Hey, check out my girl Jessica on this cover. I see a distinct absence of purple (I guess it’s just on the collar there) but those bitchin’ acid-washed jeans more than make up for it. Her body does look a little bit weird, what with the fact that she appears to be staring straight at us, but somehow is bent at the torso. I know she’s supposed to be bowing, but to me it just looks like she’s got a really stumpy torso or something.
Anyway, on with the recap!
Back Cover Blurb (with comments):
Bitten by the acting bug…
Jessica Wakefield’s latest dream is to become an actress. (Until the next book, when she’ll change her mind and decide to want to be a fashion designer, or a singer, or whatever else the ghost writers think of. I’d compare Jess’s frequent career changes to Barbie, that other famous blonde, but I don’t think that Jess would ever want to be an astronaut or the President, given that she couldn’t wear slutty-looking outfits.) So when she discovers that Sweet Valley’s own Mrs. Harrington is really Dolores Dufay, star of stage and scree, she can barely contain her excitement. (Because, you know, this old lady who just wants peace and quiet will probably enjoy being pestered by a little, blue-green-eyed sociopath.)
With help from her twin sister Elizabeth, Jessica and Mrs. Harrington develop a true friendship. (Yeah, real “true.” Mostly it seems to involve Jessica using her for free acting lessons.) And with some behind-the-scenes coaching from the famous actress, she gets the lead in a play that her Saturday acting class is producing. But it looks like curtains for Jessica when her acting partner gets stage fright on opening night. Will the show go on–or will Jessica’s stage career be over before it begins? (I think I’m going to make an educated guess and say that the universe will probably alter its course in order to oblige Jessica and/or give Liz an opportunity to be incredibly annoying.)
What’s the Big Deal?:
Jessica’s weekly acting class is performing some kind of crappy play. Normally, this would be totally uncool and lame, but it involves a Wakefield, so that automatically elevates it to awesomeness. Forget WICKED or LEGALLY BLONDE–this is the play that I want to see before I die!
We start off with Jessica going totally apeshizz because she needs to bring cookies to the Unicorns meeting this afternoon, but totally forgot. Liz is amused because this is supposedly another indication of Jess’s current flair for the dramatic, which came about after they saw some community play. Now Jess wants to be the next Sandra Bernhardt… so yeah. Ok, whatever. Meanwhile, Jessica is freaking out because Lila will totally kill her if she is late and/or forgets the cookies, so you can understand that we’re under a time crunch here. Lila Fowler will cut a bitch.
Jess, Mom, and Liz all go to the store and grab the cookies. (That’s what she said.) In the parking lot, Ma Wakefield has to make a sudden stop for a stray dachshund diving between cars, and they end up getting rear-ended by a seriously cranky old lady named Mrs. Harrington.
In the midst of her histrionics, Mrs. Harrington complains of some grievous neck injury. Ma Wakefield insists on taking Mrs. Harrington to the ER to get checked out. Turns out Mrs. H is fine, but I guess they’re keeping her in there for observation because she’s old or whatevs. Meanwhile, Jessica, of course, is only worried about getting beat up by Lila, so she acts like a total brat about missing half the meeting. Because, you know, they talk about such important stuff at those meetings, like wearing purple and… um…
Ahem. Anyway, the next day, Elizabeth thinks about how badly she feels for Mrs. Harrington. Being a huge, crabby bitch, she must be very lonely. Liz decides to visit her in the hospital, and because she’s so damn enchanting, Mrs. Harrington thaws and stops acting like such a huge bitch about everything. When Liz gets home, Jessica announces that she was watching an old black and white movie and now knows who Mrs. Harrington really is–Dolores Dufay, stage and screen star!
And yes, that’s actually what Jessica says, “stage and screen star.” Because that’s how tweens used to talk back in the late 80’s.
At school, Liz is surprised to find that Jessica isn’t blabbing about Mrs. Harrington/Dufay to all of her stupid friends. She suspects that Jessica wants Mrs. Harrington all to herself, but still goes along with it when Jessica decides to visit Mrs. H at home. Jessica swears that she just wants to get to know the old bat a little bit better, and the best way to do that is to buy her presents and stuff, like this special tea.
