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Hello again, travelers. When we last left our intrepid teens, they were holding on for dear life at the Wakefield homestead in the heart of suburban Sweet Valley, California, following a devastating earthquake. Earthquake, in the immediate moments following said quake and the subsequent aftershocks, goes full disaster movie as we follow the kids’ attempts to stay alive and find each other amidst the chaos. Death is no stranger to this little hamlet, but rarely on this scale. Do Elizabeth and Jessica both make it out alive? (I mean, yeah, of course they do.) Spoilers to follow…

When we open, Jessica is just regaining consciousness after crashing her hours-old Jeep into a telephone pole while attempting to drive during an earthquake. She and Steven are both okay, but Steven is frantic to get to his girlfriend Billie, stranded alone at a convenience store waiting for him, and Jessica is desperate to get home to Calico Drive, because she twin-senses Liz’s panic. Steven, admittedly worried and scared out of his mind, but still in an incredibly dickish move, grabs the steering wheel out of Jess’s hands WHILE SHE’S DRIVING, to turn her away from home. I understand that he’s concerned about his girlfriend given that he only has a phone call from like an hour ago to determine her whereabouts, but he’s also ignoring the fact that he, the chaperone, left his underage sister and her underage friends alone at his parents’ house when an earthquake struck, and maybe he should have some priorities or a sense of responsibility. But, I mean, he’s like a college freshman, so whatever.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, is put in the extremely awkward hostess dilemma of having her house half-collapse on her party guests. She stumbles wildly around her backyard in the search for survivors and tries to find helpers, but no go. Definitely ex-, sorta-boyfriend (were they ever truly together, or did they just moon over each other? I neither know nor care) Devon Whitelaw is not actually physically in shock, but in a state of shock. He’s from the East Coast, and he is freaking out something terrible, and refuses point-blank to help Elizabeth. Actually all of Devon’s sections (because apparently despite only being here for a handful of books, he’s important enough to warrant his own POV portions in the final books of the series, and somehow warrants the same amount of screen time as Lila freaking Fowler) are about him being terrified and useless while people ask him for the vaguest amount of help. He tries to defend himself as a survivalist, and yet never actually manages to leave the backyard to check in on his sole living relative, an elderly woman who lives alone. Elizabeth, keeping the party going, finds the corpse of classmate Ronnie Edwards, which would be much more meaningful if I could at all remember who he was.

The action jumps around between all of our main Sweet Valleyites, but in the interest of time, I’m going to condense the Ken/Olivia and Lila/Todd bits into smaller bits, because that is all they are worth. The twins have actual stories, almost.

Ken Matthews and Olivia Davidson are trapped in the kitchen. Olivia gets scared and freezes in between aftershocks, and ends up getting half-crushed by a refrigerator, as well as some other rubble. Ken is now put in the position of trying to dig her out with all of his football strength, without collapsing the pile further, and without a real plan once he gets to her, since the kitchen is mostly caved in. Presumably the Wakefields have earthquake insurance? Anyway, I’ll condense their melodrama down, since a large chunk of it is reminiscing over the events of the Super Edition in which they fell in love, which was not that long ago in the Sweet Valley timeline. (They fell in love online, and exchanged some truly stupid conversations in which Olivia was romanced by Ken describing what a flower looks like. In fairness, he is a football hero and is not known around town for being the brightest dude.) Anywho, Ken does his best, but he’s an exhausted and traumatized teenager, and the house is collapsing bit by bit, and the house next door (belonging to recurring characters Annie Whitman and her stepsister Cheryl) is super on fire, which is quickly spreading over to the Wakefields’. Ken manages to dig a path out of the kitchen to go get help, as he realizes he’s incapable of digging out Olivia on his own, and she gives him a very poignant goodbye. Ken still has a lot of hope, but Olivia knows the prognosis is Bad and is lying to his face. Ken manages to intercept emergency personnel as they arrive on the scene, and threatens one with bodily harm to go and rescue his girlfriend, but we all know it’s too late. Olivia Davidson is very dead.

