Log in

No account? Create an account
29 March 2008 @ 11:54 am
SVT #10 One of the Gang  

Cover: Jessica’s hair is fun to snark at here. It gives the reader the impression that it’s a really windy day outside. Anyway, it looks like she used too much conditioner on it or something. Where’re those famous “natural waves”? She has a crutch under one shoulder due to a sprained ankle. The other girl is Pamela Jacobson. Extra points to the artist for making Pamela look ‘special’.


The book opens at the Wakefield residence. Jessica is doing her homework at the kitchen table with older brother Steven. Elizabeth is baking cookies but before she can come over to help Jessica, who is struggling with her math problem, she must clean up her cookie mess first. That’s our mature, responsible Liz! Jessica’s blue-green eyes flash with impatience because she NEVER cleans up after herself; that’s what an identical twin is for!


There’s a nice long paragraph about how the identical twins “…weren’t one bit identical when it came to personalities.” Elizabeth likes to work hard at school namely on the Sixers newspaper (and that’s considered schoolwork?) while Jessica’s entire world revolves around the Unicorn club and other non-school related activities. Right now Jessica’s especially concerned with impressing the 8th grade Unicorn president, Janet Howell, as much as she can.


Steven annoys the twins by proclaiming he has ESP-extrasensory perception-(Wow, ghostwriter! I’m impressed you knew that!) and has already “foreseen” everything the twins will do and say today. (Cool! Steven’s actually snarking along with me!) For example, he already “knew” Jess would ask for Liz’s help with her homework and he also happened to have “predicted” that Jessica would be appointed sixth grade chairman on the committee for the upcoming Mini Olympics. (Wow! What're the odds?)


The Mini Olympics are a traditional event in Sweet Valley (which wouldn’t be traditional unless it involved the SIXTH grade class) in which the sixth graders are in charge of organizing the day long festival for the younger grades. The fifth graders also get to help plan and organize and both grades get to participate in the activities and athletic events.


Always modest Jessica just tosses her hair and declares since she’s perfect for the job, it's only natural the teachers chose HER to help organize and lead this event.


Steven has to get to basketball practice. Before he leaves he teases Jess that his ESP is tingling again and she may want to consider staying in this evening, otherwise…and both girls groan. Their mother, Alice, who is really just “a grown-up version of the twins” enters with groceries.


Jess and Liz both whine to their mother about their annoying older brother and his equally annoying ESP. “Can’t you tell him to stop?” but Alice just smiles and suggests maybe the twins should find a way themselves. Jessica’s eyes shine with inspiration. She’s got an idea! Liz can tell. Gee, she must have ESP too! Oh wait, that’s in another book.


With a couple hours to kill before Mom needs St. Elizabeth’s help with dinner, she mounts her bike and rides off to the public library for (what else?) the latest Amanda Howard mystery. There Liz meets the “new” girl who just transferred to SVMS, Pamela Jacobson. She’s described as “a small, pretty girl with soft brown wavy hair which came down to her shoulders. She had a slightly pale complexion and blue-gray eyes.”

As anyone can see from this description, Pamela is *speaks in whisper* handicapped!!!


But at least she knows how to read. Turns out Pamela loves Amanda Howard as much as Liz, and she expresses interest in writing for the Sixers. Liz excitedly tells Pamela all about the upcoming special edition the Sixers will be doing to cover the Mini Olympics.


This subject makes Pamela sad, as she explains to Liz, she has a heart condition, and can’t exert herself with a lot of physical activity. She just transferred from a “special kids” school called Ridgedale, twenty miles away from Sweet Valley. Because everyone there is ‘special’ Pamela was beginning to feel like she was ‘special’ too (this is BAD?) and despite her parents and teachers concerns that she wouldn’t be able to keep up and would feel left out, she wanted break free anyway and try a "regular school" (SVMS is a "REGULAR SCHOOL"?) Her eyes shine with pride as she declares she doesn’t want any special treatment, she’s just a “normal girl” and LIKES it when people forget she’s “different”. Elizabeth is quite distraught to learn there’s a girl her age with a DISABILITY actually residing in Sweet Valley who can’t participate in the upcoming athletic activity!

Saint Elizabeth feels like the world’s biggest heel for even bringing up the subject.


