It’s Lila’s Turn For A Doppleganger: SVH Super Edition “Jessica Takes Manhattan.”

19 Nov

Finally! A Sweet Valley Super Edition that really delivers. I can’t believe it took me till now to find this gem.

Like all good Super Eds, it has all the essential ingredients – an unexpected vacation, a rock star, a gang of kidnappers and, of course, a doppelganger. Only this time, the plot centres on Lila. Can you tell already this book will be EPIC?

Our story begins at the twin’s house in the wake of an earthquake. Wait, what? Yes, you heard right, an earthquake. Apparently a small tremor the previous Thursday caused the roof of Sweet Valley High to collapse. Elizabeth embarks on an important piece of investigative journalism in which she uncovers “construction fraud” at the school. Apparently, faulty repairs the previous year left the roof susceptible to earthquake damage. Ironic, isn’t it? Maybe the same troops were responsible for the Wakefield architecture….
Well, I take it no-one got squished by a fridge because everyone at SVH is excited about the school closing for a week. And none more so than Jessica and Lila, who are off on an all-expenses paid trip to New York.

On the plane, Jessica turns up her discman [we’re on to Discmans? Must be 1995!] to a rock star we’ve never heard of before named Ryder Mitchell. [I guess Jamie Peters has been knocked off his token rock star perch.]

Coincidentally, the strange man in a moustache next to her looks oddly familiar. Hmmm. After some flight turbulence, they somehow wind up stranded in New Orleans in each other’s arms, and the mo falls off to reveal – I’ll give you three guesses –  Ryder Mitchell. No shit!!

Ryder kind of looks like Roger Federer.

He also seems like a major douche. Anyone who calls the flight attendant over and goes, “Black coffee. Lots of it!” doesn’t really do it for me. Since Ryder is about 18 and Federer’s twin on the cover looks 40, I’m going to imagine a more age-appropriate version.

Lila, meanwhile, is brooding over her boyfriend Beauregard Creighton the Third, who was rude enough to choose school over skipping town to come to NYC for a Lila-fest. Note to Bo: Don’t Mess With Lila Fowler. It’s the first rule. Anyway, when she arrives at the palatial Plaza hotel, everyone calls her “princess” and waits on her hand and foot. They send her up to the Penthouse Suite and offer to put everything on the tab. Oh, and the paparazzi are there. Other people might worry they’d been mistaken for, you know, royalty or something. But I guess Lila just thinks she deserves it.

Did someone say doppelganger?

Bo finally comes to his senses and arrives at the hotel to find a Lila look-a-like, who shuns him and gets security to remove him. In case you’re five and hadn’t worked it out, the clone is a Princess. Princess Charlotte from Laestra, for the record.

Bo and Lila run into each other at a fancy restaurant, and Lila spies the doppelganger, clearing up that random little misunderstanding. And now to milk this doppelganger thing for all its worth:

 Lila’s mind whirled with all the fabulous possibilities for taking advantage of her good luck. Now I have an identical twin of my own, she thought, thinking of Jessica and Elizabeth. Only mine is a bonafide princess.

Love your work, Lila. She’s got the sense of Margo Black combined with the financial backing of Bruce Patman.

Back in New Orleans, Jessica is whoring it up in record time with the rock star. He’s the one, apparently. At least, this week’s “The One.”

Ryder stopped Jessica under a streetlamp. Drops of rain glistened on her eyelashes as she looked up at him….In those few hours she’d lost her heart to Ryder Mitchell. The guy, not the rock star.

[I swear I just wrote those two sentences verbatim without even looking at the book.] But alas, alack, Ryder confesses that he’s betrothed to someone else – pop star Dierdra La Monde. Sucked in, Jessica. This is what, strike three for guys-who-try-to-screw-Jessica-Wakefield-but-are-already-engaged.

Of course, he reveals that the engagement is a publicity stunt of Kardashian proportions, which means a more patient person that Jessica Wakefield could probably wait it out for the 72 days.

