Who's To Blame?
July 1990Elizabeth is running away!
Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield's parents have separated. Mr. Wakefield has moved into an apartment of his own, and the house seems empty without him. Elizabeth has never been so miserable. She would do anything to bring her family together again.
Then Jessica tells her twin that she thinks their parents' separation is all Elizabeth's fault! Distraught and guilt-ridden, Elizabeth decides to move away from home. If she really is the cause of her parents' unhappiness, perhaps they'll get back together once she is out of the way... Spoiler
: Liz's harebrained plan kinda works. I mean, she runs away and Ned comes running back. But I shouldn't point that out because it's not exactly what she had in mind and it's not like he's home for good by the end of the book, eh?
Anyway, we begin our book on the first day of an unnamed month. For a change of pace, Jessica is waking Liz up because Liz has overslept this particular Saturday. Turns out it's Ned's moving day, which is why Liz didn't want to get up. I'm not going to snark this because I totally get not wanting to get up and face reality, but I do have to wonder: why is Ned the one moving out considering Alice was the one who walked away from her family? I assume this is just because it's always the father to move out, especially when the book was written, but still. It doesn't make a ton of sense.
Alice has already left by the time Liz is woken up and Jessica's ticked that her mother couldn't even be bothered to stick around for this, but Liz gets that it's probably too hard for Alice to watch/help her husband move out.
It's weird that we're told that Ned has a lot of stuff to move and that moving all these boxes helps keep Liz's mind off what's happening but all his stuff can fit in his car? What about furniture? Is he renting a furnished apartment? That would make sense, I suppose, but we're never told.
The kids ride over to the new place in Steven's VW and I'm left wondering why one of them doesn't go with Ned but perhaps he just really needed that last bit of room in his car. It's possible. When they get there, everyone is varying shades of off. Steve doesn't say much, Liz is trying not to cry at how depressing the building itself is, and Jessica's over there thrilled about the cool dimmer switch for the chandelier. Jess, your mother is an interior decorator. I'm pretty sure this isn't some new technology for you to be amazed by.
Ned tells the kids that they're welcome any time and that he knows this is hard on all of them and Liz has to be dragged away by her siblings because her heart is breaking.
The next day, our ghosty is most confused as to whether you can use the words brunch and breakfast interchangeably. You cannot, ghosty. You cannot. I do like the callback to Sunday brunches at the Wakefields, however so I'll let this one go. Brunch doesn't go well when Alice nopes on out of there without so much as a muffin on her way to work and the kids decide to go for one another's throats. Honestly, Alice, I get that this is hard for you, but the kids all ask you to stay and you run off. Again. This isn't an emergency at work, this is you avoiding your family/emotions.
Jessica and Steven immediately take opposing sides, with Jessica squarely on team Ned and Steven on team Alice. Liz tries to point out that there should be no sides in this and she gets jumped on and the family is basically at war, with Liz convinced that this is all her fault. If you take a shot each time she mentions this, you will need a new liver. Or, like me, you'll quickly lose track and just say to hell with it.
After the brunch from hell, Liz rides over to Enid's house and marvels at how different it is at Enid's. She's felt uncomfortable at Todd's lately because his family is still very happy family-esque while Enid's is just as happy, it isn't the perfect family either since Mr. Rollins isn't around. Things are easier for Liz at Enid's and I get the awww's because I will forever adore Enid and Elizabeth's friendship. FOREVER.
Alas, despite acknowledging that Enid knows quite a bit about divorce, she still refuses to listen when Enid assures her that no matter what Elizabeth thinks, this is not her fault. This has to do with Ned and Alice and not anything Elizabeth (or Jessica or Steven) has done. Oh, Liz. You are so far down the rabbit hole of "no one understands my pain, my pain is so unique" that you might be the most realistic version of a teenager you've been in quite awhile. Alas, it's also annoying as shit because even as a kid I knew you were being extra dumb.
Sunday evening, Jessica heads to Lila's for dinner and Steve's MIA so Liz and her mother are alone for dinner and this seems to depress them both. I dunno, I'm making tacos for one right now
and that's not so bad, so what's wrong with tacos for two? Anyway, they discuss how Alice has been thinking about how she's made some mistakes. Like, I dunno, not taking that ultimatum seriously, I guess. Alice says her career is important, but not as important as her marriage and Liz takes this to mean that this is ALL HER FAULT.
Oi, Liz. Just oi. (Also: I hope that Alice and Ned both realize that it's not just Alice who was spending too much time on other things because if not, the rage that will fill me in the next book might just be too much for the world to stand.)
