You’re not going to believe this. I’m not sure I fully believe it, myself. It was hard enough leaving the
confines warm, loving embrace of Sweet Valley, California, the most wonderiffic town in the whole wide world…
But it seems that Weirdmageddon has spread up the entire coast of California! 🎶Mr. Coooolliiiins🎶 (whoops! – I’m still singing his name every time* since the Weirdness hit) says we have to keep going, since the worst of it is still at the epicenter (our poor, majestic Sweet Valley! 😭).
But I’m not so sure that’s true.
Bookwyrms, this trip has been weird AF! I’m not even sure who my trip-mates are anymore! I’m not even sure who I am anymore! It’s like we’ve turned into cardboard cutouts of ourselves – like our world has flipped completely into the second dimension!
I really hate to say this, because she’s been just so nice and good and charming since we left Beverly Hills, but I think the source of the chaos might actually be that girl Courtney Thomas, whose father is that big movie exec or something. I think…it’s so disturbing to write this…she may, in fact, be the Anti-Wakefield everyone’s been whispering about back home!
First, there’s the way she’s wrapped herself around Todd Wilkins — Elizabeth Wakefield’s boyfriend — like a poisonous squid with barbed tentacles. Only a demon from the Wrong Side of the Star-Studded Tracks would DARE commit such a heinous offense.
Then there’s the way everyone, including Todd, has gobbled up Courtney’s apparent 180-degree personality change as whole-heartedly as the lobster tails and chocolate-covered strawberries that sweet, beautiful Annie Whitman cooked for us last night (I guess one good thing has come out of the Weirdness, if such a thing can even be dared to be said *shudder* — the campfire food has been out of this world! Like something from another…dimension…)
Only the Wakefields and I are the least bit suspicious of Courtney’s saccharine sweetness. Only the three of us think there’s something deceptive about her suddenly ultra-wholesome vibe. If you’d seen her back in Beverly Hills, Bookwyrms, I’m sure you’d get what I mean — she was practically a 1930s PSA villain!
And now she’s telling everyone this sordid sob story about how her father’s really a violent alcoholic who sent her on this trip so he could booze it up even more, and they’re all just buying it as easily as Lila bought those gold-threaded silk bikinis and diamond-encrusted hiking stilletos she packed in her unobtanium-plated backpack.
I’m sure you remember those times Sweet Valley actually tripped into Very Special Episode mode. This doesn’t feel like that. It doesn’t even feel like when Courtney’s ultra-delinquent boyfriend (the one with the Mohawk haircut — I mentioned him in my last letter) thundered up to the house on his horrible motorcycle. That felt more like a genuine Middle School PSA. This just feels…disturbingly off.
Anyway, it’s gotten so bad that the poor, long-sufferingly beatific Liz had to dump her One True Hunk after he shamed her for those very reasonable suspicions! Not to mention the way he’s been wrapping himself around Courtney’s viciously manicured claws like he’s the only one in the whole group who can fill a tire or adjust a few gears or hold a girl’s hand all night while she sleeps.
But Bookwyrms. It gets worse. She’ll probably hate me later for recording this, but like Elizabeth Hemingway Amanpour herself, I feel I have a duty to report the truth.
Either Courtney’s crookedness or the spreading Weirdness has gone so far as to infect Jessica Wakefield’s mojo. The way she’s been throwing herself at this guy Robbie October, who we met at that first hostel, is the most embarrassingly un-chill thing I’ve ever seen! It’s like the complete antithesis of chill!
She’s actually chasing after him, instead of expertly manipulating him into falling for her!
A few other notes before I get to the apocalyptic two-part conclusion of this entire acid trip.
First, you know how body shaming is a standard feature of Sweet Valley life? Since the Weirdness hit, it’s like the fatphobia’s been cranked up 1000%, and it’s all being directed at poor Barry Cooper, Principal Chrome Dome’s nephew.
Even the narrator is calling him things like “the pudgy, pale-faced boy who waddled out.” Even his camping gear is getting the Offensively Demeaning Comic Relief treatment — I just heard Saint Elizabeth herself thinking that it’s “as bulky and inappropriate for camping as Barry himself”!
It just has to be the Anti-Wakefield energy that Courtney’s radiating. How can no one else feel it? It’s practically gamma-level!
