter ends very dramatically with them fleeing the house, but of course it’s just the Riccoli kids being assholes and playing a joke in them.  Yawn.  The inside of the house is absolutely hideous with an orange shag rug, a plaid couch, and pink and red striped bean bag chairs.  Jess shudders at the sight, and makes a mental note to tell Mrs. R about the interior design magic of Mrs. Wakefield.

The evening goes smoothly, until bedtime.  Juliana (the 5 year old) refuses to go to sleep.  She’s been having bad dreams since they moved in.  Apparently a “monster girl” keeps attacking her (and I squeal in delight because I just remembered why I love these books so much).   I don’t like kids, even fictional ones, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Juliana Riccoli because I know what’s really going on here.  Of course, Liz is logical and tells poor Juliana that it isn’t real and her fears are unfounded.  Idiot.

Mrs. R returns home and pays each twin $10.   Math time!  3 hours for $20 equals $6.67ish an hour.  In 1996, that would be acceptable for one person as an hourly wage for watching 1 or 2 children.  Bitch has FIVE, and is paying each twin $3.33 an hour, which is like .67 cents per child per hour.  That’s fucked up.  I wonder how much the BSC charges per hour.  Those Kid Kit supplies and pizza parties aren’t cheap, you know.  Before leaving, Jess “tactfully” mentions that the house could use some redecorating and that her mother is “a master an renovating old houses”.  I call bullshit on that statement, but Mrs. R is thrilled to hear that and promises to give Alice a call soon.  Shouldn’t she had called her prior to hiring the twins?  In what world do 12 year olds go off to baby-sit for complete strangers without first getting parental consent?!  I started baby-sitting when I was 10 and I would never have been allowed to go to a stranger’s house without my parents first meeting them and checking the situation out.  Even when I was older, my mom still insisted on meeting anyone I sat for (and it was super rare for me to watch kids that weren’t family friends already).

As the twins are leaving, a creepy old man with hedge clippers accosts them.  He says he’s Mr. Brangwen, the gardener.   Why is he trimming bushes at 9 pm?  Because he’s creepy like that.  He yells at them for leaning their bikes against the hedges (which is understandable) and tells them that he’s been the gardener at the mansion for his entire life.  I laugh because I picture him as a 3 year old pushing a wheelbarrow, but then I realize that child labor was probably perfectly legal when he was a child so now I feel bad for him.  He warns them that the house is bad and to never close their eyes in the house.  Creepy.

Not much happens for the next chapter except for Juliana having another nightmare while Liz is baby-sitting with Amy.  They debate telling Mrs. R about it, but decide that it will resolve itself eventually.

Meanwhile, in the B plot,  Win gets a call for another baby-sitting job.  Proving that Sweet Valley parents are all short bus special, the Karsten family asks him to watch their 8 month old twins, Kevin and Karla.  This can’t possibly go wrong, but at this point I feel those parents deserve everything they get for allowing an unknown 12 year old boy to watch their infants!  I know almost nothing about babies but this is just getting ridiculous. Win arrives at their house and realizes they’re RICh, so he’s excited about the prospect of getting enough money to pay Charlie from just one sitting job.  As expected, Win is a complete idiot and is shocked when the twins both start crying and don’t stop.  He tries to shut them up by making them bottles but can’t remember what babies drink...same, Winston, same.  He finally decided on milk and, since warm milk makes people tired he figures hot milk will knock those semen demons the fuck out immediately.  As much as I hate babies, even I know that this is a poor choice.  I’m about 10 seconds away from calling Sweet Valley CPS, but then I decide that they’re probably too busy having a Social Services happy hour booze cruise on Secca Lake.  As predicted, the babies soil themselves prior to eating and Win is forced to change diapers.  He does a decent job, but puts the pink diaper on the boychild.  He decides to just leave it that way.  He then realizes that he’s burnt the milk so he gives them soda instead.  Again, EIGHT MONTHS OLD!  I laugh when Kevin throws his against the wall.  He settles on feeding them Cheerios and Jell-o, and I wonder if they’re old enough to eat those things, but they don’t choke or anything.  Win ends up getting paid $15 for THREE hours.  What.  The.  Fuck.

