#5, All Night Long*
Tagline: "Is Jessica as grown-up as she thinks she is?" Answer: no, definitively.
This book is a Sweet Valley classic for many reasons. First, you have the cover, with Jessica looking all whorey and "Scott Daniels" looking like a total porn star, and also, thirty-eight years old, at least. And then you have the fact that this book features booze, drug use, cursing ("Damn!" but still) and very explicit almost-sex, and I just want to remind you of the fact that on the title page, it says very clearly, RL 6, IL age 12 and up. 12! I read this when I was about twelve and I remember thinking, "Wow, I am really too young to be reading this." If I recall correctly, the librarian refused to check it out to me because she thought I was too young, but my mom got all FREEDOM OF SPEECH on her ass, and so I got it anyway. Did I mention my mom's name is Alice? And she's an interior designer and a perfect size six?
The book opens with Jessica sneaking out on a school night, no less, to go to a beach party at Secca Lake with Scott Daniels, who is "eighteen, but Elizabeth suspected [Jessica] had conveniently shaved a year or two from his real age in order to convince their parents he wasn't too old for her." I want you to tear your eyes from this fascinating, wittily-written sentence and look up again at the picture of "Scott Daniels" on the cover. Yeah. Jessica shaved a decade or two off, or something. Because no way in hell is that dude 18. He's not even Hollywood 18, which is usually like 25. Anyway, besides a glorious porn moustache, Scott has a tomato red Firebird, and he has a reputation for holding "grown-up pajama parties...with everyone wearing nightshirts and nightgowns and the floor strewn with mattresses." Now Scott sounds like Hugh Hefner. Elizabeth is concerned that Jessica is going out with this dude, as she should be, and tries to make her promise to be back by curfew. What's that I hear? Oh, that's just Jessica laughing as she zooms off into the night with her geriatric porn-star boyfriend.
But the joke is on Jessica, because Scott turns out to be a total tool and also sort rapey, to boot. They swim for a while, and then someone lights a joint and they're all drinking beer, and Scott takes Jessica to an abandoned shack in the woods, where he tries to have sex with her. He, and I quote, "slipped a hand down the back of [Jessica's] bikini bottom." He is touching her bare ass, you guys. That is the closest anybody in these books comes to sex, EVER, even the married people like Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield (not that I want to read about that). Jessica freaks out and demands that Scott give her the car keys, because it's late, and she doesn't want to have sex, and she needs to get home. Scott tells her no, that he's going to keep her out ALL NIGHT LONG and then passes out because he's drunk, and here is our first inkling that Elizabeth got the brains in the family (including, like, the ones that were supposed to go to her parents) because Jessica just cries that she is stranded, instead of stealing the unconscious guy's keys and driving herself home.
Elizabeth wakes up the next morning to find Jessica still out and instead of going to her parents and telling them that Jess has probably been raped or murdered by a 55-year-old with a suspicious moustache, she decides that the most important thing is that her parents think Jess is upstairs sleeping as usual, so that Jessica doesn't get grounded and get mad at her. So she goes downstairs and pretends to leave for school, then sneaks back upstairs and dresses in a miniskirt, and pretends to be Jessica. She makes conversation with her mother, as Jessica, and Alice is pretty easily fooled, and offers the most hilarious line in the book. Alice mentions that she hopes her daughter will never have twins, and Elizabeth says, "I don't plan on it," like, does she mean that she will get an abortion if she ever gets pregnant with them? It would be just one more SCANDAL to rock this book. But then Alice gives a weary sigh and says, "Neither did I, Jessica. Neither did I." Ha! Alice is a beaten woman.
The big deal that day at school is that the twins are supposed to take their driver's ed tests to get their licenses, even though they have been driving everywhere alone since this series started, like, on their permits? Whatever. Elizabeth takes her test and then she decides she'll have to take the test for Jessica, who hasn't shown up yet. Todd reminds her that that's cheating, and Elizabeth gets mad at him, and then they break up, and when she goes in to take the test as Jessica, she's upset and she bombs it. When Jessica finally shows up at school she finds she's failed and she is mad at Elizabeth. Instead of telling her to FUCK HERSELF, Elizabeth apologizes, and then writes in her journal about what a horrible twin she is, and how Jessica hates her now. But the teacher agrees to let Jess retake the test since she was so "sick" and upset when she took it the first time and all is well.
