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When last we left our intrepid twins, Elizabeth was going to the hoosegow for murdering Jessica’s boyfriend: dirt bike racer, burrito lover, and all-around pretty okay guy (taste in girlfriends aside), Sam Woodruff. RIP, Sam. The word “murder” is thrown around a lot, all that high-falutin’ Sweet Valley education has not taught any of them about intent. Will Jessica avenge her lost love? Will Lila get along with her mother? Will Bruce pull his head out of his butt? Will Nicholas ever be less dull? The answer to those, and more, in Sweet Valley High’s The Arrest. Spoilers to follow…

Although The Morning After very clearly states that Elizabeth being hauled in for questioning happens three weeks after the Jungle Prom, The Arrest suggests that Sam died only “a few nights ago”. Of course, it also states that wee Georgie (babysitting charge of the murderous Margo) is the daughter of Mrs. Smith, and not Ms. Rossi, as was also stated in The Arrest. I suspect that the Sweet Valley ghostwriters only have the barest bones talking points being passed between them. ‘Car accident! Bad babysitting! …This one has Jessica and Elizabeth, right?’

But I’m not here to nitpick. I’m here to tell you about Liz having to spend the night in holding, so we can get all sorts of amazing women’s prison cliches, like the brassy alcoholic that tries to fight Elizabeth and calls her ‘honey’ repeatedly, or the prostitute who suggests Elizabeth would make good money in that line of work. Elizabeth cries. Elizabeth wouldn’t last very long in prison, I suspect.

Poor little rich girl Lila Fowler is about to be reunited with her mother Grace, and is so single-mindedly focused on it that she is driving all of her friends completely insane. Grace shows up and is reasonably lovely, but she also brought her boyfriend Pierre, who is high maintenance, and keeps Lila and Grace from getting the chance to bond. Lila refers to him as Pierre the Pill. I want to bring back calling people I hate ‘pills’.

Jessica’s master scheme is to get Elizabeth back for taking something from Jessica, by taking something from Elizabeth. Namely, Todd. Of course, Todd doesn’t know that he’s being taken. He’s all mopey about the fact Elizabeth won’t talk to him, even though he’s made zero efforts to talk to her since Jungle Prom. Shut up, Todd. Jessica keeps calling him in tears and he keeps feeling sorry for her that he takes her out places to get her mind off things. He does not want to be doing this; it takes him away from games of chess that he was looking forward to. Shut UP, Todd. You have the personality of oatmeal. Blah blah, everyone sees them around town together and they gossip, Elizabeth finds out and is horrorstruck. But she has other things on her mind, I guess. She’s depressed, Jessica’s depressed but manipulative, mother Alice is trying to pretend things are normal, and father Ned first hires a lawyer, then (when the lawyer harasses Liz for a grand total of five minutes, rightly pointing out that her completely lack of memory of the event is not going to look good to anyone, and she should just take a plea) decides he’s going to be his own daughter’s counsel. I don’t know if you can do that. I don’t think Ned’s a criminal lawyer. Hell, I don’t even think he’s a trial lawyer. Eh, no one else cares, why should I?

Steven Wakefield, prelaw student at Sweet Valley University and all around nosy meddler, can’t stay away from ye olde homestead when everyone is in such dire straights. He keeps coming home on weekends and getting all up in everyone’s business. He needs a roommate and calls someone whose name he found in whatever the 1993 version of Craigslist is, a one Billie Winkler. He keeps referring to Billie as a he, until they meet in person and she’s a she! Oh, the wacky escapades we have.

Nicholas Morrow is unlucky in love, despite being rich and handsome. So best friend Olivia submits his name to new popular dating show Hunks, which I guess happens to film in the area. Convenient! He has to go on dates with three women, who will then report back to the Hunks audience on how eligible he actually is. It turns out Nicholas is a pretty close-minded, judgmental jerkface who deserves what he gets. Date #2 does have a boyfriend, so that’s on her. But he makes no effort to get to know Date #1, who takes him to the hilariously named Club Mud, which is what your average middle-aged ghostwriter would think is the ‘hip’ name for a terrifying bar for terrifying biker types that get lizard tattoos on their forehead. But his second date at Bobo’s Burger Barn seems fine, if not for the fact that he thinks it’s beneath him. He’s rich and sophisticated, don’tchaknow. So of course Date #3 is charming and not crazy by Nicholas standards, so of course he effs it all up and thinks she’s laughing at him behind his back the entire time. He thinks that because he would totally think that. But she likes him, and they make out in front of television cameras, so all’s well that ends well, or something.

When we check in with Bruce, who actually manages to not be the worst person in this book (and I’m not even counting Margo), he is having all kinds of emotions about loving Pamela but hating her reputation. It turns out Pamela’s reputation is a bunch of lies spread by awful high school boys who tried to get some but were denied, and lied so they’d look cool. Teenage boys suck. But they also show up before Pamela has a chance to explain all this to Bruce, and Bruce walks off still thinking the worst. Pamela decides to transfer to Sweet Valley for a fresh start. Which is reasonable, really, since if she goes, she won’t be the person they talk about most.

Lastly, let’s check in with Margo, who may be completely unhinged, but is definitely the most interesting person in the book. She has not one but two voices in her head: the one that tells her she’s worthless and unloved, and the nicer, loving one that tells her to kill. She locks wee Georgie in a closet until he tells her where his mother keeps the key to the safe. I do not understand why Mrs. Smith or Ms. Rossi or whatever her real name is A) keeps Victorian antiquities from her job in her home safe, or B) tells her five-year-old where the key to said safe is. But then, I’m neither an art dealer nor a parent. Margo drowns Georgie in the lake. Does Cleveland have a lake? She flees with a duffel bag full of jewelry, headed west because the nice voice tells her she’lll do well in California. She sees an old woman’s local paper (presumably the woman is coming from California?) with Elizabeth Wakefield’s name and picture splashed all over the front page, and here’s where it gets super real – with the exception of hair and eye color, Elizabeth and Margo are identical! Even down to the murdering! Margo kills the old woman in a train station bathroom, I think just for funsies, because she could’ve just stolen the paper and carried on with her day. But that’s not how she rolls! And now she is rolling to Sweet Valley to meet Elizabeth Wakefield, and her destiny. I will see you guys in The Verdict.

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