Back in Twintown, Liz is meeting Maria Slater for a movie.  She runs into Mr. Brangwen and thinks he’s following her.  He warns her about the house again and says “she’ll get you in your sleep”...  Liz runs away from him in fear.  Jess, meanwhile, is at home with Alice when Mrs. R calls about her interior decoration skills.  Jess wants her mother to get the job so she can get a raise on her allowance, so she volunteers to watch the kids for free while the 2 meet.  Mrs. R doesn’t have time to tell Alice her address (again, letting a 12 year old go to a stranger’s house without even knowing the address?!  That’s absolutely ridiculous) but Jess promises to show her mom where the house is located.

Liz has the next sitting job, this time with Todd.  I’m bashing my head against the wall at the ignorance of the Wakefield parents.  I know Liz is the responsible twin, but leaving her and her boyfriend unsupervised just seems wrong.  Liz tells Todd about how creepy Mr. Brangwen is acting and they decide that she should just tell him to fuck off with his creepy bullshit.  And then they go makeup in Mrs. R’s bedroom, probably.

On Monday, Alice is celebrating getting not just the Riccoli job, but also 2 of Mrs. R’s professor friends have called for her services.  She’s making a special dinner, which Jess describes to Lila over the phone.  (Side note: This is Lila’s only appearance in this book, on pages 90-92, and I am upset by this.  Lila must despise children as much as I do.). The menu is pretty Basic Bitch: steak, baked potatoes, corn, salad, and cherry pie.  It sounds good, but doesn’t seem very special to me.  Lila agrees, and makes some comments about how ugly the Riccoli house sounds.  Jess gets hypocritical and tells Lila that it’s wrong to judge someone based on their decor.  She thinks about how snobby Lila is acting (ha) and how Lila never has to work for anything.  I really wish there was more Lila in this book, she is such a delight.

Back to Winston, Charlie is pressuring him for more money, so he agrees to sit for the twins again.  They’re being little assholes and breaking everything in the house (which reads as more like Win is being an asshole and breaking shit by playing airplane with them).  He finally gets them to sleep and decides to microwave some spaghetti before cleaning up.  Dumbass puts it in a metal-rimmed bowl and throws it in the microwave for 5 minutes.  He abandons it and sits on his ass for a few minutes, until the Karstens come home unexpectedly.  They’re understandably displeased by the state of their house, and absolutely livid when they microwave explodes.  To make it worse, dumbass Win used Mrs. K’s fucking TIFFANY bowl!  (Although, keeping something like that with your everyday dishes is a bit stupid, IMO.  That was probably a $200 bowl.). Of course, he’s fired.  He’s stupid enough to ask for payment, which he doesn’t receive.  Charlie comes to collect payment the next evening, but Win thinks fast and locks him in the garage.  Charlie starts CRYING because he’s afraid of the dark.  This means that he can’t extort and blackmail Win anymore because Win will tell everybody.

While Win is blackmailing his blackmailer, Jess and Alice are on their way to the Riccoli house.  Alice freaks out when she sees it, and refuses to go inside.  Jess and Mrs. R are very confused by her sudden departure.  Still, the evening goes fairly well.  Jess is sitting with Todd this time, and I’m too lazy to make a Sweet Valley Confidential joke.

The next morning, Liz is shocked when she sees an article in the newspaper.  Creepy Mr. Brangwen has died in his sleep!  In. His. Sleep.  Dun dun dun...  Jess, meanwhile is pressuring Alice about the previous afternoon.  She wants answers, but Alice isn’t talking.  Alice says she just doesn’t want to decorate that house, and basically tells Jess to fuck off with all the questions.

Our B plot concludes with Mrs. K calling Win to apologize.  She’s practically groveling because, in the 2 days since he destroyed her house, they tried a new baby-sitter and it didn’t go well.  Boychild kept screaming “Win-Win” all night, and girlchild cried the entire time.  Since no one in Sweet Valley wants to parent their own children these days, she begs him to sit again on Friday.  He has to practice the accordion that night, but decides that he can bring it along for the twins to play with (because, fuck the neighbors and my sanity).  He’s offered double pay, and I still think $5 an hour to watch an infant is absolutely ridiculous.  But he’s happy about it.