However, when the get to Mrs. H’s house, they find Mrs. H kind of freaking out. Seems she just got released from the hospital and came home to find that her house had been robbed. Bummer. The twins help her clean up, and the ghostwriter emphasizes that Jessica is doing this because she wants to help Mrs. H, not because she’s a former movie star.
Yeah, right. This is the same little girl who, earlier today, was going to reject a stray kitten because it might have had fleas. No kidding. Some of the kids at school are trying to find a home for a cute little cat, and Jessica’s first reaction was to talk about how “gross” the kitten probably was after all that time outside. So you can see why I wouldn’t exactly be convinced that Jess wants to pick up broken plates and crap, you know, just for the fun of it.
After seeing an old picture of Mrs. Harrington in her old Hollywood finery, Jess tells Mrs. H that she knows the truth about her past as Dolores Dufay. Mrs. Harrington tells us that she had a wonderful career doing movies with her actor husband, but couldn’t stand to do anything after he died eight years ago. She likes to go by the name of “Harrington” so people don’t think she’s rich and assume that she’s got a lot of jewels and crap hidden in her house.
Because that worked so well as a home-security measure already? I don’t get it.
The girls leave, but not before Jessica offers to come back tomorrow to clean up some more stuff. Elizabeth opts to visit with the cute stray kitten.
After school, Liz decides to adopt the kitten herself. And Jessica returns home and reports that Mrs. H is totally heartbroken because they realized this afternoon that those bastards took her scrapbook, the one with all her old clippings and what-not. Jessica wants to find it for Mrs. H, so she decides to go to the police station and talk with Officer Carey for some possible leads.
Because now Jess is a girl detective?
The next day, instead of telling Jessica and Elizabeth to quit bothering him with totally pointless cases, Officer Carey gives them some suggestions about where to find the scrapbook. I know that Sweet Valley probably has a really low crime rate, but seriously? Office Carey, how is this going to look on your time log today?
2PM – 2:30PM : Spoke to Wakefield twins re: old lady’s stolen scrapbook/memories.
Serpico you are not, sir.
The girls try to find the scrapbook in an antique store or a secondhand store, but unsurprisingly find nothing. What kind of store would buy an old scrapbook? Even if it’s got cool clippings, it seems like sort of a weird item to acquire. I don’t know, maybe not. I guess I don’t know much about the antiques business. In kitten-related news, Liz names the cat Mischief and brings her home.
As Mischief goes to town on a bowl of milk, Jessica tries to figure out some way to cheer up old Mrs. H so that she’s less bored and lonely in the house all by herself.
Let me say this again… Jess is wondering how to make Mrs. Harrington feel less lonely even as that cute little gray kitten is adorably lapping up milk…
Steven suggests buying her a dog, and the twins actually consider it and even go and buy a puppy. Seriously. I don’t know if the ghostwriter is just trying to create suspense here, or if they’re just trying to emphasize the fact that the entire Wakefield clan may just be slightly inbred. I think the whole thing can be broken down into a simple equation:
Old Lady + Stray Kitten = BFF
Predictably, the whole puppy thing just doesn’t work out, seeing as how it’s really young and not trained at all. They take the puppy back, but not before Mrs. H takes the opportunity to tell Jessica that if she’s really serious about her dramatic career, that she’ll sign up for that acting workshop advertised in the paper today.
WTF? We’re talking about this workshop now? We’re more than half-way through the book already. I hate it when the back-cover blurb says one thing, but the book itself says another. What a tease!
Well, at least we don’t have to sit through Jessica’s acting class. We do get a little bit of her complaining about waking up early, but hey, I like to sleep in, too. So I feel you, Jess. Way to make sacrifices for your craft.
She comes over Mrs. H’s house and shows her all this miming crap she learned. I believe they call that “movement”? I’m not sure. Mrs. Harrington tells Jessica how great she is (of course) then tells some funny stories about old Hollywood. She neglects to mention that time when Frank Sinatra pistol-whipped that hooker, but I’m sure she’ll tell that next time. Oh, and then Mrs. Harrington gives Jessica a cool, old-timey autographed picture of herself. Sweet.
