“Has Elizabeth found a new love?”
“For Sweet Valley High, the championship now looked like an impossible dream. And Elizabeth’s own life had turned into a nightmare.” p.123
Every so often, Liz Wakefield overhears a detail about one of her twin’s evil schemes and finds herself wishing that she could be more devious herself. One such instance occurs near the beginning of Deceptions, and while I wouldn’t normally condone it, this time a little more tricky plotting and a little less caring on Elizabeth’s part would really have come in handy.
Let me set the stage: in our last installment, I briefly mentioned a tall, rich, and handsome new boy in Sweet Valley, Nicholas Morrow. Also, at the end of that last book, the whole cast seemed to be at the Wakefields’ home, congratulating Liz on her ability to survive her recent kidnapping. As Book 14 begins, for the first time in this series the story picks up precisely where the previous book began. Which, in this case, means that Elizabeth is standing at her front door, caught in the covetous, romantic gaze of one Nicholas Morrow. And once Nicholas enters the house and joins the party, his gaze doesn’t get any less intense, nor does it stray away from Elizabeth, try though she might to shake him. Before the night is over, he tells her how he feels: he’s madly in love with her. He’s been madly in love with her from the moment he saw her...20 minutes ago. Of course, Liz tries to let the man down easy, but he insists that she go on a date with him before she decides how she feels. And how does Liz respond? She decides that she does owe him at least the one date he’s asking for.
Now, just for a moment, let’s examine some details of the plot so far - yes, the complex and detailed plot of Chapter One. First of all, while there are plenty of reasons to prefer Elizabeth to Jessica, Nicholas’s initial attraction to Elizabeth seems to be based on her appearance - the one thing that is virtually the same between the two girls. Secondly, Elizabeth has already rejected Nicholas once. The first “no”, to be sure, can be difficult to muster, but let’s face it: after the first no, the second and third no are a breeze. I could say no all day to things I’ve said no to once, and that includes a date with a super hunk millionaire. Granted, I would be perfectly willing to go on a date with Nick Morrow, but there are really no obstacles in my way. For Elizabeth, on the other had, it should be pretty obvious to us all what obstacles are standing in her way:
1.) T-O-D-D? That spells your Serious, Long-term Boyfriend, Liz. He’s not going to be thrilled about you going on a date with another guy, even if it’s just to be “nice”.
2.) Jessica. That formidable windstorm you call a twin
Okay, so we’ve established that Liz is being an idiot. But when Todd got really jealous of Nicholas’s apparent infatuation with Liz, and she just couldn’t manage to tell him or her sister about the date, I thought I had the plot all figured out. I saw it all laid out in front of me. She’d use the old twin-switching trick, telling Jessica to act a little refined for her date with Nicholas, and instructing Nicholas to call her “Jessica” on their date for secrecy reasons. To me, this seemed like a pretty tricky and frankly awesome plot. But I forgot one thing: Elizabeth Wakefield is not a trickster. And it’s really too bad, because instead of this fun and ridiculous story, everything goes straight to hell. Liz never tells Jessica or Todd about the date and thinks she’ll just get it over with without anyone knowing. She and Nicholas go to an elegant and faraway place for dinner, so she thinks she’s home free! But Todd’s family shows up at the same fancy restaurant because they’re celebrating his mom’s birthday. Yikes! Elizabeth does think fast and play it a little tricky – she pretends to be Jessica when Todd comes over to the table and confronts her. Todd buys it and actually feels really guilty for suspecting Liz, so after dinner he goes to the Wakefields’ and finds – oh no! – the REAL Jessica there. Now they both know, and Elizabeth is in big trouble - not something she’s adept at dealing with.
For those of you who, like me, live for Todd and Elizabeth, I’ll reassure you now that the horror ends before the book does. Nicholas actually helps out by telling Todd that Liz never really wanted to go on the date in the first place, and that she really loves Todd. So breathe easy, one more crisis has been averted. I imagine that the destination would have ended up the same even if Liz had chosen my tricky plot, but the ride would have been a lot more fun. I don’t know if Liz will ever learn to be more devious, but if she doesn’t she’d better learn to be more honest. Jesus.
In closing, if you’re wondering what the deal is with this week’s super-sweet computer graphic, let me introduce you to the B Story. Jessica becomes just a tad obsessed with a new fad: computing. Not, of course, without taking advantage of some poor, nerdy, sap; this time, his name is Randy. The method to Jessica’s madness mutates as the story progresses. Initially, she wants to impress her beloved Nick Morrow with her knowledge of his future industry. But when she finds out that it might be possible to break into the school’s brand new “Com-Put-Er” and change her failing math grade, she focuses all her energy on tricking poor Randy into thinking this is NOT a terrible idea.
This plot line brought me endless joy. As someone who currently discusses computers for a living, getting to hear computer-lover Randy described as someone who “toss[es] around words like ‘CP/M’ and ‘FORTRAN’ and ‘sysgen’” was amazing. Amusing. Amazingly amusing. Thank you, original personal computers of the 1980s, for being hilarious!
We all know how I love to see jessica get her comeuppance*, so that makes Plot B even more wonderful. Elizabeth fortuitously finds out that Randy feels so guilty about hacking into the school’s records that he’s going to confess. She basically forces Jessica to go the principal with him. Jess doesn’t really get that punished, but even a little anti-Jessica justice always does my heart good.
By the end of the story, everything’s pretty much back to status quo. Liz and Todd are together, Sweet Valley wins the big game at the last minute, and Jessica is so over that Morrow boy. And Tricia Martin is finally dead. What’s that you say? That last shocker feels a bit, um, “tacked on?” Now you know how I felt during that paragraph. I have a feeling that if we’re willing to wait for Book 15, the payoff might just be a bit more info on the subject. And so the saga continues.