#92 She’s Not What She Seems: The formula

Single White Female

Crazy Margo


Lady Macbeth


Competitive Eating


Vapid friendships


Saved By the Bell group mentality


Donald Trump Hair

She’s Not What She Seems is Evil Twin lite. The Val’ is putting on Macbeth as their school production. Thankfully, they actually reference the time 90 books ago when Bill and Jessica were in Splendor in the Grass. Jessica is obsessed with playing Lady Mac and doesn’t shut up about it. Of course she gets it and gets so into it and herself and her friends start getting annoyyed. [Let’s stop here a second and say Shakespeare is hard to pull off for seasoned actors, you really think this stoopid lot can do it?] It takes this to get her friends to hate Jessica?

Paula is the new gal in town, and immediately suctions herself to Jessica’s ass. She becomes her own personal obsessed fan, and trails her and helps her prepair for the part. Eventually everyone hangs out with Paula because she tells them her mom is dead and her Dad beats her. Because having a non-nuclear family in Sweet Valley is the equivalent to having syphilis. You can imagine how much Liz was foaming at the mouth about a new project. Jessica starts to suspect that Paula is…get ready for it…not what she seems! And that she is trying to undermine Jessica. The gang doesn’t believe her and thinks Jessica is jealous.

Finally, just when you think Paula is going to do something like, I don’t know, try to kill Jessica, she goes and makes her miss opening night so she can play Lady Macbeth. And turns out she lied about not having parents. And as using Jessica to be friends with the popular crowd. Eventually everyone finds out and Jessica is reinstated to her elevated status and the homeostasis of Sweet Valley is restored.

Other things:

  • Lila is cast as a witch and is all embarassed and annoyed. Cue the “Lila, you don’t have to act!” comments.
  • Winston is cast as the crazy kooky sidekick. Shocker!
  • Liz is of course in charge of the publicity committee, and they act like this play is fucking summer stock. It’s the headline of the Sweet Valley News, and even LA magazine does a review! Wtf, I am sure people in LA care about a high school play.
  • After every rehearsal, the Scooby gang goes to the DB and get quadrouple orders of onion rings. Per person. Yeeks. Like all those cheerleaders would eat that.
  • The whole gang hangs out together all the time in this one- Lila, Amy, Liz, Annie, Robin, Todd- uh, I thought Liz hated those people? Also, it annoys to no end me that Annie and Robin hang out with this group- the same group that mocked them and say…drove them to a suicide attempt?
  • The SVH teachers are giving less work to cast members and going easy with them on exams. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. They cancel classes to have an assembly everytime a Wakefield has a bowel movement.
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30 thoughts on “#92 She’s Not What She Seems: The formula

  1. Enid Rollins says:

    It’s the “what the hell are you doing in my spotlight, bitch?!!” look 🙂

    The Sweet Valley teachers assign less work for a play. Um, okay. My sister’s COLLEGE professors went easy on the footballers, so maybe it’s not TOO far off the mark. But still. The Wakefields as publicity committee and leading role? Wow, didn’t see that coming, giving the Wakefields the biggest jobs\parts. I’m surprised the other students aren’t required to bow down and worship Jess or Liz as they (the W’s) pass.

  2. BadKat says:

    I wonder if Jessica ever actually had to read Macbeth? I’ll bet they revised the script for the stupids.

    She looks like she’s about to say, (insert squeaky whine here) “That’s myyyyyyyyyyyyy Crown!”

  3. tinypants says:

    The photo diagram explaining the plot of this one is AMAZING. As for the quadruple orders of onion rings… maybe they’ve been reading the Sleepover Friends?

  4. annakelly says:

    Another, less funny equation for this book would be “All About Eve” = “She’s Not What She Seems.” Nearly every stupid sitcom has done some variation of this really awesome movie. I didn’t know what “All About Eve” was until two years ago. Interesting coincidence – Bette Davis’s character is named Margo.

    And I just got chills.