Liz tries to get out of sitting with Jess, but no one will cover for her.  Amy convinced her that the house isn’t haunted and that Juliana’s night terrors will stop now that Mr. Brangwen is dead (and...that is a disturbing sentence to type out).  Spoiler- the bad dreams haven’t stopped, and now Juliana isn’t sleeping at all.  Liz bargains with her and let’s her sleep on the couch.  Juliana is excited about sleeping on the couch “like a grown-up”, which just fuels my theory that Mr. and Mrs. R are actually in the process of a divorce.  She wakes up from a particularly bad dream with scratches all over her body and Liz is terrified because they look fresh.  And, in all honesty, that’s creepy as hell.

Jess puts Gretchen to bed and is asked to go fetch her teddy bear that Andrew threw on the 3rd floor (asshole).  The third floor is creepy as fuck with no lights and Jess trips over something. She crashes into the wall and notices a hidden, sealed door.  Of course, she opens it and just happens to find a candle and matches.  The light illuminates 2 large windows and a glass door, which are “covered in wood”.  I’m not sure if that means they’re boarded up or just have wooden framework.  The room appears to be a little girl’s room, but it obviously hasn’t been used in years because it’s super dusty. Jess snoops around a bit before noticing a bulletin board with photos on it.  A photo of two teenage girls in party dresses catches her eye, so she takes it down.  She realizes that one of the girls is in fact a young Alice Wakefield, and the caption of the back confirms this.  The other girl is named Eva, and shits about to get real!

Flashback to the Big Bad POV, the girl is watching Jess and getting upset that she keeps touching things that aren’t hers.  She swears that she will make Jess suffer...  To be continued.

Final thoughts:  I hate children, but I hate the parents of Sweet Valley so much more!  This book was infuriating, but I can’t wait to read part 2!  This is such a fucked up story arc and I love when Sweet Valley gets dark.

Monday, May 22, 2017

SVT #4- Choosing Sides

Intro- Today is your lucky day!  I'm bored, so I read another book from my collection.

Cover- This is the edition I have.  It was published in 1986 (when your truly was approximately one year old, but this is a Scholastic reprinting from like 1998. As you can see, their uniforms are very conservative.  Jess seems to have pretty good regrowth going on, like the Twins often do on these newer covers.  Natural blonde, ha!  Also, that girl on the far right looks like a young Mila Kunis.  I think that's supposed to be Ellen, with Lila hiding in the background.  Amy looks better on this cover than she does on the original one, but I can totally see that she's going to grow up to become a girl of questionable morals.  Love her shoe and sock combo!

Summary- Liz is setting the dinner table for Jessica.  Again.  Because Jessica has very important cheerleading stuff to do!  She's prancing about her room in a leotard, and this leads us to a description of the Twins.  (Side note: there's an awkward paragraph where Liz makes Jess go downstairs for dinner and Steven asks "who's that babe in the leotard?" And I cringe.). Jess babbles about how the Unicorns have started the first-ever cheerleading squad at SVMS.  They're called the Boosters and consist of Jess, Lila, Ellen, and Janet, so you know they're super cool and everybody wants to join!  They have to have open auditions for the rest of the school.  Jess is pissed that so many "gross girls" like Amy Slutton and Lois Waller signed up.  Leave me girl Lois alone, you vile bitch!  At Lois is trying to participate in physical activities and better herself.  You sit down, and think about how mean it is to discourage her!

The next morning, Liz thinks about how her house is one of the nicest ones on the block as she leaves for school (I totally didn't even make this up!).  She and Jess walk with Nora Mercandy, and I'd forgotten who that was so I got all excited thinking it was Crazy Nora.  Sadly, it wasn't.  At school, the Boosters hold their first round of tryouts.  They teach everyone the lamest cheer ever "(boy's name) (boy's name), he's our man!  If he can't do it, no one can!".

