Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - The New Jessica

Right, so the physical copy I have of this book has a tie-in cover for the 90s TV show, featuring the Daniels twins which you can see here, (and hey, why not throw me an aul like on Facebook while you're there?) and which I think we can all agree is a total non-event. As such, I'm using an image of the original, and pretty clearly superior cover. And it's goood.

Sweet Valley High #32: The New Jessica

Elizabeth Wakefield is sitting in her room while gorgeous sunlight streams through the window and her gorgeous eyes are looking all thoughtful in her gorgeous face while she gorgeously pours her feelings about her new boyfriend Jeffrey into her diary. Did I mention that she's gorgeous? And blonde? And slender? Well, she is. Jessica then comes bursting into the room, complaining about how fat she looks, which is ridiculous, because she too is gorgeous, you see. Jessica wants to borrow Elizabeth's "peach-coloured knit dress" (niice) and then gets pissed off when she wears it to school and everyone mistakes her for Elizabeth. Prior to this, Jessica was already moping to Lila and Cara over an ice cream sundae about how she's having an identity crisis and is fed up of being an identical twin. She goes shopping with Lila in Lytton and Brown, the big department store in the mall and is struck by inspiration when she sees a sign advertising makeovers at the cosmetics counter. Can I just take a moment to applaud the ghostwriter for actually coming up with a shop name here? After The Ski Shop, The Boston Shop, The Tennis Shop, The Designer Shop and The Sports Shop, the temptation to just call it The Department Store Shop must have been huge. Proud of you.

Jessica stays at Lila's mansion for the weekend, dyes her hair black and Lila combs stuff through it to make it all sleek and straight, as it's usually wavy. Lila then shows her some makeup tricks she's learned and trowels on the eyeliner and "dull-red lipstick", so Jessica now looks "foreign, slightly Eastern", whatever that means and basically the opposite of a blonde and Californian Wakefield twin. She then borrows a heap of clothes from Lila that Mr. Fowler brought her back from Paris, and one of the more casual outfits is a purple jumpsuit with lizard boots, so you know this is going to be a good time. Oh and she starts talking in a faintly English accent to match her new look and this whole makeover is fast becoming my new favourite thing. Jessica triumphantly arrives home on Sunday evening and Elizabeth reacts like Jessica has just fucked Jeffrey in front of her.

"Jess?" she said fearfully, her fingers flying to her lips.

Elizabeth felt the colour drain from her face. She was so stunned, she could barely speak.

Elizabeth felt her lip begin to quiver. She wasn't exactly sure why, but she felt that Jessica had betrayed her. "You look like a stranger!" she cried, her eyes brimming with tears. Elizabeth couldn't bear to look at Jessica a second longer.

She actually runs to her room, bawls crying and furiously writes in her diary about how this must mean that Jessica hates her and it's just the dumbest thing ever. It's just hair dye Liz, chill out for fuck's sake.

At school on Monday morning, Jessica's new look is a total sensation. She's head to toe in Lila's new French clothes and has ditched the lavaliere for a chunky necklace and big gold earrings. People are practically following her around all day and acting like she's the first sixteen year old to ever dye her hair and and naturally, Jessica is loving it. While she's still talking in her new voice and pointedly pulling copies of Paris Match out of her bag, Elizabeth is moaning to a sympathetic Enid like a total sap about how sad she is that Jessica has changed her look. "I think she sounds really affected, Liz. Like Joan Collins on Dynasty, or something." Oh WHATEVER, Enid. Elizabeth then runs into Jeffrey and marvels at how soft his hair looks, until he mentions that he likes Jessica's makeover, so Elizabeth runs off all upset because she thinks he prefers Jessica to her now and Elizabeth is a massive dope in this book.

Elizabeth retires to The Oracle office to read the proofs for her Eyes and Ears column, but instead ends up whining into her diary about Jeffrey and Jessica. Penny Ayala then turns up to tidy the office and move a bunch of paperwork around, so Elizabeth puts her diary aside and reads the proofs like she was supposed to, while Penny faffs about around her. The bell rings for class, so Liz heads off to Mr. Collins' classroom for English and suddenly realises she left the diary in the office, but by the time the class is over and she runs back to the office, it's gone. OH NO. Who could POSSIBLY have taken it, perhaps with a bunch of papers that may have been around it so it got mistakenly scooped up and moved? WELP, WE'LL JUST NEVER KNOW.

