This basically has to be amazing. It’s about Lila and Jess and how they’re the original (and best) frenemies. The only way it could’ve been better is if Bruce were somehow fighting for Jack’s affections as well.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Toward the end of Head Over Heels Lila meets Jack, a construction worker on a site near her father’s office. He seems far too attractive to really be working class, so she decides he must have a mysterious story behind his manual labouring job. Because no one smart or good looking ever has to worry about making rent, amiright?
Anyway, by the time Showdown begins, Lila’s completely enamoured of the Jack she’s created in her own mind. Jack doesn’t exactly help, fuelling her fantasies with talk of a privileged former life that seems to meet even Lila’s lofty standards. Is this Lila’s happily ever after?
You’re kidding, right? This is Sweet Valley.
You see, Jessica thinks Jack is pretty hot too. She and Cara have a pact not to go after the same boys, but this is Lila, which basically makes Jack even more attractive to Jess. She flirts outrageously with him, hands him her number, and is gleeful when he calls.
From this point on, Jack plays the two-timing cad role perfectly. He spends the weekends with Lila, and sees Jess mid-week. Jess’s relationship with him is a secret, which means she’s left to fume when Lila boasts about her perfect dates with Jack, only being appeased when Jack tells her that Lila has completely the wrong idea and that he only sees her as a friend.
Meanwhile, Jack tells Lila that he wants her to be his wife one day and she decides that means they’re engaged. (I want to roll my eyes at all this, but I remember what I was like at sixteen and I’m pretty sure I would have been just as gullible and ridiculous as Lila is in this book.) It’s a secret engagement, though, on Jack’s say-so. Wouldn’t want his other girlfriend finding out!
With all this build-up, you’d assume that the climax would involve Lila walking in on Jess and Jack. You’d be wrong. You’d be right if you assumed that Nicholas Morrow’s school friend would recognise Jack from back when they were all at Prep school together and Jack was a complete psychopath who flipped out on his girlfriend because he’s been unstable ever since he lost his entire family. You’d also be right if you assumed that Jessica would find a regular pharmacy of illegal drugs in Jack’s bathroom while visiting his hovel and would be stupid enough to confront him about them. You’d continue to be right if you assumed that everything would end with a knife fight and Jessica disarming Jack with a perfectly executed cheerleading kick.
Don’t let anyone tell you that cheerleading is a waste of time.
The subplot in this one is ~thematically linked~ to the main plot, which is quite surprising for Sweet Valley. Liz receives a group of photos to publish in the Oracle and it turns out that one of them shows her beloved Enid’s boyfriend cheating on her with Robin. Who used to be fat. When confronted, George and Robin say that it just happened and that they didn’t mean to cheat on Enid, or Robin’s boyfriend, Allen. Apparently they just fell and accidentally snogged for half an hour or something. It happens.
This is a thoroughly fun book, and not just because it’s Lila-centric. The plot is pleasantly tropey without being too predictable and Jack the Ripper Labourer is a great villain from the daytime soap mould.
Moral of the Story? Everyone cheats.