Meanwhile, because we need to establish a subplot that we can later connect to the main plot, the boys are having basketball tryouts!  Go Bruce!!!!  Bruce makes fun of Ken Matthews for being short and Ken considers leaving until Liz sees and decides to meddle.  She convinces him to stay, and the coach (thinking that the tallest boy on the court is Ken) raves about how Mr. Matthews was his best player, All-State, blah blah blah, I'm getting bored.  Ken has to tell the coach that he's mistaken and the coach is surprised by how short Ken is.  (Side note:  has he never heard of Allen Iverson, or Steph Curry?!)  Ken leave crying and runs into Liz, who offers him help from Steven.  Didn't Ken grow up to be a professional football player or something?  He probably owes it all to Steven Wakefield.

Liz is sad that Amy ditched her for the Boosters, so she basically forces Ken into coming over.  Ken says her house is nice (and I swear there was at least one SVK book where he went to their birthday party or something) and we learn that "Elizabeth loved to hear people admire her family's house".  Shut up, Liz.  Anyways, Ken totally sucks at basketball, so Liz gives him a tennis ball to practice with.  As he's starting to improve, my darling Bruce rides by on his bike and makes fun of him again. I laughed, because I've missed Bruce terribly.

After Ken leaves, Jess complains to Liz about Amy and makes fun of her for hanging out with Ken.  Jessica is terrible in this book, and she says that Liz being friends with Ken is bad for her (Jessica's) reputation.  Especially if someone like Bruce saw them together!  Amy calls at some point and apologizes for ditching Liz earlier.  She tells Liz that she just really wants to be a Booster, and also asks why Liz and Ken were talking earlier.  Hmmmm...

Bruce is awesome, so he's told everyone that Liz and Ken are dating by the next day.  I guess Todd was on vacation or something, because he doesn't show up to punch Ken. Jess is pissed, Amy is jealous.  Ken laughs it off and says he's not giving up on his sportsball.  He talks to Amy about the Boosters and sparks fly between them.  Amy is not very interesting at age 12, so I have no idea why. Maybe Ken has psychic powers and knows that Amy will put out eventually.

Because we have to start teasing the next book (#5 Sneaking Out), Liz is at home writing an article.  Jess is playing the new Johnny Buck album too loudly, so Liz barges into her room to demand that she lower the volume.  While she's in there, she looks at the hat that Johnny Buck threw in her direction that she let Jessica have.  (It's like when I went to a Red Sox game and Big Papi threw his batting gloves at my sister and I, but we only caught one and she let me have it.  Now, we live together and we share it!)  Jessica's room is basically a shrine to Johnny.  I picture him looking like Justin Bieber with a mullet and acid washed jeans, possibly a studded leather jacket and feathered bangs.  Jessica again tells Liz to stay away from Ken "Social Suicide" Matthews.

Meanwhile, Ken practices and starts to improve.  He can't get his mind off Amy and it's pretty lame.  Amy is also practicing hard.  Apparently she's super good at baton twirling but the Boosters aren't aware of this yet.  Lila and Ellen call her and suggest that she quit.  She hangs up on them.

The next day, over a lunch of "pizzaburgers", Lila tells Jess that Johnny Buck is coming to town in the next book!  Jess is all upset because tickets cost $25!  Oh, the humanity!  Janet sits down and announces that she has a plan.  The Unicorns write a letter to Amy (pretending to be Ken) and tell her that she really sucks and that she should just give up.  They also write one to Ken (from Amy), professing her love and wanting to know if he loves her too.  It's all pretty stupid, so I'm starting on beer #3 for the day.  Amy immediately figures out that Ken didn't write the letter, but Ken gets all butthurt over his and refuses to talk to Amy.  Liz overheard Lila and Ellen discussing the letters in the bathroom and confronts them.  They tell her that they have a "special surprise" waiting for Amy at her next audition.