Remember Jessica's B plot last book involving Charlie, the guy she met on the teen party line? Well, that bill finally comes due and Alice flips her shit because the phone bill is $375. I feel your pain, Jess. A friend and I racked up a similar bill making calls to Australia and other places. And then I did it again solo years later and had to give up the best shoes ever... because unlike Jessica, I knew enough to know that I had to pay for my mistake. Nope, Jessica gets fussed at by Alice and has her allowance revoked (seriously, how does Jessica still have an allowance? She's always over-spent on something or gotten an advance.) and there's even talk of her getting a job to pay off the rest. Jessica will not stand for this taking of responsibility, so at first she tries to play it off as if she had to call the teen line because of the trouble at home. Alice ain't buying this BS and so Jessica gets the idea to sell her song of woe to her father. Ned falls for it and later calls Alice to suggest that perhaps she was too harsh on their youngest. Naturally this goes over spectacularly well... but it doesn't stop Jessica from exploiting Ned's guilt later on.
Liz, meanwhile, is flaking out at school. We only see proof of this with English class and The Oracle. Seems she blew off a big interview for the paper and Penny stops by to ask what's up. Mr. Collins is also baffled by Liz half-assing a paper and I'm gonna have to call full BS on Collins and partial on Penny. Penny claims to be worried that Liz has finally tired of The Oracle and moved on to other things, while Collins seems to have absolutely no idea that Ned and Alice have broken up. Bull. Shit. Lila and Amy know about it, and you know damn well those two can't keep their mouths shut and also there's no flippin' way Caroline hasn't gotten wind of this, so this shit is all over the school. Also, Sweet Valley has always been portrayed as a small town kinda place so you know full well that adults talk and Collins would know, especially since he's the 'cool' teacher.
Sigh. Anyway, Collins is all confused as to why Liz isn't doing her work up to her normal standards and why she's staring off into space when he's trying to teach Othello
over here. Liz decides not to talk about it because it'll make it too real and I could quibble with this, but again, I get it.
Todd, however, is going to somehow manage to make me aww and want to strangle him all in the same book. Such skill! You see, Todd knows about the Wakefield separation and he's doing his best to be there for Liz. He offers his shoulder repeatedly and tries to make sure that Liz takes time for herself instead of simply taking on all the problems at home by herself. In return, Liz is both amazed and freaked out. She's so sure that she caused her parents' split and that she's the reason Steven and Jessica are at each other's throats (I mean, it's not like they fight a lot anyway... oh, wait) that she's sure she doesn't deserve Todd, especially since he's being so nice and attentive to her. Plus, all love ends terribly and you should avoid pain at all costs.
Come Friday, Todd has bought tickets to see one of Liz's favorite singers that we've never heard of at a club we've also never heard of, and Liz is not here for this. She wants to go home, chill with her mother and her family, and basically just unplug from the world. Todd tries to understand. I think. This is one of the argh moments. On the one hand, I get where he's coming from. Liz needs to get out and take her mind off the stuff at home. On the other, I get that Liz feels she should be at home with her mother for the first weekend of the split. Todd comes up with the idea that he could get a third ticket and Alice could go with them and Liz shoots this down real quick.
Todd pushes things and Liz winds up dumping him mere minutes after thinking how lucky she is to have him in her life. Depression, folks. It's a helluva drug.
Liz spends the evening with her mother and tells Todd she's not discussing things further until Monday. She admits her split to Jessica later and Jessica is thrilled because Liz on the loose! Remember this feeling, Clone 2, because you're gonna regret it really soon.
Enid stops by over the weekend to ask WTF is going on with Liz and Todd and Liz continues to blame herself for things and says she's not ready for a relationship at the moment. Enid gives her the look of "bitch, you crazy" but it goes right over Elizabeth's head. I love that Enid has taken it upon herself to try and tether Liz to reality because no one else, other than Todd, is trying. Seriously, not a single other friend of Elizabeth's shows up unless you count Penny, and that was a work thing. I expected better of Olivia, honestly.
Also, as an aside, how is Maria Santelli holding up? This book doesn't mention it but I wonder.
Anyway, the next week Liz goes to school in a micro-mini skirt and accepts all the dates, so long as you aren't Todd Wilkins. Jessica gets fed up with this real fast, especially once her B plot goes south. You see, she's tired of Amy and Lila mocking her for having a boyfriend she's never actually met, so she corners Charlie and forces him to appear on an actual date. And he does and he's almost too good looking for words, but he's dull as dishwater and nothing like his phone personality. Jessica gives him a second chance and he's somehow even worse over dinner at a sushi place.
