Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #8: The Secret of the Magic Pen


Jessica and Elizabeth are completely bored even though summer just started. Lila took off on some trip across Europe with her dad, and Amy enrolled in a summer program for super smart kids that Liz – for some reason – decided to skip. Luckily, Ned and Alice announce that they got them enrolled in a two-week summer camp starting in a few days. Liz can't wait to sit down and work on her novel, while Jessica just wants to go shopping.

They run into Mandy Miller on the bus and meet two new girls. Starr is African American girl obsessed with Shakespeare. She seriously quotes his plays constantly. Miranda is obsessed with acting and actually acted in some Shakespeare plays before. When they arrive at camp, Jessica shares a bunk with Miranda, and Starr and Liz share a bunk.

At the first campfire, they hear about how Roland Barge, this super famous novelist from the 1940s, once came up there to stay in one of the cabins and write. They also learn that there are a series of caves running under the ground. Their counselor takes them on a tour of the caves. This girl Priscilla complains about the caves, the walking, the food, and anything else she can name before seeing a bat and running screaming from the caves. Liz stays behind because she sees something on the ground. When she finally picks it up, it's an antique fountain pen that she slips in her pocket without anyone seeing.

She shows it to Jess, but since it doesn't concern her, she doesn't really care. When she finally sits down to write, the story just pours out of her. It's all about this women named Amelia who lived at the camp when it was a private estate. She was a maid but dreamed of being a writer. Amelia shared her stories with this guy Richard who thought she would be a success. One day, after he visited her and left, she found the pages of her manuscript burning up in the fireplace.

Jessica auditions for a role in some play that's pretty much The Prince and The Pauper. Priscilla goes out for the lead and keeps bragging about how she's so good. Jessica loses her script, blames the other girl, and their counselor finds the pages burning in the fireplace. Liz thinks it's creepy given what she just wrote, but once again, it doesn't concern Jess so she doesn't care.

The writing half of the camp plans to put out a newspaper at the end of their program, and Elizabeth gets to write an article about Barge's life. Any admiration that she had for him disappears when she learns about his life. He always refused to talk about his life before he became famous, and he lived as a recluse who barely spent any of his millions. He was known as an asshole, and no one knows how or when he died.

Priscilla does really badly at her audition. She reads the stage directions, seems to have stage freight, and just does horribly. Jessica gets the lead in the play, and Priscilla gets assigned the role of a maid, which she refuses to play. Liz then decides to sit down and do some more writing on her novel, but nothing comes out. That's when she realizes that it's not her doing the writing but the pen, because she tried to write with a pencil.

She goes back to writing with the pen and adds more to the story. Amelia found a note from Richard asking her to meet him on the lake later that night. She heads off in her boat and gets to the middle of the water just as a storm hits. When she sees a light, she thinks that it's Richard coming to her rescue. The next morning, she wakes up and finds that a random fisherman saved her life, and he reveals that someone rigged her boat to sink in the water.

Gunnie, the owner of the camp and the director of the play, rides Jessica a little too hard one day. Wanting to find a quiet place to rehearse, Jess takes a rowboat onto the water just as a storm arrive. Liz, realizing that the story was a sign of what might happen, takes off after her. A random fisherman saves them both and points out that someone tampered with the boat.

Liz and Jess later come across Gunnie. When she reveals that she knew Roland during his younger years, Liz sits her down for an interview. Her uncle originally owned the property and left it to her when he died. It turns out that Roland originally went by the name of Richard and was infatuated with a servant named Amelia. Basically everything from her story is true. The only difference is that she says Amelia left behind a note that said she was running away with another man, which devastated Richard. She tells Jessica and has her read the pages, and her sister finally gives a shit.

When she writes some more, she learns even more about what happened. Richard left another note for Amelia and asked her to meet him in the caves. She was a little scared but didn't have a way to get in touch with him to change their plans. Once she got to the caves, Richard lured her deeper inside before grabbing her and strangling her.

Liz runs to check on Jessica and somehow convinces Gunnie to go with her to the caves. They find Jessica laying on the ground and moaning, and she claims that someone tried to strangle her. The pen comes to life and has Liz write a special message on the cave wall. It says that she's Amelia and that Richard murdered her. Gunnie points out that they can't do anything without proof, which causes the pen to make her write again with a message to check underneath the stables.

They run to the stables, life the boards, and find all the proof they need. Roland left behind all of her manuscripts and his failed attempts at writing. He only had one novel published under his name, which was a huge failure. He also conveniently left behind a journal that detailed how he killed Amelia and then later went back to that same spot and killed himself.

Elizabeth writes a huge article that lands on the front page of the camp newspaper. When they get home, Jessica gets a call from Lila using a French accent. Liz interrupts the phone call to tell her that there's a rave review for her acting in the paper too. When Lila asks what they did in boring old Sweet Valley, Jessica lets her know that her summer was anything but boring.

*Jessica comes into Elizabeth's room in a purple bikini and starts checking herself for tan lines in the mirror. Am I the only one that finds that creepy of a kid?

*Jessica has always dreamed about going away to camp. I guess she forgot about the 317 times she already went?

*Steven is the only one who thinks the idea of a sixth grader writing a novel is ridiculous. Alice, Ned, and Jessica think that she'll whip it out in no time.

*Is it really realistic for sixth grade kids to know so much about Shakespeare? I think I was a freshmen when we read his work for the first time and even then, I wasn't sure I understood it at all.

*Gunnie is kind of a bitch. She practically screams at them that the play has to go perfectly and that no one is practicing enough. Lady, this is a play put on by kids and and you only gave them less than two weeks anyway!

*Gunnie also says that she inherited the estate but then says she only had the stables and another part. But in Elizabeth's story, some of the camp buildings actually sit right on top of the old buildings that were part of the estate.

*If Barge was really that famous, why wouldn't the story run in major newspapers instead of some rinky dink camp paper?

*Those camp writers move awfully fast! The play takes part the last night of camp, but Liz shows Jessica a review of her performance in the paper. Plus, why didn't Jessica want to read it before?

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