Liz straightens things out with Ken before his tryouts, but Amy will not listen to her warnings about the Unicorns' dastardly plan.  Basically, they make her do that stupid cheer from earlier using Ken's name, and she has to do it all alone in front of everyone.  Surprisingly, it distracts my Bruce, and Ken is able to score on him a few times.  He likes that stupid cheer and is motivated.  After Amy finishes, she keeps cheering and gets the crowd involved too.  Then she busts out her super sweet baton skillz and the Boosters beg her to join.  Ken also gets a spot on the basketball team and is going to surprise his dad with the news.

Cue awkward exposition/teaser for the next book.  Johnny Buck is coming, as we all know.  And Jess will do anything to go.

Afterthoughts- I picked this book up, thinking it was a newer one because of the cover.  These older books are pretty short, so it only took like an hour to read and blog.  Maybe I'll attempt the Jungle Prom series next because these SVTs are melting my brain.  But, points for Bruc being on 1/3 of the pages.

SVT Super Chiller #6- The Curse of the Golden Heart

Into- I'm back! I was going to do the entire Jungle Prom story arc for my triumphant return, but I decided to do a totally random recap, just to get the feel of things again. Today, we recap and revisit a Super Chiller ghostwritten by Jamie Suzanne in June of 1994. I was 8 1/2 when this was published, so I'm sure it was very scary band intriguing back then. Let's see if it stands the test of time...

 Cover- I'm having trouble uploading a cover imagine, but there's not much going on anyways. We have the Twins scuba diving near a shipwreck and Liz is holding the aforementioned Golden Heart. It did not happen like this in the book, naturally. Also, this book is from the "And Friends" era. I never understood why they bothered with that subtitle, since every book centered around the Twins meddling in someone's life anyways.

Recap- It's Spring Break in Sweet Valley (again)! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall the Twins going to Great Aunt Helen's haunted hotel, AND also to San Diego for Spring Break...maybe they get a month off or something? Anyways, they're at the beach with Lila, Steven, and Joe Howell. The Twins decide to go snorkeling at a place called Pirate's Cove even though it has a bad reputation for dangerous waters and shady beach guys. Jess immediately ditches Liz in the water, of course. Liz thinks she sees a shipwreck and starts collection junk. She finds a handle from an old cup, a fishing reel, some shells, and a rusty object covered in barnacles. And I totally have NO idea what that object will turn out to be...*sigh*, I forgot how predictable these books are. As she's searching, a weird current comes out of nowhere and she almost drowns. But, she doesn't and I'm sad.

 They leave the water and see some creepy old guy in full diving gear staring at them. Add in a random throwaway paragraph where they run into their neighbor Mr. Walker. He mentions that he's leaving the next day for Colorado (probably because marijuana is legal there, and it's pretty cool). I thought that would be important to the story, so I took the time to write it down. Trust me, nothing comes of this and I'm not sure why it was even mentioned.

The Twins return to the beach the next day. Janet and Amy Slutton join them (and I mentally ponder exactly how Janet and Lila are related. I know they're cousins, but which parent is related to which? We never really see Mr. Fowler giving Janet any special gifts or anything, so maybe her mom and Lila's mom are sisters?). Joe and Steven find a conveniently-placed flyer for scuba lessons at Pirate's Cove and everyone signs up. Side note: the lessons will be held at a "seedy" shack, and I'm already seeing numerous red flags. They meet the instructor and he's a Scottish guy named Joshua Farrell. Turns out he was the creepy guy Liz and Jess saw near the shipwreck!

 The Twins and Steven rent their scuba gear, while Lila's dad buys hers. She even has a purple wetsuit! I love her so much. As they're getting ready for their first lesson, letters arrive for the Twins. They're super old looking and written in fancy script and seem to be a chain letter. Something about The Curse of Carlotta and how something has been taken from the sea. Carlotta is pretty unhappy about this, and warns them that they too will be cursed if they don't send 6 copies of the letter to their friends...uh oh.

 This is apparently important enough for the Unicorns to hold an emergency meeting. Ellen is confused, naturally. Lila can't send out her letters because her dad's secretary is on vacation (have I mentioned how much I love Lila?!) and I sense trouble. Liz also refuses to send out her letters, because she's an idiot. Good, let her be cursed and drown so she can't steal Bruce from me in the future. Also, where is Bruce?! I hope he's spending his spring break planning our wedding, but I digress.