The next day at school, Jessica is in the girl’s locker room surrounded by Unicorns including BF (frenemy in this book) Lila Fowler. President Janet is also there along with three 7th grade unicorn members (so why are they joining a SIXTH grade gym class volleyball game? Why do I even ask?)


We are told the Mini Olympics consists of all the students being divided up into four teams to compete: Blue, Red, White, and Black. Janet suggests to Jessica they should consider a PURPLE team this year and everyone laughs.


Jessica is full of plans and new ideas for this year’s Mini Olympics: there should be individual trophies this year, more physical activities involving lots of running and jumping. She even suggests a triathlon (Wait a minute, that’s a long distance swimming, bicycling and running event! For kids who are only 10-12 years old? That’s a bit extreme, Jessica.)


Lila groans that Jessica is just rigging the activities (she’s just named all the physical things she’s especially good at) to her own advantage. Lila “a tall, slender girl with auburn hair and a pretty face” (and don’t forget STINKING RICH!) is already a little pissed off because Jessica has been appointed head chairman of the committee and Lila is the less-than-glamorous “assistant chairman” Yes, she’s jealous as hell.


 “You know I have some really good ideas...” Lila is about to say when Ellen Riteman, who will always and forever be “just another Unicorn” strolls up to remind the girls there’s a gym class they need to get to but no one seems to notice her (HA!) everyone is still locked in on Jessica and Lila’s battle of wills. Lila criticized Jessica’s ideas in front of her friends , how DARE she! Jessica thinks Lila is acting like a spoiled, rich snob who always wants everything focused on her (well DUH) while Lila thinks Jessica is being unfair to everyone who doesn’t happen to be as good at jumping and running as she is. Tamera Chase, a 7th grade Unicorn and Janet end it by saying it’s more important to focus on the fact that there are TWO Unicorns on the committee and that no matter what happens during the Mini Olympics the Unicorns get all the glory!


Next comes two pages of exposition from Pamela’s point of view, her “sob story” if you will. Here’s what you should know about her:

She was born with this rare heart condition which required two life saving surgeries when she was a baby but they didn’t cure her. She should live a full, long life the doctors say, but she’ll always have a weak heart. The only handicap I can see is that she tires easily and has to take all physical activities SLOW-LY. Her new teachers are aware of this and excuse her tardiness to class because she can’t speed walk and if she tries to run she will overexert herself and DIE! She has to take medication, and worst of all she has “helicopter parents”.


Pamela’s father, Dr. Jacobson, is the worst of the two. He’s threatened that if Pamela shows any sign of being tired or depressed at SVMS, she’ll be shipped back to Ridgedale, pronto, “where everyone has a some sort of handicap” Heck, that’s where Sweet Valley sends anyone in a wheelchair! Later these kids go on to Parker Academy, the high school for disabled students. Gee, can anyone say segregated?


Now Pamela is in the class she dreads most, gym. She COULD go attend a study hall, she doesn’t HAVE to sit here on the sidelines feeling sorry for herself and watching the Unicorns (who have all managed to get on the same team) playing volleyball and having fun. (Oh, yeah, I SO remember how hot and sweaty and physically exhausted I'd get playing volleyball in gym class! I wish I'd had a 'heart condition' like Pamela's!)

 Pamela really admires the Unicorns as she’d recently overheard Janet oh-so-modestly explaining to some random person: “We’re called Unicorns because Unicorns are special and so are we.” But Pamela’s kind of ‘special’ is not the kind Janet was talking about. Pamela is painfully aware of this. Poor Pamela, she should’ve been put down at birth.


It’s lunchtime. Saint Liz and Amy notice Pamela is sitting all by herself and decide to be Good Samaritans and go talk to her. Pamela has been crying (poor dear) she hates “not being able to do what everyone else does” at this new school but actually the one wish Pamela REALLY has and REALLY wants is to convince her father that she can make it here at SVMS and doesn’t need to go back to the “special school”.

Elizabeth and Amy, apparently now members of the “Make a Wish Foundation,” vow to make Pamela’s wish come true.


After school that day the twins begin their ESP revenge scheme to get back at their brother. First, they ask Steven about any ESP “hunches” he may have had today about them and Liz and Jess totally pretend that today's “hunches” actually happened! Steven, who is, (what’s the correct term?) “denser than a doorknob” doesn’t even ask Liz to produce the money he saw her “find” or make Jessica produce a witness that she really did have a "brush with death" during gym class. The twins grin at each other as a slightly pale Steven staggers off believing his ESP may be REAL after all!