Meanwhile, Todd Wilkins, the most boring person ever, and Lila Fowler, easily the most interesting character, are trapped in a bathroom together. The story keeps coming back to them, but that’s unnecessary, as all they are doing is sniping at each other, in the guise of creating sexual tension. The metal door is blocked, a concept Lila refuses to understand, since she keep insisting Todd can use his Sport Strength to open it, or attempt to pick the lock or something. (Gotta be honest, I love Lila, but she is an absolute pill this entire sequence.) The window is blocked by a fallen tree, which is conveniently next to the house that is on fire. There’s a solid chance our hero and also Todd are going to burn to death, if they aren’t crushed by the collapsing house first. Given that Lila recently had a story arc where her home, Fowler Crest, was set on fire by a vindictive ex-boyfriend, she is very not into the idea of burning to death. She starts to panic, and Todd attempts to calm her down, and in the haze of facing death, they decide that the other is very attractive, and are about to kiss when the rescue workers come. They do not kiss. It’s over!

But back to the action. Elizabeth realizes Enid is unconscious near some live electrical wires, and since the earthquake tossed a lot of water out of the pool, she is wet and stands a good chance of not making it if those wires get too close. Also the yard is on fire. I will give you a moment to care. No? No one? Well, Elizabeth does, you monsters, and she decides to go after Enid herself, because that is what Liz, a chronic meddler, does. She appeals to Devon again for help. This “action” sequence is spread out in between everyone else’s drama, so they are essentially having the same argument a dozen times and Elizabeth is Just Not Getting It that Devon has zero interest in helping save Enid. Nor does Devon just leave the damn yard, which I feel would send a much stronger message than just yelling at her.

Jessica and Steven eventually cross the crumbling downtown Sweet Valley and find Billie in tact. I know you were concerned. Steven tells Jess he knows he promised to go back to the house, but he wants to look for their parents instead. STEVEN YOU WERE THE RESPONSIBLE ADULT AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING AT THE HOUSE THAT YOU LEFT UNATTENDED. I do have the gift of omniscience in this and know Ned and Alice are fine and the party’s in shambles with at least two dead bodies, so perhaps I’m being unfair to Steven, who knows nothing and is probably more invested in his parents than he is in Ronnie Edwards. I still think it was grossly irresponsible for him to leave when Billie got stranded, given that everyone else at that party HAS A CAR. THEY ALL HAVE CARS. LITERALLY ANYONE COULD HAVE GONE. He, Billie, and Jess part ways, the former two to find the Wakefields, the latter to navigate the destroyed streets to go back to her childhood home where her sister is frantic (twin sense!) and all of her friends might be in trouble.

On her way back to the house, Jessica is stopped by a frantic pedestrian, a teenage boy named Bryan. A crevasse has opened in the street and his younger sister Alyssa (henceforth referred to as Poor Alyssa) has fallen in. Jessica, against her better judgement, stops to help. Poor Alyssa is hanging onto a jutting rock by her fingertips and Jessica can’t see the bottom of the crevasse. Jessica and Bryan put their heads together and try a bunch of things like knotting belts together to make a rope, and having Bryan lower Jess into the pit by her ankles, but ultimately, she can’t quite reach Poor Alyssa. Poor Alyssa is like twelve and tired and she loses her grip, right in front of Jessica’s eyes. It’s really grim, even for Sweet Valley, where someone got stabbed in the jugular at a New Year’s Eve party. So we’re going to leave Jessica sitting on the pavement, hating herself for not being stronger than gravity.

But first, we still aren’t done with Elizabeth’s bullshit. I would like to point out Liz first noticed Enid’s plight on page 60. By page 155, she’s about done arguing with Devon, who finally leaves. Elizabeth screams insults at his retreating back and immediately falls into the pool. It’s full of oil but she survives that. She comes face to face with a rattlesnake, survives that, too. By page 179, she’s finally hemmed and hawed and minor crisised enough to get to Enid’s side, having decided to just do what Jessica would. (Let this be the lesson: always do what Jessica would do. It’s not always the most moral decision, but the girl gets results. Poor Alyssa notwithstanding.) Elizabeth walks through a ring of fire, carries Enid back through said fire, and then having exhausted all of her upper body strength, just drags Enid through a maze of power lines. Only the book is about to end and the writers realize she hasn’t really had anything to happen to her the whole book, so they have to throw one more minor crisis at her. She gets herself electrocuted, fades in and out of consciousness, and sees a figure over her before fading to black. WHATEVER.

R.I.P., Ronnie Edwards.

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