 Liz has a nightmare about being on a sinking ship. As she's trying to escape (and I'm crossing my fingers that she doesn't), she sees an older man and a man with a red beard sword fighting. The old man calls the red bearded man a traitor and the red bearded man tells a beautiful dark haired woman named Carlotta to escape. She refuses to go without him. As Liz wakes up, she has the fleeting thought that the red bearded guy looks like Joshua Farrell. Scuba lessons officially start the next day so everyone (including Lila, which I find to be absolute bullshit) takes the bus to the beach. They sit through a 2 hour safety class but then aren't even able to go in the water because Joshua thinks it's too rough. As they prepare to leave, Lila realizes that she's lost her super fancy expensive diving watch. Bummer. Jess sleeps over at Fowler Crest that night. She treats us to a description of Lila's super pimp private bathroom. Lila has her own shower AND a whirlpool tub. She even has special lavender monogram towels AND her own phone next to the tub. I'm jealous, because my bathroom is nice but it only has a shower! I miss taking bubble baths, damnit. Lila breaks a nail and rips her robe while Jess is in the bathroom. She also falls down and Mrs Pervis comes upstairs. She's worried about Lila because apparently Lila fell down the stairs that morning, followed by a slip on the kitchen floor, and a collision with the cabinets. Lila convinces her that she's just clumsy, but we all know it's that damn curse. Lila decides to do her letters all by herself but, when she pulls out her top of the line/super expensive fountain pen, ink explodes everywhere! She decides to type them on Mr. F's computer (because it's 1994 and computers cost like a million and five dollars, so she doesn't have her own yet), but the entire computer crashes. Fuck.

 Another day, another diving lesson. Liz goes to look for Joshua at his shack (the number on the shack is 1779, and that could be important later), and sees him sitting at his table. She goes in to get his attention, but it turns out to just be an empty wetsuit! Omg, I'm like totally super chilled right now...not. They partner up for lessons and nobody picks Liz (hahaha, I love this) so she's partnered with Joshua. As she's swimming underwater, she looks into his mask and sees nothing! Totally empty! Omg! The only cool thing that happens in this chapter is that she almost drowns again out of fear. But sadly, today is not my lucky day. At this point, I'm getting really bored with this book, so I crack a beer. It's a pretty good beer. 7% ABV, Extra IPA. It's more interesting than a book where Liz keeps escaping death.

 Lila comes over that night, super upset. Apparently, the computer managed to send the letter to EVERYONE involved with Fowler Enterprises! Mr. F is NOT pleased and he's going to ground Lila when/if he ever comes back from his business trip! He might even take away her allowance! When Lila leaves, Liz notices that another letter has arrived. She keeps trying to figure out what she has that this Carlotta bitch wants, but of course she still has no idea. She looks over her "treasure box" another time, and tosses the rusty barnacle object into the trash. She has another dream that night about Carlotta and the red beard guy.

 Lila comes up with the brilliant idea that Liz can just read the letter onto a tape, make copies, and play them for people. But, when they go to record, the tape starts saying "Curse of Carlotta" in a scratchy voice. Liz smashed the tape and is still like "fuck these letters"! Idiot. Nothing much happens for like half a chapter, except for Liz finding a scorpion in her lunch and then deciding not to participate in her scuba lesson. Then, randomly, some employee from Fowler Enterprises shows up on her doorstep and asks about the curse. His name is John Filber (oh good, at least it's not Pfeifer) and the curse is significant to his family. Liz and Jess agree to meet him at the beach the next day so he can show them something... nope, totally doesn't sound shady at all, this is a great idea!!!! I hope he drowns Liz, Crazy Margo Style! Sadly, he doesn't. He just shows them something metallic that's been embedded in coral for like 200 years. Apparently his great great great great grandfather showed his great great great grandfather, and the tradition continues. John can't touch it for some reason, but the Twins start getting ideas. Finally, this book is taking forever and I need another beer. Liz thinks about how John reminds her of Joshua.

