After oh so many books, Ellen has finally grown a backbone. Her parents finally agreed to let her have her own phone line, as long as she pays for it out of her own allowance. Janet's birthday is coming up, and everyone wants to plan a big party. She uses her phone to call everyone and get gift ideas but claims she couldn't get through to Jessica because the Wakefield line was busy. Jessica has a few ideas but they all outvote her and decide to get Janet a gift certificate for a psychic reading.
Jessica really hates the idea of Ellen taking over and decides that they should throw the party at her house. She can't use the phone to call anyone though because Steven won't get off the phone with his girlfriend. Ellen calls everyone that same night and gets their support to have the party at her house. Janet then calls and asks her to host the next Unicorn meeting since she's busy.
Anyone curious why Janet isn't around so much? Apparently Janet has gone goth lite. Since watching a movie on beatnik poets, she turned into one herself. She now dresses all in black, carries around old poetry books, and pretends that she's a poet too and writes in a notebook. Two of the other members join her but the rest think the whole thing is ridiculous.
After seeing a commercial for three way calling, Jessica begs her parents to get it, thinking that she can make fewer calls and still outdo Ellen. They refuse, so she and Liz come up with a plan. They both go to their friends' houses to work on group projects. They then call home and ask Ned for a ride. He has to keep calling back and forth between both of them to make the arrangements. After like 10 calls, he gives up and adds three way calling to their line.
Ellen announces the meeting at her house, but Jessica can't go because Alice wants everyone there for a big meeting with her new client. Everything goes well until Ellen sees her dad in ratty old clothes and a hat with a stuffed lobster sewn to the top. He teases the girls, she gets super embarrassed and makes him leave. She then spends the rest of the meeting worrying about what they thought but winds up happy when they decide to have the birthday party at her house.
Alice's new client is a woman named Elvira who is opening a new vegetarian restaurant. The twins spend the night helping her make a vegetable lasagna for dinner. Elvira gets there and immediately shoots down all of Alice's ideas. She then announces that she doesn't eat dairy, has a dinner of plain bread and salad, and leaves extremely unhappy.
Jessica calls Mandy that same night and learns about the party plans. Mandy isn't too happy because the last time she ate at Ellen's house, her dad burned the hot dogs. Jessica then calls Lila and uses her three way calling to patch in Ellen. After hanging up on her, she makes a comment about Ellen's dad poisoning Mandy. Turns out Ellen was still on the line. She flips out, they start yelling, and Lila uses that as an excuse to get off the line. Jessica and Ellen almost instantly make up and laugh off the whole thing.
The next day turns into a huge game of telephone. Lila tells someone about Ellen's dad giving food poisoning to Mandy. It spreads from one girl to the next and eventually becomes a story about how he poisoned a teacher, went to jail, and is now on parole. Janet gets Ellen alone to tell her that they don't want to have the party at her house because of her dad. Ellen understands because she thinks it's because he was embarrassing, but then Janet tells her about how her dad is a criminal. They have a huge fight, and Ellen makes Janet call her dad to find out he isn't a criminal.
This causes a huge division in the club with Jessica right in the middle. Janet calls her a spy for Mandy's group, Mandy says she's spying for Janet, and they all stop talking to her. She ends up breaking down in the middle of the cafeteria and crying. Liz takes her to the bathroom, and they work out a plan to make everyone calm down.
Jessica calls her school group members, pretends to hang up, and then talks about how Johnny Buck is playing at Janet's party. Liz does the same thing with her group. The rumor spreads all across the school and turns into a story about how he made a special song for Janet, plans on giving her a birthday gift, and is moving to Sweet Valley. They all show up at her house for the party, and she reveals that all she said was he would be playing the party and that she didn't lie because she has his new CD. The other girls feel pretty stupid but decide to make up and become friends again.
*Ellen has one of those clear phones with the neon components. I totally had that same phone though I didn't have my own line.
*The group projects are about the Cold War. Jessica's group does one on the space race, and Liz's group does McCarthyism. That seems pretty advanced to me. I did a 30 page paper on the "red scare" but it wasn't until I was in high school.
*Janet being a beatnik is so out of left field. This is a girl who flips out when someone touches her makeup or hair brush, but she's suddenly wearing white powder all over her face and acting all depressed.
*I can't remember there ever being another reference to the Wakefield family having three way calling. They're the only family they know to have it other than Lila and her dad.
*The beatnik girls all drink java and go on and on about how it's so much better than coffee. Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't it just a certain type of coffee? It's also something seventh grade girls should not be drinking.
*Elvira makes Alice search all over for tables made a certain type of wood and then sends them all back because the wood is endangered. Isn't that something she should have known before ordering?
*Elvira also fires her. Jessica tells her mom she should just design a place with hay on the floor and candles in buckets on top of ordinary picnic tables. It turns out that Elvira hires a designer who does exactly that.
*I find it hard to believe that Sweet Valley never had a vegetarian restaurant before!