With Charlie shuttled off to the side temporarily, Jess is on the prowl. Alas, her sister has lined up dates with all the guys we've never heard of before who are somehow real catches. Also: how many redheads go to SVH? There's some new Texan dude and Allison something or other is flitting around Todd and I swear anytime we split Todd and Liz up and he gets a random girl in his orbit, she's a redhead "with a great figure." Weird.
Sigh. By Thursday, Jessica is pissed off and she goes OFF on Liz after her day from hell. Not only is Liz hogging all the eligible potential boyfriends, but she's also the reason Ned and Alice split up and Jessica is tired of no one talking about that. Steve, who had until that moment been feuding with Jessica, is aghast. Liz, did you really give out the number to the Inn and kill our parents' weekend getaway? I mean, uh, obviously that couldn't be the only reason they split but... the damage is done. Liz gets the idea to run away and the next day she meets Enid at the Box Tree Cafe and explains that she's running away to Dallas or Michigan.
Enid, being awesome, tells her that no she's not. She's coming home with her so that when she snaps out of this insanity (she's nicer about it), she won't be miles away and that much poorer. Plus, Enid wants to keep her best friend close by and dude, I get this on a level I can't even begin to articulate. All the love, Enid. All the love.
Enid's mother is fine with this so long as Liz tells her parents where she is. Liz fudges this in the letters Enid makes her type, but I think Enid lets her get away with it because anyone who hears that Liz is "staying with a friend" is going to assume that friend is Enid. Liz is one step ahead and after they deliver the letters to both Wakefield parents (well, the houses), she takes the phone of the hook and keeps it off all night long.
While the remaining Wakefields freak out (they do try Enid's first, btw), Enid calms Liz down with rom-coms and talking and being awesome. I suspect cookies were also involved.
The next morning Alice has tracked Liz down to Enid's (I assume someone eventually put the phone back on the hook) and takes her home where Ned and Alice explain that they handled the split badly and that it was never meant to be permanent, but that they needed space and it wasn't Elizabeth's fault because it wasn't anyone's
fault... and things look up for the first time in forever.
To make up for being a royal bitch, Jessica cooks up a scheme to get Todd and Liz back together. She ropes Steve in and of course the plan works because twin switches always do. Jess dresses like Liz, has Todd meet her at the fourth picnic table at Secca Lake and then confesses she was a dumbass to break up with him. Steve and Liz are within earshot of Todd confessing his love for Liz and before he can do anything like get smoochy, Jessica runs back to her car for something and on the way tags Liz in and the lovebirds live happily ever after.
Just in time for the PBA costume party. Jessica has learned that the Charlie she met wasn't the real Charlie and was instead a cute but hopelessly dull friend of his named Brook. Jessica convinces the real Charlie to go on a double date with Brook, Amy, and Jessica to the costume party. Charlie agrees and when he shows up Jessica admits (in her head) that he's not conventionally handsome, but he's awfully taken with Amy and her 'satire of a cheerleader' costume. No, Charles, she is a cheerleader because she's too lazy to think of a better costume. I expected better of you. Brook, however, is excused because no one cares about him. Jessica the Intergalactic Space Princess swears off men forever and pledges her newfound free time to making sure Ned Wakefield is elected Mayor.
I feel like lightning and thunder should crash as we fade to black. Trivia:
- Liz set her alarm on Ned's moving day for 9am but slept through it. Jessica finally woke her up at 10:30am.
- Ned moves out on the first of the month (a Saturday) though we're never told which month this is.
- Alice leaves the house around 9:30am, well before Ned moved out. Jessica is ticked but Liz gets it.
- Ned's new building is plain sandstone, six stories tall, without much character.
- Every time James Knapp is mentioned, it's always as "Henry Patman's friend."
- Liz notes that Alice appears to have lost weight and that there are dark circles under her eyes, all of which cause her to look older. Yep, busy at work and failing home life will age you.
- Enid says she ate a gallon of fudge ripple icecream when her father moved out.
- Alice admits to Liz that she should never have left the Tahoe trip and that while work is important to her, it's not more important than her marriage and family.
- It's been eons since we had a dance, so PBA is here to rectify it. Amy wants fun and casual and Lila wants formal. (Isn't this the same issue that will later kill Sam as it prompts the twins to duke it out over being queen of the jungle prom?) Ultimately, the sorority goes with a costume party.
- The book takes place over the course of a little over two weeks, just in case you wondered. That's how long it takes for PBA to come up with the party and plan it. I'm impressed.
- Jessica claims that "some weirdo was calling Japan and giving the Fowlers' phone card number" and ran up a $600 bill. Not sure if this actually happened or if it's something she's throwing out there to see if Alice will let her off the hook before having to tell the truth.