 That night, they have a fire on the beach and Joshua tells ghost stories (because hanging around at night with a bunch of 12-14 year olds is totally not creepy enough already). Liz asks about the shipwreck, and finally we get some exposition...

 In 1779, a pirate named Red Beard (I bet the writers put SO much thought into that name) had amassed a great fortune from doing pirate stuff. He buried it off the coast of the Bee World, and made a map. One day, he overtakes a governor's ship and finds his greatest treasure of all, the governor's niece Carlotta. Since she's all noble and shit, she can't marry a pirate even though she's totally taken with his sexy ginger beard and cool pirate outfit, so he gives up piracy (or is it "pirating"?) and the governor pardons him and his men. He gives Red Beard a locket with his coat of arms on it and Red Beard gives half of it to Carlotta. I think it's slightly rude to destroy such a nice gift. Then, one night, as Red and Carlotta are sailing around doing non-pirate things, a storm hits! The ship's bosun (whatever that is, I'm too lazy to research it) isn't at his post because he's looking for Red's map, so the ship sinks and everyone dies. The legend is that the bosun's ghost can't rest until the 2 halves of the locket (and thus Carlotta and Red) are reunited.

 Liz looks at the letters later and realize that they're dated 1779, and that it's the same as the address of Joshua's shack! Omg, is he a Pirate Ghost?! Does anyone remember that episode of South Park? she gets another letter, basically saying the same shit about how Carlotta wants her stuff back, but Liz is dumb and still hasn't figured it out. Steven comes to collect her trash and complains about the rusty barnacle object almost ripping the bag. Finally, Liz gets her head out of her ass and realizes this could be important. She cleans it up and (duh), it's Carlotta's half of the locket!!! It has half of a map on it! They're gonna be rich! She then realizes that John's relative was the ship's bosun and that's why he can't touch the locket. Ok, whatever. Jessica wants to buy a Rolls Royce and a mansion in Hollywood for their parents, and Steven wants to buy the LA Rams. (Fun fact time! The LA Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, and then returned to LA in 2016).

 Liz still isn't sure about this whole thing, so she decides to go to the library the next day. Nerd. She toddles off to the big downtown library and along the way she noticed that Sweet Valley could really use more benches. And that the big town clock has been broken for years but the town is using their resources for other projects. She thinks about how nice it would be to "grant all of Sweet Valley's civic wishes" by updating the homeless shelter and filling the daycare with new toys. And I vomit. You go do that, Saint Elizabeth, and Steven and I will be over here, enjoying our football team. Maybe we'll buy the Red Sox too, and the Lakers. The librarian, Mr. Dallas (I wonder if he's any relation to Aaron Dallas) shows Liz some info about the shipwreck, along with a convenient list of all crew members on board. As she's leaving the library, Steven jumps out of the bushes and grabs her. He's been following her all day and has noticed that John is also following her. Creeper. They run home to hide and create a plan for retrieving the other half of the locket.

 Liz has another lame dream about Carlotta, and learns that Carlotta isn't the one cursing her. Apparently, the bosun is responsible for the curse. Because, he's a dick. The Twins and Steven go to the beach at night (and it's raining, because of course it is). Steven dives down with a hammer and smashes the coral until the locket is free. As he surfaces, John reveals himself to have been hiding under the pier. He grabs it and is all like "bwahahah! I'm rich, fuckers! Peace out!" But, as he runs away, he trips and the locket falls into the sea. Liz sees a ghostly figure walking further down the beach, but then it disappears. So nobody's rich and we never find out what the treasure was. Liz reveals later to Jess and Steven that Joshua was listed as the bosun and he survived the wreck. He died a tortured soul in Pirate's Cove. The book ends with Liz having a dream about Red and Carlotta being reunited on a ship.

 Afterthoughts- Why did they allude to Red Beard looking so much like Joshua if Joshua was actually the bosun? Was there just like a whole crew of ginger pirates in 1779 Sweet Valley, or is it a literal red herring?! (Lol, see what I did there?!). Overall, this book was pretty terrible but now I've read it so you don't have to. You're welcome.