Now that she and Jess are alone, Elizabeth quickly takes this opportunity to try and persuade Jessica to make some changes to the Mini Olympics so that EVERYONE can be included. People like Pamela, for example.


What ABOUT Pamela? Jessica asks, “If she’s sick, I assumed she wouldn’t even bother showing up for the Mini Olympics, but if you really want to include her we could let her type up flyers or something, anyway, your point is…?”


Horrified Liz exclaims, “The point is (you halfwit!) she’s not sick, she can't even COMPETE in the Olympics, she might hurt herself. She has a HEART CONDITION!”


“Well, she’s going to have to get into much better shape if she wants to win anything.” 
Liz bangs forehead on the table in frustration (kidding). Instead she replies,

“Jessica! Think for a minute what it would be like for YOU if you suddenly lost the ability to do normal, everyday, physical activities…”


Jessica is all, Look I can only feel sorry for these kind of people once a year on Handicapped Awareness Day, I’m REALLY sorry, but it’s too late to change anything and I like the events the way I planned ‘em.



During dinner that night the twins put the scare into Steven, They recently read people with ESP have night visions and even see spirits, Steven believes this because he’s just a stupid high school freshman who doesn’t read. It’s a perfect setup for when Liz and Jess sneak outside that night, while everyone is asleep, with a ladder to climb up to Steve’s bedroom window and totally psyche him out. Jessica puts on a white sheet with holes cut for her eyes and is scratching and pressing her face against the window. Steven wakes and seeing something outside his bedroom window, nearly wets himself! He’s about to freak out completely when…Jessica loses her footing on the ladder and with a bloodcurdling scream has a spectacular crash and ends up spraining her ankle!


The parents come running. Mr. Wakefield is all concerned and picks up his daughter in his arms and takes her to the ER. He figures this injury and Jessica having to miss out on such physical activities as cheering with the Boosters at the next game and hobbling around on crutches for the next few weeks will be punishment enough for her. 
Not bad parenting, Mr. Wakefield, I actually agree with your methods here.


Jessica does indeed learn her lesson the next day. Her ankle, wrapped in an ACE bandage, throbs. Everything takes twice as long now like: getting ready for school, maneuvering downstairs with her crutches, and just making it to school while using crutches and trying to carry her books at the same time. How DO those handicapped people manage it?


To make matters worse for Jessica, Steven has decided the embarrassing prank the twins pulled was all Jessica’s fault, therefore he’s not speaking to her anymore. When Lila discovers Jessica is injured "suggests" she's obviously not capable of leading the Mini Olympics committee anymore. Jessica's all: "HUH?"
Thus Lila begins her campaign to “nudge” Jessica out of the spotlight.


By the second day Jessica realizes having a sprained ankle today wasn’t nearly as much fun as it was yesterday when all her friends gave her the VIP treatment, all dripping concern and sympathy and Bruce Patman even carried her books for her! But today, as she struggles through the crowded hallway to get to class on time, the novelty has worn off. No one really notices her anymore and Jessica sighs in self pity. Then Jessica sees Pamela…


During gym class, Jessica really gets her come-uppance. Just a few days ago that was HER out there happily participating in the volleyball game and scoring points for her team. Today she gets to experience life from the sidelines. Yeah, not much fun being left out, is it Jessica?


Pamela joins her, striking up a conversation. And Jessica really LISTENS to what Pamela is saying (this is a first!). She never really considered life from Pamela’s point of view until now. Jessica’s situation, after all, is only temporary while Pamela is stuck on the sidelines for LIFE.


Later that day, Jessica attends a Mini Olympics planning meeting with the teachers, Lila, and the fifth graders all organizing the event together. But everyone’s IGNORING her! Lila’s ambition to nudge Jessica out has succeeded. Lila even got “Daddy” to “take out a full page ad in the paper about the Olympics” and she’s gone behind Jessica's back and managed to trump Jessica on all her ideas. The supervising teachers all agree with Lila's new ideas. Jessica should be GRATEFUL to have a friend like Lila who just saved her ass while she was laid up with a hurt ankle.
Lila smirks, Jessica fumes. She’s lost control over the Olympics just because she’s injured!


