Podcast Episode for Book 32 is here
Elizabeth's twin has become a complete stranger!
"From now on, no one's going to mistake me for Elizabeth — not even for the old Jessica! It'll be as if a new girl moved to town."
Finally, finally, we stop on our journey at the surreal roadside attraction that is The New Jessica. I really adore the original artwork on these covers (by James Mathewuse), and the day I first laid eyes on this cover, it was all I could do to keep from skipping right to Book 32 in far-fetched hopes that this would be the volume where Jessica becomes a man, regrets it, and starts dressing in drag. That’s what the cover has always said to me: Elizabeth and a look-alike man in drag.
Suffice it to say, Jessica does not become a man. At least not in this book. But fed up with being mistaken for her identical twin and in the midst of an “identity crisis,” she decides to make herself over, with Lila’s help, into something resembling an exotic and sophisticated Eastern European model. She dyes her hair black. She wears dramatic makeup to school, accompanied by borrowed, over-the-top outfits reminiscent of the catwalk. She avoids the sun to cultivate a pale look, and (gasp!) loses 3 pounds.
But these changes were merely physical. To quote a great film, “to make an impact, you have to go to extremes.” Jessica goes as far as a vaguely British accent and a mounting scorn for the jejune art of cheerleading.
Perhaps you’re wondering how Elizabeth feels about her twin’s strange transformation? Well, she’s more than a little put out. In fact, Elizabeth’s reaction may be more dramatic than the makeover itself:
“ I can’t help thinking that she’s done this because she doesn’t want to be close to me anymore.”
…it seemed to Elizabeth that something terrible had happened. As if she’d lost her best friend…only worse. She’d lost her twin sister, and nothing in the world would bring her back again.
“…I really feel lost every time I look at her and see this stranger staring back at me.”
Because I’m feeling generous, I’m going to credit the daftness that ensues on Liz’s part to her state of shock. Liz, you may recall, has forgotten Todd (!!) and taken up with the new kid, Jeffrey French. He’s no Todd, but he’s okay. Their young relationship is rocked when Jeffrey tells Liz that he likes Jessica’s new look. My head was in my hands, dear friends, as Elizabeth reacted to this harmless comment.
From the sound of his voice, it seemed as if he was more than impressed with Jessica’s makeover. Maybe, Elizabeth thought, Jeffrey had suddenly discovered that he liked Jessica’s new look a lot better than Elizabeth’s old one [ed: !!!!]
The remainder of The New Jessica is spent by Elizabeth, sulking and fretting; by Jeffrey, confusedly brooding; by Lila, jealously wishing she’d never gotten involved; and by Jessica, loving every minute of it. That is, until an interesting and ironic predicament arises in Chapter 6. Now that Jessica resembles a fashion model, she decides she should become a fashion model (and that her name should be the less white-bread sounding “Jessa Fields.” Yeah.) A photographer she visits suggests that she might be right for an upcoming fashion show at a local department store. The store’s owner, however, decides he’s looking for more of a sunny, fresh-faced, California girl. He spots Liz in the waiting room and practically begs her to be in his show, so ideal is her “look” for his purposes.
And thus dies Jessa Fields. The name may live on after I bestow it upon my firstborn daughter, but the “New Jessica” is dismantled, both by this stroke of bum luck and by the discovery (and reading) of a journal containing Elizabeth’s true feelings about the makeover debacle, loss of twinship, etc. Overnight, she returns to her only-slightly-less-glamorous self.
Elizabeth realizes that, like her previous boyfriend, Jeffrey is not particularly fond of Jessica. In fact, his pleasure at her transformation was at the prospect of having a physically unique Wakefield specimen for a girlfriend. Somehow this perspective seems completely acceptable to Liz, so everybody’s happy for the few sweet moments until the next book starts.
I don’t normally do this, but it seemed too cruel to deprive you, voracious Diaries readers, of one very special scene from Book 32. I’ve placed the text from pages 53-54, which finds Jessica acting completely absurd as she and Lila lounge at a coffee shop called L’Autre Chose, to the left. You’re welcome.