It was a beautiful day in Sweet Valley. You know, because every Sweet Valley High novel opens with it being a beautiful day. Or something. Anyway, I found this little gem, a slightly battered old Sweet Valley High super edition on sale for ninety-nine cents and decided to read it for nostalgic purposes.
Special Christmas was one of the earlier books in the series and was the first Christmas that Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield spent as juniors at Sweet Valley High (several more were to follow.) At this point in the series both twins are single, Todd having moved away to Vermont and Jessica is busy crushing on Hans, a foreign exchange student whose stay in Sweet Valley is so brief it is unlikely he is ever mentioned in any other book in the series. You know, unless one or both of the twins happened to holiday in Germany later on in the series. Things are going well for the twins. Todd is planning to visit Sweet Valley over Christmas and Jessica is excited about some kind of weird secret Santa thing that is being organised at the school. Basically, all the girls have to randomly pick a boys name out of a hat, while all the boys pick a girls name and then they have to go around secretly doing nice things for one another. It is a lovely idea for a children's book, I suppose, but I doubt that kind of thing would work out in real life. In fact, if such a thing had occurred at my high school, the whole thing would have ended in bloodshed directly after the names were drawn, with comments of, "Oh, spew, I got [insert name of otherwise perfectly nice boy or girl here]!" Anyway, Jessica is convinced that Hans will draw her name for the Secret Santa (how, I don't know, but self-deception seems to be quite common in Sweet Valley). But their mood is soon spoiled by some shocking, yes, shocking news. The Wakefield's Christmas is about to be ruined for good:
Jessica has been kidnapped by some lunatic who wants to steal her identity and has been left inside the boiler room at Sweet Valley High. Meanwhile, the lunatic who kidnapped Jessica has just been stabbed to death by her own loony twin sister, who mistook her for Jessica!
Oh. Wait. That doesn't happen for a few more years. This is the shocking news:
Jessica's fiance Jeremy wants to kill her in a plot to cash in on his former fiancee's inheritance!
Oh, wait. This won't happen for a few more years yet either. This is the shocking news:
Margo is planning to murder Elizabeth at Lila Fowler's New Years Eve Party!
Sorry. That's not for a while yet either. This is the shocking news:
Suzanne Devlin is coming to stay with the Wakefields over Christmas!
That's it folks. This is now officially the worst Christmas that the Wakefield twins have ever experienced. Even worse than the time when Jessica was twelve and she dreamed that she saw the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future who taught her that she was selfish and if she kept up her selfish ways no one would love her. (Surprisingly, however, Jessica would remain selfish well into adulthood and everyone would indeed love her, while it was Elizabeth who constantly got shafted.) Anyway, neither Elizabeth, Jessica or their brother Steven are too keen on having Suzanne stay with them and plot to make Suzanne's time in Sweet Valley a living hell.
Jessica's annoyance at Suzanne's arrival is soon forgotten however, when she is asked to dress as an elf at the local mall and assist Santa with the handing out of presents. Apparently all the Pi Beta alpha girls take a turn at doing this (you know, because volunteering seems to fit right in with their usual vapid activities,) and today was Cara's turn, but she's sick so Jessica has to take over. Anyway, Jessica ends up stuck at the mall all day and misses out on participating in some beauty contest. Without any of those pesky Wakefield twins to compete against, Jessica's best frenemy Lila Fowler easily wins the contest and is declared Miss Christmastime and is allowed the great honour of riding on the Christmastime float in the local pageant. In this book the ongoing battle of Jessica and Lila now stands at Lila: One, Jessica: Zero.
Meanwhile, Suzanne has arrived in Sweet Valley with only Alice Wakefield and some nasty notes from her secret santa to greet her. There's a vague reference to Suzanne being sick but this is soon swept under the carpet when Todd arrives at the house and everyone but for Elizabeth becomes aware of some unresolved sexual tension between Todd and Suzanne. Jessica gets annoyed on Elizabeth's behalf, ups the ante on her plot to make Suzanne feel unwelcome. Jessica and Aaron Dallas (whose affections Suzanne exploited during her previous visit to Sweet Valley,) plot to have Aaron ask Suzanne as his date to some party that Bruce Patman is hosting. Then Aaron will phone, state that his car has broken down and that he'll meet her at a friends house. And then he will give her a fake address, sending Suzanne to some old house in the middle of nowhere.
Oh, and the secret santas? Jessica's secret santa, the one who has been offering her romantic gifts all week is class clown Winston Egbert. Hans, meanwhile, turns out to be Lila's secret santa. Lila: Two, Jessica: Zero.
Finally, Suzanne receives some new medication in the mail from her doctor, which she happily takes, despite not knowing what it is or what effect it may have on her body, or whether it should be mixed with other medications. Or more importantly, if she should continue to drink alcohol. Happily, Suzanne swallows a glass of champaign while helping the Wakefield family to decorate their Christmas tree. Suzanne almost passes out, but instead of using her common sense and going to bed, she decides to drive on to the party. Anyway to cut a longish story short, its starts raining (a possible first in Sweet Valley) and Suzanne passes out at the wheel. Meanwhile, Ned Wakefield has just received a telephone call from Suzanne's doctor, stating that she should not take alcohol with her new medication. Then Suzanne ends up in hospital with a concussion, Jessica and Aaron admit that they had set her up and it is revealed that Suzanne has MS and that she and Todd Wilkins genuinely love one another. Elizabeth gives the couple her blessing and then, the doctors have a bigger surprise in store. Suzanne does not have MS after all, but a rare form of Glandular fever that was causing her symptoms. It's all smiles in Sweet Valley.
Meanwhile, Jessica has come up with another plot to get revenge on Lila for ruining her chances as Miss Christmastime, by stealing Lila's gown and leaving her elf costume in its place. Naturally, Lila is dumb enough to fall for this and the people of Sweet Valley all cheer for Jessica, while Lila is left to look ridiculous. The score ends, Lila: Two, Jessica: One, plus a thousand bonus points. Because you know, the Wakefield twins always win.