- Of the $375 phone bill, Jessica racked up about $300 worth. Alice mutters about $11 on the 8th and $14 on the 9th... Honestly, given the way the last book portrayed Jessica's marathon phone sessions, I think they got off light.
- I don't know about you guys, but it tickles me that everyone assumes when a 900 number is mentioned that it's a party line and not, y'know, a sex line.
- Jessica favors Ned to such a degree that she asks if she can move in with him should Ned and Alice divorce.
- Amy suggestions for costumes for Jessica and Charlie? Phantoms or the Invisible Man.
- Apparently Sweet Valley has multiple skating rinks.
- Amy has heard Charlie over the phone but still threatens to tell PBA that Jessica made the guy up if he doesn't materialize soon.
- Todd suggests: Bonnie & Clyde, Batman and Catwoman, King and Queen of Hearts, book ends.
- Liz snaps that they don't have to have matching costumes, but they wind up as Romeo and Juliet. Liz, I think Todd's ideas were better.
- Jessica snarks that Steven is always around considering he's supposed to be at college.
- The Wednesday after Ned moved out, Steve has still not called or talked to his father at all.
- Jessica sets a date with Charlie for 3pm at the downtown Sweet Valley Roller Rink.
- Liz gets a "see me about this" not a grade on her paper.
- Liz forgets that she had a date with Todd to go shopping for his mother's birthday gift.
- Jessica comes in with the mail, all excited over junk mail prizes. Can't decide whether to laugh at her or think this is adorable.
- Penny complains that Liz has missed two Oracle meetings this month, but she makes this claim on Thursday and the month just started Saturday so either Penny doesn't mean calendar month or Liz is really just blowing everything off.
- Liz also blew off her interview with Jason Fisherman, leader of the local chapter of the California Civic Rights group. No word on whether this was a double booking for her shopping date with Todd or if Thursday is just when Jason called Penny to complain.
- Jessica only has $11 in her wallet but when she asks Lila for a loan, Lila turns her down and suggests that duh, try Ned. Guilt is an excellent motivator.
- School gets out early Friday due to a teachers' meeting.
- Liz says she loves Todd's maroon and blue plaid flannel shirt.
- Sondra Gray is one of Liz's favorite singers, and she'll be performing that Friday night at the Palace.
- Jessica comes home around 10pm on Friday night after dinner with her father. That seems kinda late, even if she was hitting him up for money.
- Jessica uses Ned's guilt money to buy a suede vest and "western looking jeans." Man, I remember the brief Western craze...
- Jessica tells Amy not to make a play for Todd because Liz would be mad and then Jessica would have to be mad at Amy. Aww.
- "Charlie's" voice is higher, he's tall around 6'2, with fairly thick sandy blond hair. He's almost too handsome with chiseled features and very smooth skin. He has dark eyes and a perfect smile, and comes to the rink wearing jeans and a trendy sweater. Alas, Brook Atkins has the personality of cardboard.
- Charlie and Jessica try again Wednesday night for sushi, which goes even worse.
- Enid returns some books to Liz and tries to plead Todd's case the weekend of the breakup.
- Paul Jeffries is a cute senior who has written a few articles for The Oracle. He's tall with dark, curly hair, a nice smile, and grey blue eyes. He recently broke up with his girlfriend and a lot of people think he's the most eligible guy at school. (What, I wonder, does Bruce Patman have to say about this?) Enid thinks he's a womanizer who has gone out with a dozen girls this month alone. Pretty impressive since the month just started.
- Liz dates Paul on Monday, Steve Anderson, a quiet but attractive junior on Tuesday (tennis date), goes to the beach with John Campbell, a cute redheaded Texan with green eyes, on Wednesday and is set to go out with Paul again on Thursday for icecream.
- Paul confuses Jessica and Liz and Jessica is not happy about it.
- Jessica runs out of gas four blocks from home and has to walk to the gas station, convince someone to help her out, and then gets home only to find out that she's forgotten her keys and is locked out.
- Steve learns the truth about the Tahoe trip during the Thursday blowout.
- Ned and Alice have lunch that same Thursday and it's "nice."
- Liz blanks on her English exam.
- She decides to run away to Dallas to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Jenny, or if they won't have her, her grandparents in Michigan.
- Steven's VW is yellow, in case you wondered.
- "Dear Mom, Dad, Jessica, and Steven, I want you to know how sorry I am for what's happened. I know I'm to blame for everything. I don't feel right living at home now, as you can probably understand. But please don't worry about me- I'm staying with a friend, and I'm absolutely fine. I promise I'll call you as soon as I feel ready. I love you all- and again, I'm so, so sorry. Love, Elizabeth." - Liz's letter that Enid makes her write two copies of so Ned isn't left out.