  5. Alicia says:

    “All About Eve” is such a great movie! And I do love how the ghostwriters work hard at stealing plots from pretty much every single movie in Hollywood.

  6. Magpie says:

    Remember when people used to tie the bottom of their shirt in a knot like Jessica’s doing in that cover picture? Ahhh, the early 90’s.

    I really loved this book back in the day. I think it was one of my favourites. It’s awesome that while Paula gets her comeuppance in the end (because no enemy of the Wakefields will ever win!), Jessica is still cheated out of the opening night performance and all of those reviews. What’s more important to Jessica the Sociopath? Her friends’ (eventual) loyalty, or rave reviews to help her Hollywood career?

  7. Fi says:

    Hey, have you reviewed “Elizabeth’s New Hero” from the Sweet Valley Twins series? I’d love to hear your comments on it :p

    I want to read this one!

  8. LucyLou says:

    This book is hugely inferior version of All About Eve.

    And Jess could never be Lady Macbeth. That would just be a big pot of fail.

  9. Amber Tan says:

    Kudos on another amazing recap, ihatewheat! Lovin’ the pictorial equation…very vivid.

    “I’ll bet they revised the script for the stupids.”

    No doubt, BadKat — complete with phone-EH-tic spellings. 😉

    “I thought Wakefields didn’t have bowel movements.”

    Me too, Diana! Maybe the local pharmacy started stocking Dulcolax. 😉

    And that hair is a crime against nature.

  10. BartTempleton says:

    Alright, now we come to some of my most delicious Sweet Valley memories: any plot involving an insidious usurper whom only the Persecuted, Put-Upon Protag recognizes as evil incarnate/Satan’s daughter.

    Say it with me now: JACQUELINE (_Lila’s Story_).

    Paula’s not quite as poisonous as Jacquie, but then, Jessica here is not as sympathetic as Lila in her Story. We’re talking, after all, about the school’s most popular girl in a tizzy because she thinks she the lead role ought to be handed to her on a platter…simply for being the school’s most popular girl.

    Socialite and Recreational Liar /=/ thespian.

    And yet, after all that, I must side with Jessica against Paula. See, the thing about Jessica is that she makes no bones about being a brat. I can respect that; I can even admire it! It’s the same psychology that worked so well for Mitchell with her obnoxious creation Scarlett O’Hara.

    Pascal and her ghosties have an equally impressive grasp of reader psychology. They know that it’s the fakers and liars and simperers whom loathe. Don’t you love being manipulated by a Master?

  11. Amber Tan says:

    “Say it with me now: JACQUELINE (_Lila’s Story_). :

    OMG, I forgot about Jacqueline. I swear some of these SV books are like grain through a goose, BadKat. Maybe that’s the key to why we keep reading the same schlock over and over again. 😉

    “…the thing about Jessica is that she makes no bones about being a brat. I can respect that; I can even admire it! It’s the same psychology that worked so well for Mitchell with her obnoxious creation Scarlett O’Hara.”

    Fiddle-dee-dee, BadKat! 😉 I happen to agree although Jessica isn’t as bad-ass as Scarlett turned out to be. I always thought that Scarlett was a compelling character because not only did she channel her ruthless, scheming nature to get what she wanted but she was also able to adapt to a brutal, impoverished post-war era. What was most remarkable about Scarlett was her transformation from a pampered coquette into a tough, competent business woman at a time when women weren’t supposed to work outside the home.

