Sweet Valley High #32 – The New Jessica (Or The Wakefield Twins are SO Emo!)

I’m embarrassed to admit that this book heavily influenced me way back in the 6th grade, and continues its influence this very day.

6th grade was the first time I tried dyeing my naturally blond hair black, and effectively launching me my lifelong love affair with being an emo girl. Back in the day, we called it “goth”, but I am modern and relevant and I will call it emo. Of course, being only in the 6th grade, my mean mother refused to buy me permanent black hair dye, because it was, you know, permanent and I was 11. Of course, this just made me more angsty and emo.  So, as much as I’d like to believe that my interest in dark hair was because I was the edgiest 11 year old on earth, reading this book reminded me that while I certainly was edgy, I was also easily influenced by bad YA fiction. Not much has changed in 20 years…

Please note that while Jessica obviously looks like a dude on the cover of this book, I did not notice that at all when I was 11. I thought she looked beautiful and exotic and cool. Obviously, I needed an eye exam.

Our story begins with Jessica feeling suddenly SO OVER being an identical twin. After borrowing the silky, peach dress that Grandma Wakefield gave Elizabeth for her birthday, Jessica is SO MAD that she is mistaken for Elizabeth one more time. (I’m sorry but this dress sounds like people were more likely to mistake Jessica for her grandmother, but what do I know about fashion.) This unexpected apocalypse forces Jessica to retreat to the most awkwardly named department store on earth – Lytton and Brown – with Lila Fowler. Lytton and Brown sounds more like a funeral home, which is totally apropos because it is there that Jessica hatches her brilliant emo scheme to put an end to this identity crisis shit for ever! She will dye her hair black, pretend to be European and change her name to Jessa Fields! OF COURSE!

Can I say something about the imaginary black hair dye that Jessica utilizes to make her transformation to Jessa Fields? If you are in 6th grade, and hoping to locate this fabulous shampoo-in hair dye that makes your hair silky and beautiful and rinses right out when you get bored with your transformation…get ready for heartbreak. As a certified home hair dye specialist, with over 20 years of experience fucking up my own hair, I can tell you that this shit DOES NOT exist. I’m still a little sad about it too. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t invent hair dye like this?

Also, despite what SVH will have you believe, changing your hair color does not make you look like a different person. Of course you would never know this based upon the reaction that Jessica receives when she arrives at school with her new black hair. Maybe it was heavy make-up and the uber-stylish olive green leather skirt and lacy tights that did the trick, because even her teachers don’t recognize her!

While Jessica is becoming the continental emo hipster Jessa Fields, Elizabeth is moodily writing in her journal. No, seriously, she really is. Elizabeth writes in her journal about how FACINATING her new boyfriend Jeffery French is, even though we never find out what is so amazing about him except that his eyes crinkle up when he smiles. Oooh! Wrinkles. HOT!  Oh, also his voice gets “husky” sometimes, which confuses me. Isn’t husky a style of jeans for chunky boys?

Anyway, Elizabeth is totally losing her shit about Jessica dyeing her hair. And I mean TOTALLY losing her shit. She writes in her journal, “I don’t want to make too big a thing out of this, but I really feel lost every time I look at her and see a stranger staring back.” Seriously? Your sister used temporary dye to change her hair color, its not like she’s Heidi Montag and she had a face transplant!

Its like Jessica is Clark Kent or something. She has darker hair, new clothes and a fakeass British accent and everyone’s like “Who is that?”

I cannot tell you how many times I showed up at school (and maybe even work) with a radically different hair color, only to be met with apathy and only the occasional comment like, “Hey, did you dye your hair?” No sensation. No teachers asking if I was a new student. Thanks, Sweet Valley High for unreasonably raising my expectations, only to leave me let down and disappointed…..AGAIN.

Elizabeth continues her downward spiral toward suicide because she loses her journal, which is filled with secrets like “Jeffery is sooooo cute” and “I’m sad that Jessica dyed her hair”. The trauma seems to make her delusional, because she decides that Jeffery is really in love with Jessica and her new look. She’s also convinced that someone intentionally stole her stupid journal. Would someone get this girl a Prozac please?

Jessica is too busy pretending to like espresso and read Paris Match to notice any of this. But when Elizabeth gets all emo and tells Jessica that Jeffery is totally into her new look, she does what anyone would do and tries to hook up with him. Apparently, Jessica thinks that the way into a boy’s pants is through his mouth, because she buys a bunch of food for him in the school cafeteria in an attempt to woo him. But, Jeffery only gets husky for Elizabeth, so he totally rejects Jessica’s advances.

Jessica meets a modeling scout who tries to get her a job modeling in the Lytton and Brown department store fashion show. Sadly, the owner of the store is not into her edgy, emo look but is totally hot for Elizabeth. He refuses to believe that Jessica and Elizabeth are twins because Jessica’s hair is black and she is so “unconventional and stylized”. He literally insists that Elizabeth come and model in the fashion show. So, Jessica just rinses that black hair dye out (because that’s totally how hair dye works) and both she and Elizabeth wind up in the fashion show!

Oh and Elizabeth finds her stupid journal and she and Jeffery gaze into each other’s eyes and they get all husky together, and I throw up in my mouth a little.



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