Afterwards, Jessica whines to Liz who reminds Jess that with her sprained ankle she can’t even participate in the events now. She reminds her again of people like Pamela and those who basically suck at sports and suggests (again) she consider thinking about including them and making some changes.


Jessica is disgusted, “Are you suggesting we plan the Mini Olympics so that every single weakling has the same chance to win that some big strong athlete has?”

Um, yes, Jessica, that’s exactly what Liz is saying.


Only until her sister reminds Jessica that if she took this “idea of change” to the committee that JESSICA would get all the credit and glory making her look like a model citizen (thus making Lila look the fool) does Jessica start to accept this idea. Not to mention if they gave the Olympics a complete overhaul she would actually get to participate and could even help her team win!

Jessica likes this idea of Liz’s very much.

Her work here done, Saint Elizabeth heads off to the public library (yet, again).


Having just come off a big row with “helicopter parents” Pamela is in the reading room of the library, crying her eyes out behind a book, when Liz finds her. Pamela's now convinced her Dad is right, she needs “special help” and “special attention” she really is *sob* HANDICAPPED! He's right, she doesn’t belong at Sweet Valley (Handicapped People Needn’t Apply) Middle School. She just can’t seem to fit in here.

Liz explains the way things are run at SVMS. In a nutshell: “Unless you’re really pretty or really good at sports or really smart, no one notices you.” (Way to rub in the salt, Liz!) She tells Pamela about Lois Waller who’s one of those “naturally bad athletes” and Jimmy Underwood, “the smallest boy in their class” (hence the name) both are probably dreading the Mini Olympics just as much as Pamela is.

Pamela says: “It’s one thing to be bad at sports; its another to be HANDICAPPED.”

Only in Sweet Valley, dear.

Back at Casa Wakefield, meddling Liz succeeds in talking Jess into enlisting Pamela's help in changing the format of the Olympics and get her on the planning committee with Jess. Still thinking of how easy it will be to take all the glory for herself, Jessica agrees. St. Liz congratulates herself that by getting Pamela involved she’ll NOW want to stay at SVMS.


One week to the Mini Olympics, Jessica hobbles over to the Jacobsons’ house.

"Hey there, cute older brother of Pamela’s!" Jessica, the queen of flirtation, gushes. "Oh, THIS silly ankle? I fell while learning a new Booster’s cheer" (Liar!)


Pamela enters and invites Jessica to her room. Convincing Pamela to join the committee is easy as Jessica shifts all the blame on Lila, favoring the athletes was all HER idea, the BITCH! Pamela totally falls for this and eagerly starts teaching Jessica how Ridgedale did their own “Special Olympics” with wheelchair races and events that included more brains than brawn.


Jessica is all “Quick, I’ve got to get you to the committee meeting tonight so they can hear all this great stuff and we can convince them to change this prejudiced Mini Olympics into EVERYONE’s Mini Olympics *hem* and make Lila look like a real creep! 


It works! With Pamela as Jessica’s “Exhibit A” at the meeting, Jessica does such a great snow job the two teachers supervising the student committee are all reaching for their hankies and ready to nominate Jessica for the PTA Civic Service Award. (Um, Pamela's sitting RIGHT THERE too!)

 “Why didn’t we ever NOTICE those less fortunate people BEFORE? Of course you girls can make the changes you want for the Mini Olympics.”

 Lila’s all “But…but!”

Shut up Lila, can’t you see Jessica is a model citizen?

“Lila pouted, her lower lip sticking out,” (sorry, Lila fans, but I've permently freeze-framed that picture in my mind. HEE!)

Jessica smirks and it’s Lila’s turn to fume.


At school, all the students know what happened and think Jessica’s totally awesome in speaking up for change in the Mini Olympics. Jessica's only thinking about getting to see "cute older brother of Pamela's" again next time she goes over to the Jacobson's.


Pamela tries to sidle up to Jessica as they work hard one evening together poring over records from past Mini Olympics and getting ideas. She’s all misty eyed as she shyly tells Jessica how great it is that her and her sister have befriended and included her like this.

