I will happily overlook all manner of unrealistic things when it comes to Sweet Valley. I will nod and accept the fact that people still love Jessica, despite her constant scheming (because, hey, I love her too) and take it in my stride that people consider Elizabeth popular and kind, instead of boring and holier-than-though. But I just can’t take the complete and utter ridiculousness of this book. Not only is it extremely impossible, but it also sends a really dangerous message to kids.
Okay, so the story. We’ve met Mary Giaccio here and there before as one of the just-a-name Unicorns. But suddenly she’s always at the Wakefield house, which is helped by the fact that she lives with her foster parents, just up the road. Jess quickly realises that Mary is more interested in spending time with Alice than she is with Jess or Elizabeth and gets totally creeped out by the fact. I don’t entirely blame her. It’s weird if your thirteen-year-old friend comes over so she can wash dishes.
Eventually Jess puts her foot down and stops letting Mary invite herself over… so Mary moves on to Elizabeth. At first Liz doesn’t see what Jess is on about, but then eventually even she can’t help but notice that the twins are totes being used to get at their mother. And so the house becomes a No Mary Zone.
(At this point, I can’t help but think that this would’ve been a much cooler book if it turned out that Mary had a big ol’ crush on Alice. After all, we’re always being told how hot she is.)
Eventually Jess and Mary reconcile (largely because Jess realises she needs Mary’s help typing up the celebrity cookbook the Unicorns are putting together). The side plot of this one is that Liz and Co have submitted The Sweet Valley Sixers to a school newspaper competition. Only Jess manages to spill grape juice all over the ditto master—can’t you just smell the spirits reading that?—and decides to rewrite Liz’s story about career week herself.
Later that night, she overhears Ned and Alice talking about how Mary’s foster parents want to adopt her, so she decides to add that piece of good news to Caroline’s gossip column as well.
Of course, Liz is way less than pleased when she discovers that Jess’s typo-ridden article has been published under her name. Mary’s not happy either, because she doesn’t want to be adopted by her foster parents, because she’s still holding out hope that her mother will come and find her.
Turns out that Mary’s in care because her mother went away to take care of her sick grandmother, leaving her with a friend, Annie. Annie told her that her mother had died, moved them both to California, and then just left one day and never came back. Mary doesn’t want to be adopted because she just knows that her mother’s out there looking for her and that, one day, they’ll be reunited.
So we all know what happens next, right?
Liz is in the playground after school and thinks she sees her mother. Only, it turns out that it isn’t Alice, but just someone who looks like she could be Alice’s sister. The stranger asks Liz about Mary and asks Liz to take her to see Mary at her house. Now, here’s what I was talking about in the first paragraph: Liz agrees, because obviously this strange woman must know Mary, even though her story is extremely shifty. So Liz—a twelve-year-old—wanders off with a complete stranger, just because that stranger knew the name of her friend. WELCOME TO SWEET VALLEY. And Liz is meant to be the smart one.
Anyway, she takes the woman to Mary and then of course the woman turns out to be Mary’s mother, who’s been looking for her forever. And somehow despite the fact that the authorities know Mary’s story and it is quite obvious that Mary’s mother’s story would be matched up to it immediately, it actually took Annie getting arrested for everything to be resolved, because Mary’s name is really Robinson, not Giaccio and apparently she totally forgot her real name in the short time she was with Annie (riiiight) and the police didn’t bother looking for her real mother once they heard Mary’s story.
So ultimately this is a tale of gross incompetence in the police and social services departments of two states. Or, yanno, just plain implausible. Anyway, there’s the required happy ending and of course Mary goes straight back to living with her mother without any longwinded process of finding the mother a fit parent etc etc etc.
(Oh, and Liz realises that her original article was boring and that maybe she’s not the only person in the universe who can write, so edits it so that it includes part of Jessica’s version as well. The Sixers wins the contest, of course, because this is Sweet Valley.)
I feel like it’s too early in my re-read to call it, but I am pretty damn certain that this is my least liked Sweet Valley Twins book. It just drives me way too crazy trying to deal with the utter NOPE of its plot.
Moral of the Story? Foster kids always get the happy endings they dream of.