When last we left the Wakefield twins, they were at odds over who should be Queen of the Jungle Prom. Well, more accurately, when we last left them, Jessica was sobbing into the unforgiving night, and Elizabeth was presumed dead. However, you can kill a lot of people in this series (and they do – believe me, they do), but you cannot kill a Wakefield twin. Sorry, everyone. As the dust settles on the disastrous prom, the residents of Sweet Valley get ready to face The Morning After. Spoilers to follow…
Okay, first off, the title is a LIE. I mean, I guess it’s not as dramatic to say The Next Few Weeks After, but hell, the book opens with Elizabeth having a crazypants evil twin nightmare, and then waking up in a cold sweat, having had the same nightmare repeatedly since Sam Woodruff died. His funeral’s already come and gone! ‘Morning’ after, my behind.
But I digress. Poor Sam is dead, the best of Jessica’s many, many boyfriends. Jess is so distraught she could not manage to attend his funeral. However, Elizabeth is alive, with absolutely no recollection of the accident – or most of the night, for that matter – that killed Sam. She only has the firm, unwavering conviction that she killed him, which she often says out loud, occasionally to others. She’s an idiot.
Jessica, meanwhile, is not taking it well. As you’ll recall, the reason Elizabeth and Sam were drunk in the first place has everything to do with Jessica spiking their punch beverages, making them unwittingly drunk. Jessica flip-flops between feeling guilty for the spiking, and being furious with Elizabeth for not knowing she was drunk and making poor choices that ended up with Sam dead.
Let’s check in with Bruce Patman, shall we: following the events of the Jungle Prom, where he was kicked into unconsciousness shortly after hearing “an angel” tell his assailant to leave him alone, he has fallen in love with said angel, because that is what ridiculous people do. He manages to pull off some impressive Sherlockian stalking, however, hanging outside of Big Mesa High every day, until he finds out that his angel is Pamela Robertson, who is on the tennis team. She plays tennis! Bruce is in love. They go on a date! Bruce’s friends at school, and no, I can’t believe he has them either, mock him for being so lovestruck, and then drop the bomb on him that rumor has it Big Mesa’s Pamela Robertson is a girl who gets around. Bruce can’t believe this of his perfect, life-granting angel that he’s never actually let speak because he’s an egomaniac whose license plate reads 1BRUCE1. So he goes over to Pamela’s house, bouquet of roses in hand, only to find her getting dropped at the door by a handsy guy. He is crushed. Pamela is crushed. The roses are crushed. It makes the cover of the book, and everyone looks like a greaser.
Poor little rich girl Lila Fowler, as you may or may not recall, was sexually assaulted by John Pfeifer a few books ago, and on the night of the Jungle Prom, misinterpreted well-meaning youth counselor Nathan’s attempts to protect her from the raid at prom as an attack, and has filed a formal complaint. As the principal (not the police?) investigate this issue, and Nathan makes a plea to Lila to remember that he’s been trying to help her, she comes to the realization that A, she made the whole thing up, which basically sucks for everyone, because B, it turns out she’s hella depressed. Poor Lila rescinds her accusation and withdraws into her (fancy) room and refuses to talk to anyone because she’s so afraid of everything. Her father, the oft ‘away on business’ George Fowler, is home long enough (like, a week) to realize this is not typical Lila behavior, and calls the one person he thinks might actually help her, her erstwhile mother Grace, who lives in Paris and left when Lila was two.
Also in this book are arty Olivia Davidson and her ‘best friend’ (was this always the case?), wealthy and dull Nicholas Morrow (whose most interesting feature is being the brother of Bruce’s dead ex, Regina), both of whom are unlucky in love. This is largely to set up Nicholas’s plot in the next book, but it does also involve Olivia’s watercolor making it into the local art show. Her painting is purchased for a thousand dollars, along with the invitation to come speak at some sort of local art gathering. Olivia is beside herself with the honor of it all. The invitation is not extended to any relatives this sixteen-year-old girl might have, warning sign number one. The gathering in question is not located at any sort of art building, but some kind of private residence, warning sign number two. And warning sign number three, the only person there is the quiet kid from her art class. Who, as it turns out, made up the whole thing to lure her to his house (though he did actually buy the painting) to ask her out. Olivia is not disturbed by this. She finds it charming! It’s not mentioned again.
Lastly, we are introduced to Margo, a sixteen-year-old foster child in Long Island, who has long been abused by people who abuse the foster system, and who sets ablaze her house with her five-year-old foster sister in it, because the voice in her head told her it was finally time to start moving towards her destiny. With the house literally burning behind her, she makes her way west to Cleveland, where she gives her name as Michelle and some false references (that she spent “two hours at the typewriter store” making up – TYPEWRITER STORE, you guys, I am apoplectic with delight), and gets a job with Ms. Rossi as a babysitter for wee, redheaded Georgie. Given that one of the books in this miniseries is called Beware the Baby-Sitter, I fear ill things are in store for wee Georgie.
But then finally adults show up in Sweet Valley, ready to interrogate Elizabeth:
“Normally, in a case like this, we would have pulled you in for questioning weeks ago.”
“Frankly, I’ve been wondering why you didn’t,” Ned Wakefield admitted.
See? Even Ned knows it’s messed up. The officers don’t believe that Elizabeth remembers nothing about the evening, and rightly so, because who gets blackout, memory-loss drunk from half a cup of a vodka cocktail. She is put under arrest for involuntary manslaughter. Why it took them three weeks to arrest the only other person at the scene of the accident is beyond me. And in spite of the fact that Elizabeth is currently under arrest, I will see you for the next book, The Arrest.