    At the start of GWTW, Scarlett’s goals are superficial, strikingly similar to those enshrined in SVH culture (i.e. being rich, young, and beautiful in pursuit of parties and beaux). As the story progresses , Scarlett’s ambitions change dramatically due to the Civil War’s devastating effect on the South. She’ll use any means possible to save Tara and rebuild her family’s lost fortune. The twins never even have regular jobs — it’s always stuff like being an intern or candy-striper. Also, FTR, Scarlett was never kidnapped and forced to eat frozen pancakes even though she did steal her sister’s beau. 😉

    Frankly, I just can’t imagine the Wakefield twins (or Steven) plowing fields and taking care of livestock. They’re far too weak to survive under those conditions. How would they ever keep up their golden tans?!? 😦

    Liz would probs set up a counselling service for newly freed slaves at Tara while Jess whipped up a few new cheer routines to keep up morale. And there’s no way in hell that either twin would deign to wear a dress made out of curtains! 😉

  12. BartTempleton says:

    Why, I do declare, AmberTan, you’ve gone and mixed me up with BadKat. Never mind, I’ll think about that tomorrow…

    Masterful analysis of GWTW v. SVH.

    “Scarlett was never kidnapped and forced to eat frozen pancakes even though she did steal her sister’s beau. ”

    And too right you are! Even the Yankees wouldn’t have subjected Scarlett to Carl the Orderly (TM). Though now every time I picture CTO (TM), I picture him wearing a navy-blue Union coat and gold sash. Hmm.

    “Frankly, I just can’t imagine the Wakefield twins (or Steven) plowing fields and taking care of livestock. They’re far too weak to survive under those conditions. ”

    *Spits milk.* You’re right, Scarlett kicks Wakefield ass any day of the week. Jessica is a poor-Pascal’s version of Mitchell’s Pulitzer-prize-winning creation. Pascal clearly tried to pattern Jessica after her. Make note:

    *Both moon irrationally after men who don’t deserve them/appreciate their inner fire (Ashley Wilkes; 1Bruce1).

    *Both, as you pointed out, have shared sissy’s beaux (SueEllen’s Frank Kennedy and Elizabeth’s…well, pretty much all of Elizabeth’s boyfriends).

    *Both triumph over spiteful nobodies who try to bring them down (India Wilkes; Paula).

    *Both try to recreate themselves via fashion (Green velvet drapes; Jessa Fields).

    *Both are deeply and oddly attached to their small and astonishingly provincial hamlet,(Clayton County, GA; Sweet Valley). Yet both, contradictingly, also thrive on the glamour of Atlanta and London/NYC/Malibu, respectively.

    *Neither has a maternal/nurturing urge or bone in her body (a bit disturbing for Scarlett, given she’s got three kids!)

    * Each sets out to go to shindigs with the express intention of being the belle of the ball/center of attention (The Wilkes’ barbecue; countless SVH parties).

    * Each throws away the love a good man (Rhett Butler; Sam Woodruff).

  13. Amber Tan says:

    “Why, I do declare, AmberTan, you’ve gone and mixed me up with BadKat. Never mind, I’ll think about that tomorrow…”

    Oh me oh my! How evah shall I make it up to you, BartTempleton? You’re so smart and so handsome. Why, it makes my l’il ole head spin! Shall I save you a dance on my card? [flutters eyelashes]

    “Even the Yankees wouldn’t have subjected Scarlett to Carl the Orderly (TM). Though now every time I picture CTO (TM), I picture him wearing a navy-blue Union coat and gold sash.”

    BWAH! Now *that* is easy to imagine. 😉

    Seriously though, your correlations are spot on, BT. We could also add that they both ‘gobble lak a hawg’ — as per Mammy’s phrasing when she tells Scarlett to eat her supper before attending the Wilkes’ barbecue (because real ladies never eat in public yanno). And Scarlett gets all pouty and refuses because she was too full to eat ice cream at the last picnic.

    Apparently antebellum Southern belles had eating disorders too. Who knew? 😉

    “Neither has a maternal/nurturing urge or bone in her body (a bit disturbing for Scarlett, given she’s got three kids!)”

    Didn’t she leave the two older ones (Charles and Ella) at Tara while she worked/ lived in Atlanta? And then Bonnie — her daughter w/ Rhett — died very young when she fell off her pony. Scarlett actually has a 4th child by Rhett named Katherine (nicknamed Kat) in the sequel to GWTW which was published in 1991. But Mitchell didn’t write the sequel titled ‘Scarlett’ — Alexandra Ripley did.