Meanwhile, Jessica is spending her time hanging out at a fancy coffee bar with Lila, drinking espressos and deciding that she needs to lose five pounds. "Though neither she nor Elizabeth had ever had to diet to maintain their slender figures." Unlike fat Robin Wilson when she was fat, you see. She's also been making an effort to spend time away from home and not hanging out with Elizabeth as much as usual, as she wants to be more independent. And in fairness, "Elizabeth kept moping all over the place, giving Jessica pained looks whenever she saw her", so you can't really blame her for wanting to get away from that particular barrel of absolutely no craic.

Oh Jessica. Jessica Jessica Jessica. There is so much happening here. The Lucky Bag jewellery, the eyeshadow ALL THE WAY to the eyebrows, the belt, the jacket JUST THE EVERYTHING. I want to say that she looks sorta like a particularly unskilled drag queen, but that's wildly unfair as drag queens tend to be nothing short of fucking fab. And this is not that.

At lunchtime in school, while marveling at Jessica's latest ensemble, DeeDee Gordon suggests that she should try modelling and gives her the number for a fashion photographer that her talent scout father uses sometimes. Jessica's like FUCK YES, partly to get one up on Lila, who previously failed at being a model and was hilariously told her face was too flat. Jessica meets the photographer dude who is also an agent and impressed by her cool European look and thinks she'll be good for an upcoming job for an in-store fashion show at Lytton and Brown, but the photos she'll need to have taken will cost $125. To be honest, I can't help feeling like this lad seems sketchy and should tell her to come back with one of her parents or something before anything gets decided. Anyway, Jessica is totally swept up with this whole modelling thing and is already imagining herself being interviewed from her Beverly Hills mansion and thinking about changing her name to Jessa Fields, as Jessica Wakefield sounds "too wholesome". It's true, you can practically smell the blonde off her name. However, she has to convince Ned and Alice to give her a loan for the photos, but they're not super enamoured with the whole thing, as the Lytton and Brown job isn't guaranteed. ""This wouldn't happen to Brooke Shields," Jessica said, infuriated." They agree to lend her the money in the end and then bring up the Ramsbury Fair, which is some thing the family go to every year, but Jessica acts like she's too cool for it now.

Elizabeth is still acting all weird and mad at Jeffrey for no good reason and when he brings up the fair and that his cousin who'll be visiting from Oregon could come too, Liz says she doesn't want to go anymore because Jessica thinks it's lame now. He gets sarcastic with her and she gets all huffy again and is even more convinced for some reason that he likes Jessica now instead of her and SERIOUSLY this is such a non-story. At home, while Jessica is getting ready to go to the Beach Disco, (in black leather jeans and crimson lipstick, OOH YAAS) Elizabeth tells her that Jeffrey has been admiring her new look from afar and that he prefers Jessica to her now. Jessica tells her that Jeffrey is obviously into her and not to be such a dope, but Liz is convinced. Jessica's reaction to all this, amazingly, is to try it on with her sister's boyfriend. At school, she comes over to Jeffrey in the cafeteria and tries to flirt with him, but he just keeps asking her about her sister, so Jess quickly realises that he's pretty obviously still smitten with Elizabeth and backs away quickly before any damage is done.

After school, Jessica drags Liz to her meeting with the photographer and the art director for Lytton and Brown, although Liz won't go any further than the waiting room as she's busy moping about her sister's new hair, her missing diary and her Jeffrey. While she's doing all that in the reception area, Jessica comes out of the meeting in tears because they decided her image was wrong for the show after all. Mr. Mahler, the L&B guy, then spots Elizabeth and declares that she's perfect and exactly what he's looking for. Jessica insists that they're actually identical twins and that she can change her look back, but Mr. L&B Man and the photograpehr aren't having it and don't believe her, because they're fucking idiots. THEY HAVE THE EXACT SAME FACE YOU DOPES. Mahler offers Elizabeth six hundred dollars to do the show and tells her to get back to him tomorrow, even though she said she's not interested.

That night after dinner, Penny Ayala drops by with Elizabeth's diary, because - shocker - she moved it by accident that time we all figured that's what happened and Penny only just realised she knew where it was when Mr. Collins mentioned that Liz had lost it. Jessica answers the door and takes the diary from Penny, but because she feels like her and Liz have been drifting apart lately, she reads a bit of it and sees how upset the makeover has made Elizabeth. Later, the family watch some old home movies, because Ned and Alice are putting some together to send to the Wakefield grandparents and there's footage of the twins as little kids the first time they went to the Ramsbury Fair. It's all enough to make Jessica change her mind about the fair this year as well as fix everything by telling Elizabeth that Jeffrey is still crazy about her and shampooing the dye out of her hair, so she can pose as Liz and take the Lytton and Brown job.