Jessica’s all: Uh, you and me? FRIENDS? Yikes, next she’ll be asking me to get her into the Unicorns! I don’t think so. Bye now, and say hi to your brother for me.

Jessica takes off as fast as she can. After all the hours she and Pamela have spent working on these new plans, Jessica knows she will be getting all the credit anyway.


She goes back to Casa Wakefield to meet Janet, Ellen and...Lila! What are YOU doing here? 
Lila “looked straight out of Seventeen magazine in a suede skirt and boots.” She’s come to see just how much damage Jessica has done overhauling the Mini Olympics.


They go up to Jessica’s room where she proudly explains all the new events and changes they’ve made: they will draw numbers for each event so it’s totally fair, there will be an hour of Brainpower with games, puzzles, a spelling bee, Password competition (whoa, anyone remember THAT old TV game show?) and a Junior Wheel of Fortune (COOL!). There will be a Houdini event called “Untie Yourself” where two teammates will be tied together and whichever team can untie themselves the fastest wins, a three legged race, egg races, water races in the pool, which involve balancing a bowl of water on a kickboard and whoever knocks the least out wins, and (I totally LOVE this one) a bed making contest! With hospital corners! (but seriously some of these event sound more appropriate for an American 4th of July event than an elementary school track and field day!)


Lila thinks everything Jessica has just said, SUCKS! Jessica is about to snap back when she sees Janet’s facial expression and decides she “didn’t want to hurt her position with the Unicorns” (she must be sitting on their horn). So she keeps quiet and lets eveyone congradulate her on being a "model citizen"


Finally, it is Friday, the day of the Mini Olympics. Tying a purple ribbon around her ponytail in honor of her Unicorn status, Jessica takes up her crutches and heads off to the elementary school where parents, teachers and all the students from both schools have gathered for the big day.


Dividing everyone into the four color teams is apparently the only procedure that survived all the cuts they made to the Mini Olympics. Jessica and Pamela are both on the Blue team, Elizabeth and Amy (who shrieks with joy) are on the Black team, Lila and Janet are on the Red team (apparently Janet is the only 8th grader participating today, what a geek!) and Ellen makes the White team (as if we care).

Let the first event of the Mini Olympics begin!


The Talent Block is first on the day’s schedule of events in which the four teams must make up a short skit and compose a song with points awarded for creativity.


For their skit, the Blue team makes up a real winner called “The Butler Did It” poking fun at the lower school’s gym teacher, Mr. Butler. Their song is called “The Blue Team Blues” written by Pamela, which is not only a catchy title but every time I read this I can hear an equally catchy blues tune in my head:


Haven’t you heard the news?

We’ve got the Blue Team Blues.

You wake up in the morning and you’re

 feeling out of sorts; you don’t like

 dancing and you’re tired of sports…

What are you going to do?

What are you going to choose?

You know what you’ve got,

You’ve got the Blue Team Blues.


Seriously, it’s brilliant, how could the other teams even COMPETE with that?

Naturally, the Blue team wins first place in the talent competition, that’s 100 points for them. Jessica and Pamela are “practically delirious” at the announcement.


The Black team, obviously led by Elizabeth, did a skit about news reporters covering the Olympics and a cute song about “Black Magic” (No, they didn’t steal it from ‘Ol Blue Eyes, or Ella Fitzgerald, or anyone else. I Googled to see which artist originally sang That Old Black Magic but so many artists have covered it, I gave up. I have a recap to write, you know!). 
The Black team wins second place, mainly for their cute rhyme on “tragic” and “magic”.


Lila’s Red team did a really silly skit that makes fun of a bed making contest and an even sillier song called “Dread the Red” that Jessica thought sounded more like a Boosters cheer. They get stuck with third place.


The poor White trash team had a fifth grader do a stand up comic routine (he was dying up there) and their song was really a chant with none of the rhymes in the right places. Really, how hard is it to make up a RHYME?


After lunch (this ONE event took ALL MORNING? Well, ok, when you stop to think about it there WERE four individual shows that everyone had to suffer through and then the points to award) things REALLY start to get serious now with the Brainpower events.


Jessica is heartbroken when the Red team beats them in Brainpower Events by taking first place and the Blues come in THIRD! Whites manage to pull it together to come in second, and the Black team LOST (Liz the Brianiac’s name must not have been drawn for any of the events). The last set of events are going to prove crucial now!