  14. BartTempleton says:

    AmberTan, I waited for Ripley’s sequel with bated breath. When it finally came out, I devoured it. Although I know it’s rife with improbability (stranded on an island off the coast of South Carolina? Scarlett becoming the leader of an Irish clan?) , it’s still one of my favorite novels.

    The baby’s name was indeed Cat, but I don’t count her, since Scarlett became Doting Mother of the Year after having her (love-child, y’know).

    You’re right that size-6 Jessica Wakefield eating a full cheeseburger-onion ring-shake combo at The DB while Robin Wilson eats carrots = Scarlett downing whole sides of ham and beaten biscuits.

  15. Amy Slutton says:

    Hahaha, that Donald Trump hair was right on the mark 😀

    I had this one and gave it away… I’m not a huge fan of these 90’s SVHs and I thought this one was particularly crap. Although I have to admit, I used to have one of those tie-bottom sleeveless blouses like Jessica has on. That is like straight out of 1995. Mine had stupid pockets on the front though.

  16. Amber Tan says:

    “…waited for Ripley’s sequel with bated breath. When it finally came out, I devoured it….it’s still one of my favorite novels.”

    Me too, BT! There’s a dog-eared copy laying somewhere around my crib. It’s the perfect beach book IMO…

    “rife with improbability”

    Hells yes, BartTempleton! But you know that’s a selling point around here. Or should that be “ah-roun’ hee-yah’? 😉

    BTW, may I borrow this phrase for a tagline? Pretty please…with onion rings on top?

  17. BartTempleton says:

    I really don’t know what you mean, AmberTan. If by “around here” you mean Sweet Valley, I must disagree. A lot of what goes on in Sweet Valley is possible. It’s Everytown+, U.S.A.

    For example, it’s completely possible and even probable that any town that’s not Plymouth Rock has a White population consisting exlusively of people with Anglo-Saxon surnames. There must be thousands of towns in the U.S. without any Irish, Italian, French, Duthch, German, or Polish White people. Oops, I forgot about Dana Larson (Scandiniavian)? See, that’s America’s diversity!

    And lots of very small towns where everyone knows each other have been host to multiple psychopathic murderers and kidnappers, and modeling agents and fashion editors.

    But, if you insist on calling Sweet Valley “improbable,” you’re welcome to use my term.

  18. Amber Tan says:

    “If by “around here” you mean Sweet Valley, I must disagree.”

    Sorry to be unclear, BartTempleton. By ‘around here’ I meant here at the DairiBurger. ‘Cause we gotta be willing to suspend our disbelief to keep reading some of this stuff. 😉

    “I forgot about Dana Larson (Scandiniavian)? See, that’s America’s diversity!”

    Oh, those Larsons are soooo ethnic. *sniff* Dana’s ancestors were probably indentured servants or…something.

    “And lots of very small towns where everyone knows each other have been host to multiple psychopathic murderers and kidnappers, and modeling agents and fashion editors. ”

    Hee, BT! I keep trying to figure out which of my neighbors is the modeling agent/ fashion editor so I can land a lucrative super-modeling contract. No luck so far with that but we do have our very own Carl The Orderly (TM) living on the next block.

    Seriously. The guy does some strange things (like cleaning his house gutters at 2 AM) and I see him leaving for work every morning in a blue lab technician uniform. Hopefully he won’t kidnap me because I love frozen waffles and that would ruin my perfect size-6 figure, effectively sabotaging my future modeling career. 😉

  19. Janelle says:

    So I read this book for the first time a couple weeks ago and I loved it! Possibly because about halfway through I was reminded of my little sister (a big-time high school theater participant) and a girl named, ironically, Liz. Liz, a year younger- just like Paula- followed my sister around, sucked up to her friends and eventually tried to steal her boyfriend! I was shocked that Paula, for the most part, left Sam alone! So, ridiculous as this book undoubtedly is…. not so far from reality!

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