I somehow ended up with this book, one in the middle of the series, and the last five or six books. Since I had no idea this series even existed until a few years later, I had to do a little reading to get caught up.
Basically, this is the twins’ eighth grade year. Sweet Valley redid the school districts, and somehow the twins ended up at Sweet Valley Junior High, while all their other friends are still at Sweet Valley Middle School, including Winston who literally lives a block away, in the same direction as the new school. They no longer talk to any of their old friends because their new friends want nothing to do with them.
Salvatore is Todd 2.0. He’s the guy who draws funny cartoons that the newspaper constantly rejects, and since this is still a Sweet Valley book, he has a mad crush on Elizabeth. He thinks about her all the time and can barely function around her. None of this sits too well with his best friend Anna because she recently developed a thing for him.
All three are on the school newspaper, which apparently is nothing like the one at SVMS. There is one head editor, and she has complete control over what the paper prints. Elizabeth writes a few “funny” articles that get shot down, and Anna who handles editing on articles, can’t handle it anymore and quits. She gets a little pissed off when Elizabeth not only refuses to quit the paper, but actually takes a job working on an environmental article for them.
Anna hears through the grapevine that Sal and Elizabeth are spending a lot of time together. They even go to the mall together without *gasp* asking her to go. She starts avoiding them all the time, until she runs into his friend Brian. Brian realizes that she likes Sal, and he tells her that she can’t avoid them forever.
Elizabeth writes the big article for the paper, and the editor loves it. She suggests making her the permanent environmental reporter, and since this isn’t the Liz that we all hate, she decides that the job is too boring and something she doesn’t want. She asks if she can use a penname like Frieda Whales or Imma Frog, and when the editor turns them down, she tells them to pull her article completely.
She goes to Sal, who finally tells her that he got turned down on every cartoon he submitted. Elizabeth feels so bad for him that she gives him a hug and gets a gushy feeling. They ask Anna to go out for pizza with them, and she turns them down. She shows up anyway, and they start talking about how they wished they could put out their own magazine. The owner of the pizza place overhears, and she offers to buy ad space to help them out. Ah, now this sounds like a Sweet Valley book!
Meanwhile, Jessica is a complete loser with no friends. While hanging out at the mall by herself, she runs into cool girl Lacey and her little sister. Some older girls stop to talk to them, some guys nearby try flirting, and one steals the little girl’s stuffed rabbit and runs off with it. Jessica chases after him and gets the rabbit back when cute guy Damon climbs into the fountain and retrieves it.
Lacey suggests that she try out for cross country because she’s trying out too. She then tells her friend Kristen that she’s just using it as an excuse to hang out with her older friends and that Jessica will cover for her. Jessica goes to the first practice, and this girl Bethel treats her like a dumb cheerleader. Lacey picks on a heavy girl, and Jessica kind of laughs even though she doesn’t think it’s funny. Who the heck is this girl?
Jessica turns out to be a natural at running, and winds up doing almost as good as Bethel. The two girls have a slight rivalry, and Bethel challenges her to a race, which she almost wins. Jessica discovers that her cheerleading shoes are really uncomfortable, but her parents won’t buy her a new pair because she already spent a ton of money on clothes. The school sells off all the old items from lost and found, and she finds a pair of trainers.
Since she doesn’t want anyone to know she’s wearing hand me down shoes, she decorates them with markers. Bethel says that they look just like a pair she lost the year before. She keeps riding Jessica about the shoes until she sees her start crying. Later on, she decides that girls like Jessica never cry so it must have been a trick.
Even though Jessica keeps showing up for practice and working her ass off, Lacey frequently blows off practice. She keeps saying that she and Jessica should hang out, but then she gets pissed when she calls her house. When she finally does suggest they do something, she flakes and calls hours later. They go rollerblading, and Lacey introduces her to some older kids who are in some random band that Jessica loves.
One of the guys starts singing to her and flirting with her. Lacey tells them that she has the perfect excuse to hang out with them, and when Jessica starts to figure it out, Lacey decides that it’s time to leave. The coach picks the runners for the next meet and passes out shirts to the girls who are there. Jessica tries to take one for Lacey, but the teacher says that since she only came to 2 out of 10 practices, she can’t have one.
Lacey gets mad that Jessica didn’t get her a shirt, but she still wants to use her. She tells Jessica to tell her dad that all the girls are studying if he calls her house after the meet. The girls get out of school early for the meet, and Lacey starts to leave too, wearing a shirt that she stole from the locker room. Lacey starts to leave too, and Bethel calls her out in front of the teacher, saying that she isn’t a member of the team. Lacey asks Jessica to stick up for her, but she realizes that Lacey will always want something from her and tells the teacher the truth.
By this time, Ned and Alice decide that Jessica really does enjoy running, so they buy her the fancy new shoes. They go to the meet, and Jessica does really well until she trips and falls. Bethel helps her up while still running, and Jessica manages to finish in the top five. She finds that she has two copies of some weird Japanese girl group tape, and that the other copy belongs to Bethel.
Jessica gives Bethel back her tape, and Bethel comments on her shoes. She confesses that she actually did buy her old shoes, and they share a laugh. The book ends with Jessica realizing that she made her first real friend at Sweet Valley Junior High.
*Who are these weird Wakefield parents? They say that they have to split their money evenly between all three kids and that money is tight. Aren’t they the same parents who give their kids hundreds of dollars for random projects later on?
*Elizabeth’s jokes are lame with a capital lame. One of her articles is on proper etiquette on the school bus and another is a funny version of the cafeteria menu. It comes across as something from an old, old, old, old copy of MAD, but naturally everyone finds them hysterical.
*These might be newer books, but Elizabeth still has no clue! She can’t tell that Anna has a major crush on Sal, which is just ridiculous.
*Jessica as a running jock seems a little unbelievable, but she explains that she went running a lot with Steven over the summer.
*Speaking of Steven, it seems a little weird to hear about him driving some random Oldsmobile when it SVH, I believe he had a Dautsun LOL.
*The SVJH books are supposed to be more realistic and updated than the other books, which I completely get. I find them kind of entertaining, but I miss the craziness.
*I’ve heard from multiple people who read these books as teens and then read the other books and hated them. That just boggles my mind.
*Is it wrong that I really like Jessica in these books? I’d love them to do another series that bridges the gap between this one and SVH, so that Francine has to explain why Jessica went from bitchy cheerleader to nice jock to bitchy cheerleader again.