I’m bored. Let’s go back to Lila.

Bo and “Princess” Lila go shopping on the Upper East Side, ride limos and spend a small fortune at Cartier and Tiffany’s, all while hamming it up for the cameras. I’m a little confused about how she’s getting away with credit card fraud, given that everyone would expect her to sign “Charlotte of Laestra.”  Meantime, Charlotte is psyched about this unexpected freedom from her usually oppressive existence [oh please] and she goes op-shopping in the East Village. Just to get into the groove of behaving like a regular person, she hooks up with a left wing NYU sophomore volunteering at a soup kitchen. Oh these poor deprived celebrities.

Jessica finally arrives and the girls do NYC  BSC-style – Broadway, Central Park, Bloomingdales and the odd fashion show. Actually Jessica third wheels a bit, and Bo’s constant snobby references to Paris, not to mention all the making out piss her off. Don’t worry kids, despite Lila having the entire Penthouse, he sleeps in his own room.

Meantime Ryder has broken off his “engagement” for Jessica. After one day.  Need I remind everyone that Jessica is a Wakefield?  They plan to meet in three day’s time atop the empire state building, after he’s sorted out his shit and ditched Deirdra La Monde.

After three days in the Big Apple, the big day rolls around. Jessica and Lila jump in a cab [Lila is off to the former WTC.]

Like all good horror movies, they spend around 20 minutes in the cab, realise they’re headed the wrong way and are met with an evil chuckle from the cabbie.

They pull up at a loading dock and the cabbie – Mr G – introduces his redhead [read: evil] friend Vincent. The girls are bound and gagged at gunpoint [and called “gorgeous”.] Although I like that it’s really Lila they’re after this time [and not a fricken Wakefield], she kinda brought it on herself.

Of course, this is what goes down in Sweet Valley as a direct result of shit parenting. Do you think this ever happened to Stacey McGill of the “have fun and be careful” household? Nooooo. I know the McGill’s divorce would make them Social Pariahs in SV, but at least they didn’t let their only child rack up millions in credit card debt and sneak around NYC masquerading as royalty, while they wined and dined by themselves in Hong Kong [George has emailed Lila a dozen times, cancelling on her].

Back at the Empire State Building, Ryder is left alone with a bunch of flowers and a no-show from the love of his life. I’m not saying Gossip Girl plagiarized Sweet Valley but this is all too reminiscent of Chuck and Blair, aside from the maid going into labour.

Bo is likewise feeling very rejected and sorry for himself in Lila’s absence. He contacts the NYPD, who are apparently as useless as their SV counterparts, telling Bo he needs a dating service more than an investigation, and to get over it. Ouch.

The crooks are also very stupid. After discovering Lila’s mistaken identity and realising there will be no handsome ransom, they have a big fight about whether to kill the girls or let them go. They do have the sense to phone Bo and demand a million dollar ransom by midnight.

Bo and Ryder hightail it to the Yankee Stadium, where the kidnappers and kidnapees are holed up.

Meantime, the girls cut themselves free, set up a booby trap of bowling balls for the crooks to trip on, and there is a very comedic, slapstick scene in which Jessica cries “see ya, suckers!”

They make like Margo and hijack the taxi. But of course, now they have to go rescue their dumbass boyfriends. So I lied. This plot has spun into ridiculousness.

Lila’s doppelganger, Princess Charlotte returns to paradise after slumming it in the soup kitchen for an entire day. She gets her bodyguards on the job, but not until a very feminist ending in which Lila and Jessica rescue their fellas, who have by now been knocked unconscious by our baseball-bat-wielding kidnappers.

And so they hug and kiss and whisper sweet nothings and Ryder climbs to the top of the fucking Empire state building and serenades Jessica on live radio and the bumbling kidnappers go in the clink, hurling insults at each other.  Bo asks Lila about a hundred times if she was “hurt” at all. Don’t worry, Bo. Still a virgin.