Flash forward about three weeks. Jessica has been working her perfect little ass off. You know, for Jessica. Obviously her definition of hard work means she has to wake up early sometimes and learn lines and stuff. She’s been paired with a kid named Martin, and taking acting lessons from Mrs. Harrington after class. Between the acting and the Unicorns and the world domination attempts, Miss J’s schedule has been a tad hectic. But she knows it’ll be all worth it when Lila and the other gals watch her star-making performance.
One day the twins are off buying a kite at the flea market–apparently Jessica needs one for the play and the only place to get one is at a flea market?–when they happen to find Mrs. Harrington’s old scrapbook at a used book stand. Unfortch, the two only have fifty cents between them after the kite purchase. Rather than ask the vendor to hold it for them for a bit, the two just run home and hope to get back in time. They probably should have just asked for the book. I’m guessing the vendor would have been overwhelmed by their awesomeness and just handed it over for free.
They come back and find the stand empty, but they catch the guy loading books into his van. He’s surprisingly cranky toward them (doesn’t he know who he’s talking to?) but then all is explained once they pay a visit to Officer Carey. They tell him about where they found the scrapbook and he’s all, “Thanks girls! I think we found our burglar!”
Oh, I see now. The book vendor guy is a criminal, that’s why he wasn’t instantly in love with the twins. I guess the book vending business just isn’t what it used to be or something. Does that mean he breaks into people’s homes looking for books to steal and sell? And plates to break? I’m a little confused, but I guess I’m looking too deeply into this. The point is that the Wakefields are awesome girl detectives now, so there.
Later, at Jess’s dress rehearsal, Mrs. H shows up in a sexy silk dress and make-up. She sits by Liz, who somehow thought it would be a good idea to carry Mischief along in a basket. Apparently they just came from the vet or something. Mischief is totally into Mrs. Harrington and refuses to do anything but sit in her lap and purr.
Liz and Mrs. Harrington talk for a little while, with Mrs. H mentioning how much she’s enjoyed working with Jessica in the past few weeks and getting to act a little again.
That night, at the performance, Jessica peeps out from backstage and sees her family. Sitting beside them is… Dolores Dufay! Which is basically Mrs. Harrington with good hair and makeup, but still, Jessica acts like it’s this big transformation or whatever.
Oh, and Jessica’s lame partner Martin (who we don’t meet) catches a big old case of Stage Fright and refuses to perform. The director is about to cancel Jessica’s scenes when Dolores Dufay steps in and saves the day by reading Jessica’s scenes with her. Thank God she transformed into DD this evening–if she had been regular old Mrs. H, I’m sure the most we could have expected from her was some kind of sarcastic comment.
After the big performance (in which we can safely assume that Jess and DD/Mrs. H blew the effing roof off, yo!) Mrs. Harrington announces that she’s going to call her old agent and get back into the biz. Oh, and she adopts Mischief (who is clearly desperate to get away from Elizabeth) and gets her scrapbook back. Overall, it’s a good day to be Mrs. Harrington.
Officer Carey nodded… “We checked the license plate, got an address and a warrant, and searched the vendor’s house. Not only did we find most of Mrs. Harrington’s missing items… but the vendor confessed to several burglaries. So he’s spending the evening behind bars.”
The evening???? WTF, Carey?
Jessica could hardly believe it. Old Mrs. Harrington has disappeared, and in her place was a beautiful, glamorous movie star. She scanned the audience, hoping that Lila and Ellen were there. They would recognize Dolores Dufay, especially when they saw her sitting with the Wakefields.
Really, now? Because the Wakefields are all about hanging with big Hollywood stars that anyone from out of town who sits near them must automatically be a superstar? Give me a damn break.
The Moral of the Story:
People who sell things at flea markets, craft fairs, and other similar venues are probably criminals, especially those who don’t fall all over themselves trying to accommodate the Wakefield twins. Next time you’re at a flea market, try to bring along a Sweet Valley Twins/High book. Hold the book up and ask the vendor if he or she is a fan… His or her reaction will determine whether or not you need to watch your wallet while perusing their store-front.