Some super famous play director named Mr. Goodman chooses one high school every year to stage a new play and shocker of shockers, he chose Sweet Valley High this year. Jessica wants the female lead in MacBeth. She and Lila duke it out because this is one of those books where Lila randomly wants to be a famous actress. Jessica spends all of her free time preparing for the troy outs and ignores all her friends and Sam.
She also can't help noticing this random girl staring at her all the time. After asking around, she finds out that it's a new sophomore name Paula. Paula finally works up the nerve to talk to Jessica and raves about her so much that Jess decides that she's probably okay. Jessica winds up landing the big role and Lila gets cast as a witch. She refuses to do the part until they butter her up about how she's got such a great range that the role would be perfect for her.
While helping Jessica rehearse for the play, Liz overhears Paula giving one of the speeches from the play while Jess takes a phone call. She tells her that she's really good and asks why she didn't try out for the play. Paula tells Liz all about how her mom died and her dad is super abusive. After her brother ran away, he turned his abuse towards her. Since she didn't have any other family, she moved in with some friends of her mom. Liz then tells Jess, who obviously wonders why Paula opened up to someone she hardly knows rather than her.
Paula then goes after Jessica's friends. She asks Lila for a tennis lesson, which turns into doubles with them, Amy, and Annie. They start going shopping together and spending all their free time together. Paula gives Annie a headband that her grandmother gave her, and when someone points out that she said she had no family, she says that it's her dad's mom to explain why she isn't living with her.
Jessica gets so wrapped up in the play that she doesn't have time for anyone, but Paula keeps popping up to "help" her. Jess starts to feel a little left out, especially when her friends start talking about all the fun they had without her. After giving Paula a makeover, she notices that the other girl suddenly has all this extra confidence and even starts hitting on a college student helping with the show. When she tries to talk to her twin, Liz just rolls her eyes and thinks her sister is jealous that someone else is getting attention.
Liz runs into Paula in the hallway at school, and Paula lets it slip that she knew Liz was coming from study hall even though she says she didn't know, which is a little odd. Liz asks her to pass along a message to Jessica that some big deal LA paper is sending a reviewer to the show. While she says she will, Jessica actually finds out from someone else a few days later. Paula also says she's too scared to try out for the play, but after Jessica convinces her to audition for one of the smaller roles, it turns out that she already met the director before. She also works with him to change on of Jessica's scenes so Paula takes center stage and seems to know everything about the play.
Steven finally convinces Jess to take a night off and hang out with her friends at the Dairi Burger. She gets there just in time to see Paula basically stroking Sam's arm and flirting with her. Though she sits down with her friends, she ends up running out of the restaurant after seeing Sam and Paula again. Sam follows her outside, they have a huge fight, and he storms off. They make up, but she thinks he doesn't take her seriously.
Everyone else just loves Paula. When she starts making snide comments about Jessica, they assume that she finally grew a back bone. Every time Jess snaps at her or does something even slightly Jessica like, everyone gasps and/or snaps at her and Paula plays the woe is me card. This eventually leads to the two girls fighting and Jessica pulling away from her.
Cut to the night of the show. Paula calls Jessica in tears a few hours before the curtain and says her dad convinced her to drive to a nearby town and help him. When she got there, he told her that she had to live with him now. Jessica decides to go and help her even though she has the show. On the way out the door, she forgets to leave a note.
Liz gets home and realizes that Jessica is missing. The only person she can think to call is Paula. Paula's not at all dead mother answers the phone and reveals that Paula's dad died years ago leaving just Paula, her mom, and her not at all runaway brother. That same brother just took her out to buy a dress for the cast party because they're so excited about seeing her in her first lead role.
Jessica gets incredibly lost and finally finds a map. Turns out that Paula sent her on a wild goose chase. She calls the director to tell him that she'll be late, and he tells her he can't hold the curtain for her and that it's a good thing her understudy Paula is there and already in costume. Jessica gets to the auditorium just in time to see Paula in the play.
We then get to the after party. Paula shows up in a brand new dress with the hot college guy, and no one can get enough of her. The reviewer gushes about how great she was, and Paula says her mother is super happy for her. A few people look confused but get distracted and forget what she said. Jessica then stands up and gives a big speech about how Paula lied about her family and tricked Jessica into giving up her spot in the play. Paula turns on her before flouncing away with some others in tow, but most people stand with Jessica.
The next day, they have a big pool party at the Wakefield house. Everyone reads the reviews, and while Paula did get good reviews, most focus on Bill and how great he was in the lead role. Paula shows up looking super hot and babbles on and on about how great she is and how the director agreed to help her get an agent in New York. After far too long, she realizes that no one gives a damn and fakes crying, saying that they should be happy for her. Jessica then tells her that they were her friends until she pulled her crap. She gets pissed and tries to storm off, but trips over Prince Albert and falls in the pool. Jessica tries to help her, but Paula gets out and storms off. Lila then gets annoyed at Winston, pushes him in the pool, and falls in after him, so everyone else jumps in too.
Jessica finally gets to do her part on stage. They put Liz in a dark wig to play her hand servant. Paula was supposed to play the part but didn't show up. Liz then tells Jessica that the director was so mad about her not calling or showing up that he decided to not help her get an agent after all. Jessica actually feels a little sad, which I guess shows growth.
*There really isn't a B-plot, but there is a lead up to the next book. The people next door to the twins moved out suddenly and put their house up for sale. Annie's mom is in NYC working on some big campaign and can't stop gushing over the phone. Annie wonders what big news she has when she gets home. Given that the next book is called Stepsisters, it's not that big of a surprise.
*Lila tells Paula to just charge some super expensive dress to her account since Mr. Fowler never looks anyway. Jessica is a little hurt because Lila never buys her clothes. I would be too. Lila is a raging bitch sometimes when it comes to her friends asking for money but agrees to help some girl she barely knows.
*Lila hates playing a witch so much that spends the first night hiding in the background and the shadows. They tease her a bunch, so she goes all out the second night. She stands in front of the other witches and overacts her heart out, which is actually pretty funny.
*So Paula is Jessica's understudy and takes over her role in the play on Friday night but when she doesn't show up on Saturday night, they need someone to play her smaller original part. Um, then who the heck did it the night before?
*There's a big contest to see who can create the best poster for the play. Jessica wants a poster with her on the front, but the winning poster actually features the witches with Lila front and center. She moans and whines when they hang the posters all over town. In the end, Winston gets one, has the whole cast sign it, and frames it before giving it to Lila as a gift.
*Steven is in two scenes: one where he tells Jessica to hang out with her friends instead of him since he's still down about Cara leaving and one where he pops up long enough to talk about the play's curse. It's really unnecessary. Jessica basically says once that the play must be cursed because all her friends hate her and there are no other mentions of a curse. It's also an annoying scene because, of course, Ned, Alice, and Liz all nod knowingly like they already knew it was cursed while Jessica is all wide eyed and can't believe it's cursed.