Another book where a lovesick girl loses herself in hopes to land her man… What makes it interesting this time though is that the girl is none other than the original man eater, Jessica Wakefield! 😉
“Playing For Keeps”
Sweet Valley Scale: 4 out of 5 Twins
Jessica Wakefield is head over heels in love with the handsome new boy, A.J. Morgan. She knows he likes her too, but she is convinced he’d really fall in love with her if she were studious and reserved, like her twin sister, Elizabeth. So Jessica sets out to change her personality completely and become A.J.’s dream girl. But Jessica’s plans are threatened when she hears about a fashion contest she knows she could win. But how can she compete and still be the sweet, shy girl that A.J. thinks she is? When the contest turns into a battle to keep A.J. as well as for a custom designer wardrobe, Jessica has to make some difficult decisions. Will the old Jessica reappear – and risk losing A.J. – or is the quiet, serious Jessica here to stay?
I know that I gripe about how this series always has these crazy girls who try to change who they are and define themselves by the boys they are crushing on. And that is exactly what this book is, but this was something I looked forward to seeing because this time that crazy girl was Jessica Wakefield who is usually crazy in a psychotic and selfish way. To see this change was amusing, at least for awhile.
I should tell you that this book acts like a direct continuation of the last, when Jessica first meets A.J. and falls hard for him, as well as how she first concocts this ridiculous plan. If you haven’t already give it a quick read (Confessions Of A Bookaholic – Guilty Pleasures Edition #43 – Sweet Valley High #48 – Slam Book Fever); it was a perfect five, so it could be worse. 😉
A.J. Morgan is the hot (redheaded!) new boy at Sweet Valley High, and Jessica has landed him. But she hasn’t sparked his interest with her usual tactics – she is genuinely a nervous and tongue-tied wreck whenever he is around, and he has a thing for shy girls. But Jessica misses the mark when she tries to take “shy and serious” to a whole new extreme. She dresses like Elizabeth and constantly wants to hang out at the library, and she is dragging A.J. to all of these meetings about causes like “Save the Whales” that she doesn’t actually give a hoot and a half about. She is so agreeable that anything A.J. comes up with is absolutely brilliant and A.J. is beginning to get a little bored.
Jessica is so focused on playing a part of the girl A.J. thinks she is that she is caught off guard when A.J. tries to get real with her. Like when he holds her hand and tells her she’s special, and she snatches her hand back and changes the subject, or when he wants to go on a romantic stroll and once they’re alone Jessica brings up world hunger (I am for real). She even writes really bad poetry for him. And I know bad poetry, I have plenty of angsty bad poems from my teenage years, but her poetry makes mine practically read for the presses.
Liz keeps trying to convince Jessica to just be herself, but Jessica is certain A.J. wouldn’t like the girl she really is, and makes Elizabeth promise not to say anything. She does, of course, and on a disastrous double date (Elizabeth and her boyfriend Jeffrey, with Jessica and A.J.) A.J. actually asks Elizabeth when they’re alone if Jessica is always like this. Elizabeth wants to tell him how Jessica really is, but a promise is a promise. She can tell A.J. is bored and annoyed with how Jessica is acting, and then he says just that. But poor sweet Elizabeth just can’t get involved (she promised)… sigh. I love Liz, but I wish she practiced common sense sometimes.
The next day, Jessica and A.J. are walking along the beach when A.J. hears someone calling for help. A.J. ever so gallant, dives into the ocean and rescues a dark hair knockout in a string bikini. Once safe on the shore she introduces herself as Pamela and starts shamelessly flirting with A.J. and giving Jessica some challenging glares behind his back. A.J. isn’t into aggressive girls, but Pamela is just so sexy, he is a little into her. The next day Pamela calls him saying she wanted to return his towel, and asks him to come over because her parents want to meet the boy who saved her life. When he gets there, Pamela practically pounces. Her parents are out of town and she suggests they go skinny dipping. A.J. is so turned on he doesn’t seem to mind being a pawn in her game, something he would normally hate. But he feels guilty because he is with Jessica (sort of) and leaves before anything happens, but not before Pamela asks him to be her date to a dance at her school.
A.J. being the good guy that he is, tells Jessica everything. Jessica pretends that none of it bothers her, when she is actually beside herself. Elizabeth points out that this Pamela bitch would be no match for the real Jessica, but it seems like the real Jessica isn’t making a reappearance anytime soon. Elizabeth does make some progress, however, and convinces Jessica to sign up for a fashion contest that Lisette’s (Jessica’s favorite boutique) is putting on. Girls will compete in a fashion show and the winner will receive a customized wardrobe. Jessica has been dying to enter, but was too worried about what A.J. would think. Luckily, Elizabeth supplies her with an “out” by saying she is entering because it would be funny. It’s super lame, except I think about how many times I did something like that with that same excuse, when I was much younger and not as wise. 😛
Jessica signs up for the fashion show the next day, with her best friends Amy Sutton and Lila Fowler in tow, and bumps into Pamela with her two bitchy friends. Pamela keeps pushing Jessica, talking about how much A.J. appreciated what she was wearing the other day, etc. because she knows that Jessica isn’t “the kind of girl to push back.” And now, and I didn’t know I could feel this way, but I wish Jessica would show her that she is the kind of girl who pushes back, I mean the old sociopathic Jessica is at least. Come back crazy, come back! At least Lila sticks up for Jess by whispering (and by that I mean actually “accidentally” talking so loud that the entire store could hear), about how A.J. was talking about some girl he met on the beach with a huge rear end that matched her ego. Oh Lila, you do have your moments where I heart you.
At the fashion show Pamela steps up her game by doing what mean girls do best (time to call an exorcist) – being evil. She sabotages every look Jessica has (they have racks of clothes waiting for them) but Jessica makes it all work for her. The back of a look is messed up and she walks backwards on stage, the way back, sashaying like nobody’s business so no one notices. Or when the zippers on the sides of an outfit are tampered with and Jessica puts on a belt to make it look like that it’s on purpose, etc. But then for the last look Pamela dumps cold water all over Jessica. Finally, the real Jessica comes out and she lays into Pamela. The girls get into it and the audience can hear them, so Lila and Amy, being Jessica’s besties, pull back the curtain to give the audience a real show.
Pamela’s sabotage is now public knowledge and she says a bunch of disgusting things to boot before she realizes people can see her. Then she bursts into tears and runs away. (LAME!) Jessica is the clear winner, and she and A.J. have a long talk that the reader (and even Elizabeth!) are not privy to. But later it comes out that A.J. and Jessica are still together, better than ever, and A.J. really does like the real Jessica. Finally a message I can get behind? I’m not sure, because Jess is kind of crazy. 😛
The first half of this book was a solid 3.5 because while watching Jessica pine was entertaining, she was being so ridiculously pathetic that it got old pretty fast. But as soon as Pamela showed up things got interesting, and the drama of Pamela versus Jessica (both old and new) as well as the fashion show, made it a steady 4.5, so I thought a 4 would even it out overall. I guess that means perhaps I am not being fair to Jessica. Sure she is a sociopath, but are they the characters that keep things interesting?
And to be honest, A.J. and Jessica are seriously cute together. A.J. is a really decent guy, and a hunky redhead, so you know he’s a catch. And Jessica is a hundred times more tolerable when she is around him, and not playing a part. I know he isn’t going to be her one true love because it’s Jessica and I know she ends up with other dudes later, but can she please make this work with A.J. for awhile? I mean she’s actually a person, and he is a decent guy, and, and… redheads do it so much better! (And by it I mean everything.) 😉