- Mrs. Rollins says that Elizabeth can stay with them as long as Liz lets her parents know where she is so they don't worry. You'll notice she doesn't do that.
- Lila's date for the PBA dance is a guy she met at a dance class she's taking.
- Amy plans to ask a guy out from her tennis class but that falls through.
- Jessica calls the party line again and talks to Sara who tells her that Charlie sent his friend Brook Atkins in his place.
- When Sara tries to warn Jessica that Charlie's really not handsome, Jessica is pretty jealous at the thought of Sara having met Charlie.
- The real Charlie Ryan has a bumpy nose, is a little too thin, has brown eyes that are a little too close together, and comes to the PBA party dressed as a pirate.
- The reason it takes all night for Alice to track Liz down at Enid's is because Todd's family seems to have gone out/is not answering the phone, and Elizabeth left the phone off the hook at Enid's.
- Enid and Elizabeth stay up until 2am watching videos on the TV in Enid's room where Mrs. Rollins has set up a cot with a cozy quilt and two down pillows for Elizabeth to sleep on. They watch at least one rom-com and talk about the Todd situation.
- Todd spends the week of his breakup with Liz alternating between being hounded by Amy, hanging out with cute sophomore Allison (who has short red hair and a great figure), and bugging Enid about his breakup.
- For the twin switch at Secca Lake, Jessica wears blue jeans, a white cotton sweater, and does her hair in a french braid. She's less than thrilled at Elizabeth's sartorial choices, btw.
- Jessica and Todd meet at the 4th picnic table at Secca Lake.
- Jessica goes to the PBA party as an intergalactic princess with lots of foil in her hair and a silver cape on loan from Lila. Not gonna lie, her costume sounds awesome.
- Amy shows up as a cheerleader and Brook is "the country club type." Oh, honey, that is not a costume.
- Brook is meant to be Jessica's date but he and Charlie spend the night fawning over Amy.
Elizabeth stared at her twin. "You know that isn't true-" she began.
But that was the last thing to say to Jessica right then. "Quit sounding so preachy, Liz! How do you know what I know and what I don't?" - Jessica wants in on that realistic teenager action. pg 16
"Listen, you don't want to watch this junk," Todd said, switching off the video with the remote control. "Tell me what you're feeling instead." - Look, I know everyone and their sister calls Logan Bruno out for setting up unrealistic expectations, but this? Your move, Bruno. pg 11
"Hey, have you given any thought as to who we should dress up as for the party?" he asked Elizabeth. "How about Bonnie and Clyde? I could wear a fedora and try to look dangerous." - I don't know why, but Todd cracks me up each time I read this. pg 39
Todd was waiting for her outside of English class, his jacket slung over one shoulder. For just an instant Elizabeth felt butterflies in her stomach, the way she had when she and Todd first met.
"Hey," he said, leaning over and giving her a warm hug. "Remember me? I just thought I'd come charm you to death and see if I couldn't convince you to fall in love with me all over again." - These are your lead ups to Liz breaking up with Todd, btw. Sure, other stuff happens in the meantime, but this is how it begins. pg 64
"Playing the field is one thing. Going for all the players at one time is another," Jessica said hotly. - Liz, I think Jessica just called you a ho. pg 102
Maybe she shouldn't have accused her of causing the separation, she thought. It wasn't all
Elizabeth's fault - like fifty or sixty percent or so. - How generous, Jessica. p110
WtB is actually a better book than Trouble at Home. Stuff actually happens and if you're like me and enjoy a good starting point for What If...
stories, this one's got a fair amount. For instance, Jessica is forever harping on Liz being a one guy kinda gal, right? How it's dull and she should play the field like Jessica! But literally every single time she's done so thus far in the series, she out Jessicas- Jessica. Every. Single. Time. Liz and Todd break up and she spends the next week dating someone new pretty much every day. Even Jessica can't pull that off, but Liz does it like it's no big deal. Stop wishing for Liz to be more like you, Jess. You can never handle it.
Or what about the idea of Todd/Amy? I can't actually picture it, at all, but I blame a big part of that on the fact that I can't really stand SVH!Amy so my brain tries not to think about her. Ever. Whatever the case, Amy does make a play for him off-screen.
Mostly I enjoy Enid just being a really good friend to Liz, especially when she knows Liz is going overboard. She tries to talk Liz down from her woe is me mentality and when that doesn't work, she makes sure that she's around for when Liz needs her. Enid is good people. ♥