Also, Lila’s showing symptoms of becoming an accessory to Courtney’s chaos — like a subordinate demon recruited to torment one specific person, and that poor, unfortunate victim is Ms. Nora Dalton, everyone’s favorite French teacher and, until recently, rumored love interest of 🎶Mister Collins.🎶
I say “until” because, on the one hand, the romantic tension has reached Comically Obvious levels (you should hear Mr. Collins’ soap-tastic inner monologues), and on the other hand, because it turns out they recently broke up and she’s been dating Lila’s father, George Fowler, instead.
Anyway, Lila‘s been making dagger eyes at Ms. Dalton from the very start of the trip, but now she actually seems to have gained some unholy upper hand over the terrified woman. Almost like she found out Ms. Dalton has a shocking and tragic backstory that she’s been hiding from us this whole time — a secret former identity, a suspiciously deceased ex-husband, vengeful in-laws…something like that.
Finally, on a much more fun note that, unfortunately, is probably either an unintentional gift from the Ghostwriters (I suspect there are multiple GWs involved, and they’re all working separately, with little to no regard for plot coherence) that will vanish as soon as we excommunicate Courtney from this dimension, or an intentionally cruel “gift” whose disappearance is meant to punish us after we drive a holy stake through Courtney’s wormhole heart.
I’m referring to the delightfully salacious moments between Jess and Lila, as well as Liz and her beautiful, doe-eyed, gentle-hearted friend Annie Whitman. I saw Liz and Annie (even their names sound nice together, don’t you think?) tenderly holding each other after commiserating over their respective boy troubles.
And I heard Jess telling Lila, “I vant to be ah-lone vit you.” She was practically sparkling as she covered half her face with a sweater, her seductively narrowed eyes piercing into Lila’s very soul. Sure, on the surface, she just had some classic Jess scheme or something in mind, but if you just add some YA romance background music and zoom in on their ultra-angsty expressions, and also I followed them and saw Jess tickling Lila under the chin to make her admit she missed Jess while they were fighting for half the trip.
Sigh. I guess I’d better wrap this up. The post offices have apparently been warning each other about my Dostoevsky-length letters. I’m just trying to be as thorough and impressive a writer as Elizabeth! Who knows, maybe I’ll get so good people will start mistaking me for Elizabeth! Wouldn’t that be hilarious?
Anywho, this morning we all woke up to discover the sudden, horrifying absence of Jessica! After much coaxing, Lila finally revealed that Jess tricked her into sharing a tent the previous night so she could sneak off to see Robbie October (whom we ran into again on the beach the other day), thinking Lila would be a good frenemy and cover for her.
But Jess never came back, so we organized a search party through the woods. Of course Courtney took that opportunity to set her ultimate evil plan into action. Feigning the deepest, most syrupy concern, she joined Liz and Todd, whom Mister Collins had awkwardly paired up for the search. Then she pretended to feel sick so the ultra-devoted Todd would escort her back to camp, leaving Liz to continue searching alone.
Exit Courtney, unfortunately not pursued by a bear.
Meanwhile, speaking of bears, we finally found Jess and Robbie hiding in a cave, in a literal standoff (or crouch-behind-a-rock-off) with a rage-faced mother bear!!! Apparently they got lost on the way to the romantic waterfall they were sneaking off to admire (or not admire, ifyaknowwhatImean), and then it started raining, so they ran into the cave without checking for bear cubs.
So there we were, standing by helplessly, when the Ghostwriters finally decided to atone for their gross mistreatment of Barry Cooper. The valiant, animal-loving knight THREW HIMSELF IN FRONT OF THE BEAR just as Charlie Markus was about to throw a rock at her, insisting she was only acting on natural parental instinct.
Then, Barry SWATTED AT THE BEAR and TOOK OFF RUNNING, leading the angry beast away from the rest of us. It was the most heroic and badass thing I’ve seen since Bruce Patman ran off with that ticking bomb from the SVH football stadium.
Of course, those trickster gods decided to throw one more pot-shot at the guy who, for all their mocking references to his clumsy slowness, had managed to bike all the way from LA to San Francisco at roughly the same superhuman speed as the rest of the team. Seriously, he was only about an hour or so behind each day. He’s in better shape than the Ghostwriters give him credit for.
Anyway, they decided to throw in a comedy horror moment as Barry, for all his confidence, turns out to be a pitiful runner. If it wasn’t for the bear cubs crying out at that very moment, I swear this could’ve been when the rest of the group had to cringe loudly and shield their faces from the blood spatter.
But this is a Sweet Valley Special, after all, so the bear cubs took pity on our hero and distracted Mom long enough to let Jess and Robbie finally escape. Mister Collins then literally swept Barry up and threw him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and ran back to camp with him as the rest of the gang followed.