The tension is mounting, everyone is cheering loudly in the bleachers. First event? The bed making contest! To Jessica’s joy, Lila’s name is drawn. Remember, Lila’s never made anything in her life, let alone her BED! She can’t even get past putting the top sheet on and storms angrily off the field having placed DEAD LAST in the race! Poor spoiled Lila.

Naturally, Elizabeth won this race for her team as if she’s been making her bed all her life, (wait a minute, she HAS!) for Jesscia making her bed is, at best, a once a week activity. Anyway she is glad for her twin since the Blue team took second place (Caroline Pearce was their bed maker) and she knows she’ll cream everyone in Crutch Croquet, her own original idea for a race. She even convinced the teachers to let HER do the drawing for this event.


As if we didn't see this coming, Jessica draws herself for Crutch Croquet, “Wow, isn’t that weird?” she asks.

“Oh, sure, what a coincidence.” a scathing Lila growls.

Lila looks fit to be tied when Jessica does indeed win the race for her team, knocking the croquet ball expertly around the field with her crutch, completing the course in less than ten minutes. She’s a pro, who has logged in LOTS of practice time!


Pool events, Untie Yourself (which the audience especially enjoyed), three-legged race, water balloon throw, and Pineapple Bowling all fly by then it’s time for the very last event, the Wheelchair Race. Here are the scores:

Reds and Blues are tied for first with 250 points, Blacks-210, and Whites trailing at a pitiful 200 points (because they have Ellen on their team, NAH NAH!)


Names are drawn for the race and the crowd is cheering wildly. Red team gets Ken Matthews, a small but very good athlete. The Black team got some nobody from the lower school. So did the White team.
But, for the Blue team, the lucky person drawn is…Pamela!


A hush falls over the crowd. “Aw, this isn’t fair-letting me take on two little kids and a…” Ken can’t even think of a good snark for Pamela, she’s a freak.

But Pamela isn’t intimidated, she can handle this race. She even winks at Ken with no hard feelings, “I wouldn’t get overconfident if I were you.” She tells him.


And they’re off! Pamela leads Ken by a foot. Jessica is screaming herself hoarse until she’s suddenly aware of someone else in the bleachers who cheers so loudly “the whole field seemed to reverberate” (Wow, Dr. Jacobson has the voice of God!).


It looks as if Ken is going to pass Pamela and win the race, he’s getting closer and closer…he’s PASSING her! Suddenly Ken's fingers get caught in the spokes and he looses control and veers to the right. Pamela crosses the finish line, winning the race AND the Mini Olympics for the Blue team! YAY!


Pamela’s dad rushes the field along with everyone else. He lifts his daughter up on his shoulders, he’s a changed and humbled man. From now on, he’ll never doubt his daughter’s ability to do physical things (like attend SVMS) again, he declares: “it’s obvious she can take perfectly good care of herself.”

“Oh, Daddy!”

Hugs and cheers all around.


So everything worked out just the way Jessica wanted it to *hem* (and for Pamela too, of course!) and best of all Lila Fowler and her team lost while Jessica, Sweet Valley's new "Citizen of the Year" got all the glory! 
Man, I LOVE how these Sweet Valley books end! I just feel all warm and tingly inside...*runs to the toilet to puke*


One week later, Saturday, Jessica comes down to breakfast crutch-free. Steven finally forgave her a couple chapters ago, so they’re friends again. Pamela wrote a great article about the Olympics for the Sixers and Liz is glad to have a new friend to add to her group, one who’s finally learned to come out of her shell and speak up for herself! Except we never really see Pamela again after this. Oh, she gets mentioned in passing once or twice in the next few SVT books until eventually she fades out and takes her place in the corner, where she belongs, with all the other Sweet Valley minorities!


Steven gets one last ESP tease in, (he was never TOTALLY cured you know!) Today, he predicts Jessica is going to have an incredibly DULL day. Jessica has made plans to go over to Ellen’s and watch the latest music video and practice new dance routines. Yep, sounds pretty dull to me too.


But Jessica’s day is far from dull. Four pages later a mysterious metal box is dug up by Jessica and Ellen in the Riteman’s backyard. Whatever could it contain…???

Sorry, someone else will have to recap #10 Buried Treasure.

My work here is done!