Elizabeth goes to the beach to cover a surfing championship for The Oracle, where her classmate Bill Chase, who would totally have smoked weed if he went to my high school, is competing. He wins, and Enid suggests a title for Elizabeth's article on his victory: "Rocky of the Deep." Instead of telling her that's stupid, Elizabeth says she's already got the perfect title: Chase is One. They're both stupid, but I like Enid's for the sheer incoherentness and the outdated pop-culture reference. Todd shows up and apologizes for calling Elizabeth a cheater, even though she was one, and they're back together, and again, I think Jessica learned a very important lesson about not almost having sex with senior citizens, and staying out ALL NIGHT LONG. Except not really, at all.
What they wore: "This would look really sexy with my red shorts," Jessica said, holding up a scrap of lacy white cloth as she smiled sweetly at her twin. "You don't mind, do you Lizzie?" What is Elizabeth Wakefield doing with a lacy white anything, unless it's a nightgown that comes down to her ankles, Little House on the Prairie-style? GHOSTWRITERS! SHE IS THE BORING ONE! Also, I wish that these girls would not wear shorts so much. I am firmly of the belief that your shorts time is over once you hit puberty. I know these girls are perfect size sixes, but that does not preclude cellulite, as I have discerned from many hours of viewing Real Housewives of Orange County. It's safer just to stay away from them, unless you are ten and on your way to Camp Minnehaha for the first time. But Jessica has bigger problems than shorts in this book so I won't dwell.
Because here is what she wears to her lake-date with Scott "Grandpa" Daniels, under the shorts and lacy white halter: She wears a red string bikini. I am not of the school of thought that tries to imply that sluttily-dressed women deserve to be raped, but all the same, I can sort of see where Scott got the idea that she'd be into sex, wearing that and acting the way she does. Another girl at the party is wearing a chamois bikini. I am not convinced. Also, Ms. Chamois has cornrowed blond hair and is a dead ringer for Bo Derek. I am just not sure about her all around.
We have a twin switch this episode, so we get a nice compare-and-contrast of outfits that the twins would normally wear to school. When she goes down to have breakfast with her parents as herself, Elizabeth wears old jeans worn to a velvety softness and yanked a long-sleeved T-shirt over her head. Quickly she combed her wet hair and secured it with a tortoiseshell clip on either side. She [jammed] her feet into a pair of moccasins. I have a hard time blasting on this outfit, because I own every piece of it, myself, down to the moccasins which are soft and beaded and worn to the shape of my foot, and in which I can move soundlessly, like a Native American stalking a deer. They are great shoes for snooping. I even have toirtoiseshell clips, but I do NOT wear one on either side of my head, like I did when I was in second grade, so I'll rip on Liz for that. LIZ WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
As Jessica she wears a short, bias-cut skirt and matching striped top that was one of Jessica's favorite outfits. A bias-cut skirt that is extremely short sounds dangerous to me. The way it hangs, when you sit down, it sounds like people could see your underwear pretty easily. And what is up with Jessica's love of stripes? In my mind, stripes are only appropriate if you are 1) wearing your pajamas, 2) a charming French girl with a beret and a baguette tucked under your arm, or 3) an inmate in a federal prison. I have a feeling, an innate feeling, too, that these stripes are horizontal, and that makes everything bigger, and once again, not even the size sixes are safe.
Dana Larsen, lead singer of the Droids, is all we get for wild and crazy outfits until Olivia Davidson fully comes into her hippy-artyness. In this book, Olivia's brown curls [are] peeping out from underneath a vibrant purple scarf, which isn't much, but is at least a step in the right direction. Dana, however, is wearing one of her usual outrageous get ups: an oversize T-shirt over a red-striped miniskirt; purple tights; and black suede ankle boots. An enormous gold loop dangled from one pierced earlobe; the other sported a tiny silver star. Well, how Claudia Kishi of her! Ann M. Martin is writing a strongly worded letter as we speak.
*Again, #4, Power Play, has been loaned out but is on its way back to me. Woo! Review is forthcoming.