Bookwyrms, I laughed. So. Hard.
Now back to Courtney.
Having completely ensorcelled poor, dumb Todd with her Tragically Concerned Daughter act, the Mistress of Wickedness waited until everyone had fallen into a well-earned slumber before waking Todd and begging him to escort her back to Beverly Hills the next morning, to check on her poor, dear, drunk Daddy Warbucks.
Of course she paused, while waiting for Todd to get decent before leaving his tent, to relax the Precious Moments act and smoke a disgusting, dirty, depraved cigarette. She wasn’t even just doing it on a dare, like Jess did during her Club Ex initiation battle with Bruce. Courtney was smoking because she liked it!
Anyway, enter the Not-Even-Endearing-Enough-To-Be-Called-A-Himbo beefbrain known as Todd, so it’s into the bushes for the half-spent death stick!
So, Todd agrees to follow Courtney back to LA the next morning, his voice going full-on Norman Bates monotone as he softly, hypnotically acknowledges her total superiority to Elizabeth.
Gone, he says, are Elizabeth’s Patriarchy-Approved qualities of never questioning people’s motives or feeling the slightest bit jealous when her man exercises his right to latch onto another girl’s very large, very conspicuous, totally-not-a-shocking-twist-in-any-way hook. Courtney’s the true paragon of Niceness and Goodness now.
So far gone is the poor doofus that he doesn’t even notice the smoky, sulfuric taste of Courtney’s passionate kiss…
Cut to a few hours later. Liz smells something burning.
You’ll never guess.
It’s an honest-to-Smokey forest fire.
The Sweet Valley Gang rushes out to battle the inferno. Seeing their beautiful, sunkissed, utopian existence flashing before her eyes, Lila cries out in agony, “This is the end!” And then literally clutches her face and shrieks into the sky.
I’m not kidding, she literally does that. It’s hilarious.
But of course the gang does manage to put out the fire and everyone’s ok and hatchets are buried and relationships are repaired.
But not before Saint Elizabeth of Perpetual Self-Martyrdom announces sadly that it must have been she who’s to blame for the fire! She was responsible for putting out the previous night’s campfire, and since no one else was around when she went to bed, it couldn’t have been anything other than some unremembered carelessness on her part.
Which means that, as per the rules of the trip, Liz has to go home early.
And it is this pure-hearted act of self-sacrificial responsibility that finally breaks Courtney’s spell over Todd. He suddenly remembers that Liz wasn’t the last one up last night, and that he did see Courtney smoking, and that he also did see her throw the cigarette into the bushes!!!
Praise the Merciful Ghostwriters!!!
So Evil Courtney is exposed (she was just using Todd so she could get back in her Non-Alcoholic Daddy’s good graces with a wholesome boyfriend, whom she was going to ditch as soon as they reached LA and run off with her true demon love, the motorcycle-riding Nolan Ruggers) and sent villainously grumbling home, Ms. Dalton’s true backstory is revealed (she didn’t kill her ex-husband!), the Power Couples are restored, apologies abound, and the gang enjoys one last fancy dinner in San Francisco, during which Barry endearingly spills hot & sour sauce over everyone.
So! Was it the worst vacation ever or the BEST VACATION EVAR, Bookwyrms? I think I’ll give it a 5 out of 5 times Liz and Todd have the same excruciating argument about Courtney’s extremely, obviously, painfully sus obsession with him.
How would you have survived the cosmic concurrence of Summerween and Weirdmageddon? Tell me about your own wild summer shenanigans!
In the meantime, I’m sitting here by the pool, very innocently cavorting with Jessica’s tragically deceased boyfriend Sam Woodruff, on whom my Totally Genuine Posthumous Change of Heart act is working like a charm, and who suspects nothing about the true source of Courtney’s power…
* The 🎶Mister Collins🎶 jingle is a running gag on the Double Love podcast, which incidentally released their own review of Perfect Summer today. 😉
Community “Horror Fiction” screenshot (edited for extra chilling effect) from tenor.
Gravity Falls GIF from gfycat.
Not What You Think GIF from gifer.
The Room GIF from giphy.
Encanto screenshot from twitter.
Sailor Moon GIF from tenor.
Community Oof GIF from gfycat.
That Nathan Fillion Castle GIF from tenor.
Smokey the Bear GIF from giphy.
Hunger Games GIF from giphy.