Hello friends! I admittedly took a lengthy sabbatical from discussing my readings, though not from actually reading! (What up, 2018 Goodreads goal!). Look, between you and me, mental illness is a tough foe for productivity, and my day job takes up a lot of time and even more energy. So 2018 wasn’t a good year for recaps, and I’m trying to ease back into it. With that in mind, I hope you’ll forgive me dipping my toes into the shallow end first, and returning to the old well of Sweet Valley High, which is an endless source of complete and utter bonkers-ness.
Last Wish is technically a Super Edition, taking place after the last of the numbered series, following the twins’ second junior prom (don’t think too hard about it). We’re getting real now, actually acknowledging the passing of time, and Elizabeth and Jessica are about to celebrate their seventeenth birthday. Fake tragedy strikes, but then real tragedy also strikes! Spoilers to follow…
If you hadn’t been following the numbered series up until now (I certainly hadn’t! These books came out twenty years ago, is that not nuts?), don’t worry, the trifecta of Super Editions Last Wish/Earthquake/Aftershock is designed to remind you of some classic SVH plots while setting you up for the semi-spin-off series, SVH: Senior Year. In any case, twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are hot off the junior prom and gearing up for graduation. Elizabeth is in a love life tailspin since new boy Devon Whitelaw* came to town and they began a flirtation that jeopardized her longterm relationship with Todd Wilkins, Terrible Person. She apparently accepted prom invitations from both of them, then roped Jessica into playing her so she could honor both invites and decide which boy she liked. This is a stupid and bad plan. The boys figured out this stupid plan and both dumped her, so now Elizabeth is mopey.
*Devon Whitelaw, incidentally, is handsome, casually rich, very intelligent, brooding, lives with his aging grandmother, and has a motorcycle AND a leather jacket, so he is teen girl Kryptonite. He believes Elizabeth is his soul mate because he wants to talk with her all night and she has an honest face or some nonsense.
In any case, the twins’ seventeenth birthday is fast approaching, and since both girls have had such a whirlwind year (a.k.a., the entirety of the Sweet Valley High series – they’ve been a mite busy), each twin has decided they want to throw the other an epic surprise party. Elizabeth wants Jessica to have a full bash, so she and Enid Rollins rent out the Beach Disco. Jessica knows Elizabeth is boring, so she enlists Lila Fowler’s help to rent out a tent on the beach and hire a jazz quartet to play. I was going to say something derisive about how no high schooler would ever want to hear a jazz quartet at their own birthday party, but I’m sure that person is in fact real. I’m not fully convinced that person is Elizabeth Wakefield, but I’ll roll with it.
Anyway, let’s skip around a little bit and glance at the other characters and their stupid lives. Bruce Patman, who continues to exist, is a graduating senior (he is apparently ONLY friends with the junior class), and has been lying to everyone about getting into Harvard. He did not get into Harvard. Blah blah, he gets his dad to buy a new wing and bam, is enrolled in Sweet Valley University’s business school, because he has to show up to be in that spin-off series. Whatever, Bruce.
Chronically unfunny class clown Winston Egbert is fighting with his girlfriend, Maria Santelli (cheerleader and I think the mayor’s daughter?) (not to be confused with Maria Slater, who is black and a former child actress, and who despite being a main character in Senior Year, barely shows up in this farewell Super Edition miniseries). Blah blah, Winston can’t keep secrets so Maria Santelli is mad at him. This is relevant to nothing at all except that they have to pad out some of this because the main conflict of the book is warring birthday parties, and that alone cannot fill out 231 pages.
Quarterback Ken Matthews is having a tiff with his girlfriend, artist Olivia Davidson. They got together in the last Super Edition before this one, having romanced in an online chat room. Surprisingly modern for Sweet Valley (this part of the series was in the late nineties). Olivia has painted a portrait of him to hang in the school art show, which Ken consented to, until he finds out she did it as a nude. Ken is rightfully horrified that she’s done this, and doesn’t want the whole school to see him naked, even if it’s a painting (done from imagination, mind you). Olivia is all about artistic integrity and the whatnot, but I have to side with Ken on this one – it’s a total violation for her to submit this without his consent. Not to mention the school would probably never allow it, given that it’s a nude of a student, and there are laws about underage porn and all of that, but that naturally never comes up. The conflict gets boiled down to Olivia doesn’t want her creativity stifled by The Man, and Ken doesn’t want people to see his junk rendered in oils. Olivia eventually backs down and considers Ken’s feelings, and redoes the painting from the waist up. The kids make up and are even more in love.
Oh, and I guess Todd can’t decide if he still loves Elizabeth or not, and opts to spend his summer at a basketball camp. Also Devon cannot decide if he still loves Elizabeth or not, and opts to give her a spitefully impersonal birthday gift, to really drive the point home that he doesn’t love her anymore (even though he totally does). Whatever, you two.
So back to the main story, the twins’ respective friend groups eventually figure out that the twins are throwing simultaneous birthday parties, so they all band together to fix this. Of course they have to casually sabotage existing parties, leading to really stressing out Liz and Jess, which is kind of mean. The twins spend their birthdays, after first being visited by brother Steven and his girlfriend Billie, going to set up each other’s parties, only to fail miserably and have to return home to break the bad news to their twin. Except when they return home, everyone they’ve ever met is there, because their friends threw them a joint birthday party! Huzzah! The responsible adults bail out of there to go to the movies, because that is what one does when the entirety of the junior class is at your house. Maybe they’re hoping the jazz quartet will supervise the underage kids. (I’m just kidding – after Regina Morrow’s tragic death from a bad reaction to cocaine, and/or that time Elizabeth killed Sam Woodruff in a drunk driving accident, none of these children will do anything Untoward.) Before they go, they gift the twins with a new Jeep to replace the one that got smashed up.
As it turns out, we never have to worry about any of the kids getting tipsy, because it turns out the earth is gonna get tipsy. Ken and Olivia are in the kitchen, making up after their fight about the painting. Lila and Todd are in the bathroom, arguing because Todd has to pee and Lila’s doing her makeup. (Spoiler: Todd never gets to pee. In two books!) Elizabeth and Devon are out arguing on the patio because he gave her a copy of Techniques in Journalism to really drive home that he doesn’t like her. (Devon is kind of a tool.) Jessica and Steven are out in the new Jeep, driving to rescue Billie, whose car broke down on an ice run. So that’s where all our beloved (?) main (?) characters are when the earthquake strikes, and when the split level house we’ve grown so fond of (?) collapses in on itself like a birthday cake, leaving us to wonder who lives and who dies…