In case you cared, Charlotte had a lovely three days of freedom, being Lila Fowler in New York. Kind of like Prince William’s 6 hour “homelessness” experiment in which he took a nice warm sleeping bag to the streets and surrounded himself with bodyguards.

But I admit, bad and all as the kidnapping scenes were, this book is some sort of guilty pleasure. Possibly the trashy Lila-Jessica camaraderie. Or the complete lack of Elizabeth. Or maybe a slither of my tween-age heart melted over Ryder Mitchell [the Feds version, not the Biebster].

Of course, being set in NYC means a glamorous new wardrobe for our trusty Sweet Valley pals. Stacey McGill, eat your heart out:

Jessica ran down a mental list of the outfits she’d already packed:

Chinese-print dress and blue tights, perfect for shopping and scoping out guys….

Black satin skirt and silver top, for dancing until dawn…

Lila was wearing a striking black and white linen suit, a Pierre Jove original that her parents had bought for her in Paris. But the only reason she’d selected it for the evening was the huge floppy hat that went with the outfit. Lila knew she looked great….[She] slipped on a pair of sunglasses from her purse and took a deep breath.

Lila's suit1


Bo sees it a little differently:

Most of her face was hidden by huge glasses and a huge floppy hat. She looked like a refugee from an old spy thriller. All that was missing was a jewelled cigarette holder between her teeth.

Lila had chosen an understated outfit – a grey linen skirt with a yellow silk blouse and a black silk sweater. [How on earth can a sweater be silk?]

Jessica had settled for a completely different look this time: a sporty black-and-red plaid skirt and a yellow turtleneck sweater. She’d had enough money left over to buy a pair of black leather boots, a silver bracelet, a black shearling jacket – and four NYC t-shirts to bring back to her family.

Jessica showered and dressed in a comfortable pair of jeans and a long-sleeved blue blouse with delicate rhinestone buttons, topped with a fuzzy blue sweater.

Twin Switch?!

She’d found the most incredible lavender beaded dress in Bloomingdales to wear on her date with Ryder the following day.

5 Responses to “It’s Lila’s Turn For A Doppleganger: SVH Super Edition “Jessica Takes Manhattan.””

  1. Laura Kate November 20, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    Loved this! I remember briefly thinking how ridiculous this was, but I was totally crushing on Ryder so the ridiculousness kinda faded away. Always love the outfit pictures! Great job 🙂 And for the record I’m of the firm belief that Gossip Girl did plagiarize Sweet Valley… And not just with this book… I’m actually pretty convinced that Chuck Bass is actually Bruce Patman reincarnated. :p

    • winstonegbert November 21, 2011 at 8:27 am #

      Crushing on SV characters is pretty much my favourite past-time. I would still give it all up for Nicholas Morrow. [Magnates are sexy!]

  2. J. E. Bright November 21, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    For the record, Gossip Girl didn’t steal from SVH (in this instance) about the climactic meeting atop the Empire State Building. Both series were inspired by the classic 1957 Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr romantic movie An Affair to Remember. Which was itself remade from a 1939 film called Love Affair. The plot also was recycled in 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and in another Love Affair in 1994 with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. The old Hollywood stories don’t die. 🙂

    • winstonegbert November 21, 2011 at 8:38 am #

      Ah of course! [I’m feeling very Gen Y at this point having seen only one of those.]

      J.E. your vast knowledge of all things Sweet Valley never fails!

      This comment got me thinking – maybe you could be WWS’ unofficial expert commentator. Or, if your time permits, write the odd guest post! Given then warm response to your interview [the kids at 1BRUCE1 also loved it], I know it would be very welcome! Let me know what you think.

  3. Daniella November 22, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    Loooooooooved this book. Perhaps one of my favorite SVH books ever, also because of the lack of Elizabeth and the dynamic between Jessica and Lila. And Lila has always been awesome, but the fact that she thinks nothing of having paparazzi following her is priceless!

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