Maybe this time things would be different. Sure, Tofu products might be strange, but then, Elizabeth reminded herself, people would buy almost anything.
The more times Jessica tries to do something properly and see it through to the finish, the harder the job for Sweet Valley's writers. Other characters reform: Enid used to be bad, Bruce used to be insufferable, Robin used to be fat, Regina used to be deaf, Roger used to be poor, Annie used to be a slut...I could go on. Seriously. But Jessica never stops being a total flake, filled with ambition she can only seem to keep up for a few pages.
So, when Book 35's author tries to convince me that, despite the frequent failed get-rich-quick schemes in her past, Jessica finally seems serious and responsible with her latest venture, I'm skeptical to say the least. And so should you be, because she fouls this one up something fierce.
This time around, Jessica will become what is known as a “Tofu-Glo girl.” The products she’ll be selling, Mary Kay style, are not only made of soy, but they have names that sound more like colon cleanses than toiletries. To quote Elizabeth, “‘Tofu Shampu,’ ‘Soya Soft.’ Jess, this stuff sounds disgusting!” Of course, the distaste this book has for tofu in general is hilariously outdated. In fact, the Tofu-Glo concept of living a natural, healthy lifestyle (and even the “health food” Jess puts out at her sales party) is initially greeted with disdain by pretty much everyone except Jessica. Apparently, health food still hadn’t hit the mainstream in 1987, or this story line wouldn’t have made much sense.
Jessica is so confident a salesperson that she promises her customers a money-back guarantee. The Tofu-Glo company, mind you, doesn’t offer such a guarantee, and Jessica has already bought the products she’s selling from the company. But she’s not worried about that: according to the brochure, the products are amazing, so why, she thinks, would anyone return them?
The younger Ms. Wakefield makes not one, but two big mistakes here. First, she fails to try the products before signing up to sell them, or before selling them, or before offering a money-back guarantee. She doesn’t try them until people start complaining. But perhaps none of this would have been an issue if she’d just read the label on the products more carefully: they are supposed to be kept refrigerated. Now, how a Tofu-Glo girl operating out of her home is meant to refrigerate boxes and boxes of lotion and shampoo is beyond me. But the fine print was there. What’s more, for the entire second half of this book, everyone in the Wakefield’s spanish-tiled house is complaining about the smell emanating from Jess’s room. The room where the boxes of Soya Soft and Tofu Shampu live. Literally.
The products Jess delivers turn out to be rotten both literally and figuratively, leaving Jess with none of her money back and a garage full of stinky rotten cream. Cara returns the shampoo because, as she says in a frantic phone call to Jessica on page 86, “I mean it won’t rinse out! I tried for half an hour! And it won’t come out! My hair is totally disgusting! And I’m supposed to go out with Steven tonight, but obviously I can’t now!”
Yikes! When Jessica finally tries the products out for herself afterward, it goes badly. Below, a classic scene in the SVH oeuvre, with the pink passages representing my inner-monologue upon reading.
She kept rinsing and rinsing–and still her hair felt soapy.
Jessica’s heart sank as she finally realized it was not coming out. After turning off the taps (plural?), Jessica stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around herself. She rubbed her hair with another towel. Her hair was sticking together. “So something’s wrong with the shampoo,” she mumbled. “I can live with that.” (Oh, yeah, shampoo is often broken, no biggie.)
On the edge of the sink was the bottle of Tofu-Clean…It had the same offensive smell (!!!!), but with a few splashes of water, it came right out.
“No problem,” she said, looking happily into the mirror. But as the moisture evaporated, Jessica’s skin began to feel tight and irritated…With every second the stinging sensation began to increase, and her skin began to turn a mottled pink. She leaned over the sink in panic, splashing her face with cold water. Finally the stinging subsided, but her face was bright pink. (Sure, that’s what happens when your soy-based face-wash turns.)
“Oh no!” she groaned. “I look terrible!” Immediately she realized she couldn’t let anybody see her like that because she is American literature’s vainest character. Neil Freemount (total porn star name), a boy she dated occasionally, had asked her to go to movie that night. But she’d rather die than appear in public right then.
The drama! Things work out in the end for Jessica and all the Tofu-Glo girls. Mr. Wakefield finds out that the company was sued and is being forced to return the deposits back to the girls. But that doesn’t answer one simple question that’s been plaguing me: Don’t these girls have any other shampoo at home? Logically, their other shampoos would clean any gunk, including the Tofu Shampu, out of their hair. Then they could go on their dates.
I’m just saying.