Elizabeth makes up with Jeffrey, although he does call her "stupid girl" while forgiving her, but makes it sound "like an endearment", so I guess that's ok? He also explains that he only liked Jessica's makeover because he had been slightly unnerved by them being identical twins and this way it was like he had Elizabeth all to himself or something. Jessica bags the modelling gig by pretending to be Elizabeth at the next meeting with the two idiot grown men and the when the day of the show comes, Elizabeth attends in disguise, wearing a dark wig and sunglasess so as not to give the game away. Loads of kids from school are there too and then Winston starts joking about how he could be a model too and SNATCHES ELIZABETH'S WIG. LITERALLY.

And the next minute he had snatched off her wig, leaving her facing Mr. Mahler as her blond hair tumbled around her shoulders!



It turns out Mahler copped that, duh, yes they are twins, because Ned and Alice came up to him saying how happy they were that Jessica worked out for the show, so he decides he wants Liz to take part in the show too, although he's not going to pay them any more money, they'll have to split the six hundred dollarybucks, which kinda seems like bullshit, but fine. So Elizabeth and Jessica get to don evening gowns and model together for the show and it's all great because they're so happy to be in it together. And the moral of the story is, Wakefields don't need makeovers, unlike fat Robin or plain ol' Lynne Henry because they're already SO GODDAMN BEAUTIFUL, OKAY?

Notable outfit: 
Or in this case, outfits, because there is SO MUCH GOOD STUFF as part of Jessica's fancy new Paris-inspired image.

Jessica was wearing an olive green leather skirt with a slit up the back. The skirt was so straight it was hard to walk. Matching hose with a lacy pattern and three-inch heels made Jessica's legs look longer and slimmer than usual. She felt very tall and elegant, and the silky, oversize blouse and green leather belt worn on her hips made her feel incredibly glamorous.

Jessica looked terrific in the black silk jump suit and red high-heeled boots Lila had loaned her. Her sleek black hair was pulled back in a bun that day, with just a few loose wisps around her face. A red silk scarf completed the elegant look, along with oversize earrings.

Jessica crossed her legs, admiring the silky new stockings she had found. They were just the right shade of blue to match the two-piece knit dress she had convinced Lila to lend her.

It was a white, really slim-cut skirt that was several inches longer than what she usually wore, with a white sweater with sequins on it. A white beret completed the look. With her new dark hair, the combination was fantastic. 


Things I counted:
Number of pages: 136
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 11

References to Jessica's new, raven black hair: 13


  1. I remember this one! They kept going on about how European she looked, and I was sooo confused. Did I look European? Did my friends who were blonde but look European? WHAT DID IT MEAN.

  2. At "trowels on the eyeliner and "dull-red lipstick", so Jessica now looks "foreign, slightly Eastern"," I immediately thought Kardashian.

    1. Gasp! A pre-Kardashian Kardashian! She'd have to change her name to Kessica.

  3. I want all of the clothes, particularly the blue silk stocking!!! Unfortunately I'm blonde so I'll never look European........

  4. Francine Pascal is interviewed on This American Life this week about the focus in proms in teen lit. Her voice is everything I could have dreamed of.

  5. OMG!! This was one of my favorite books. I dropped it in my best friend's swimming pool and was crushed. Hahaha

    1. Aww! :( But on the bright side, what a suitably Wakefield way for that book to go!

  6. I would wager that by "European" they never meant Irish though. Or British. Don't mean to break any hearts here but you know.

  7. Isn't Jessica like, 20 years early in having a midlife makeover crisis? At least 20 years.

    Also... whaaaaat's the deal with Lila's dad, buying his teenage daughter a wardrobe that sounds like his mistress should be wearing it? I picture Papa Fowler with some ice-blonde, Eastern-bloc woman with oversize mammaries.

    1. That being said, I would wear any of those outfits as described. An olive-colored suede hobble skirt? With matching lace hosiery? Lemme just grab my riding crop and my boytoy, and I'm ready to roll.

  8. Even as a child I scoffed at the idea that Jessica could possibly go back to her perfect "sun kissed" blonde by simply washing the dye out of hair. I slept a little easier thinking that it would in fact take months of anguish for it to actually return to it's natural shade

    1. Yes, this was the most unrealistic book yet!

    2. It's ok guys, it was just temporary shampoo-in black dye, not like, real hair dye.


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