This one is basically a SVT mash-up of the prejudice against Trisha Martin in the first SVH books and Jessica’s trip away in SVH: Too Good to be True. The main story is that everyone thinks that Sophia Rizzo is bad news because her brother is a violent thief. Except, of course, for Elizabeth, who is always willing to find the good in absolutely everyone. The side plot is that one of Ned’s clients has invited one twin to join their family for a trip to Los Angeles. Liz wins the number game to decide which twin will go, but it’s Jess who is desperate to do so because she’s in love with the musical Shout and the lucky twin will get a backstage tour. Oh, and there’s also a school play, because why keep things simple?
Against the Rules is one of the many Sweet Valley books in which Ned and Alice are terrible parents. Sophia’s brother Tony gives Steven a black eye, so they decide that Liz isn’t allowed to see Sophia at all out of school. It would be one thing if they just didn’t want her to go to Sophia’s house out of the fear that Tony might do the same to her. But that would be too sensible. Instead, they ban any contact, because there’s no better way of judging a person than by other people’s actions, amiright?
For once of only a few times in her life, Liz is a rebel, and continues to spend most of her time at Sophia’s house. She also plans to throw Sophia a birthday party at the Wakefield house, engineering a twin swap so that she can do so, given that Sophia’s birthday just happens to fall on the weekend that she’s meant to go to L.A. Naturally, Jessica is more than happy to oblige.
Sophia’s writing the school play with Liz and a bunch of other kids, so the Unicorns decide to boycott it. I actually find the writing of Jessica very interesting in the early Twins books. She’s just so very susceptible to peer pressure and concerned with appearances and reputations. There’s a lot that’s complete rubbish in the Sweet Valley books, but I actually think Jess is pretty true-to-life for a twelve-year-old trying to find her place in her first year of middle school. Much more so than Elizabeth who really does have an abnormal confidence in who she is and what she believes.
Anyway, of course the Unicorns are made to eat their words, because that’s how these books work. We’re supposed to believe that a play written by a sixth grader (and altered a little by sixth, seventh and eighth graders) is mind-blowingly good, so good that it makes everyone like Sophia after all. Frankly, I’m dubious. I also side-eye the fact that Liz is totally okay with everyone talking about how Sophia is the best writer ever, given her usual habit of freaking out the moment anyone else shows any kind of writing talent at all. Don’t forget how hard she found it to believe that Jessica could write an interesting article mere books ago.
Better yet, the play also makes Ned and Alice realise that they are being horrible human beings, so when they get home early and discover Liz’s secret birthday party, they’re totally fine with it, even inviting Sophia’s mother and bad brother to join them. All’s well that ends well, yet again.
This isn’t one of the most interesting Twins books, largely because the ghost writer tries to fit too much into such a short novel. I think it would’ve been better if the LA plot was cut, irrelevant and glossed-over like it is.