While Lila is super excited to show off some new bracelets her dad brought her back from NYC, Caroline comes in with some big news about a new girl in school. Jessica originally ignores her because she already heard about the new girl from Elizabeth. When Maria Slater actually walks into the classroom though, Jessica can't get over how familiar she looks or how she looks so much older and more sophisticated than anyone else. They become tentative friends, though Maria wants to check out the school newspaper too.
Steven has the cold, which he passes onto Jess. She winds up staying home sick from school, and the two fight over the television before deciding to watch a sci-fi movie about aliens. One of the kids in the movie is Maria. Jessica flips out and decides that they absolutely must become friends. She even invites Maria over to hang out at her house. After she leaves, Jessica discovers her backpack. While looking it through it to find her phone number, she finds a red notebook that she thinks is her journal. It's all about how Maria is in hiding to learn more about normal kids before her next movie role.
That's all Jessica needs to hear to learn that her new friend is an undercover movie star. She winds up letting it slip that she read her diary. Maria acts a little odd before asking her to keep it under wraps and not tell anyone. She'll never get ready for her next movie if people treat her like a celebrity. Maria even brags about some of the stars she knows like Johnny Buck.
Since this is Jessica, she only keeps her mouth shut for a few days before telling the whole Unicorn Club. Mandy is a little hurt because she and Maria bonded while getting ready for tryouts for the drama club. They decide to invite Maria to a slumber party and get her to confess the whole thing. If she tells them herself, she won't hate Jessica for spilling the beans.
Janet hosts the whole club and Maria at her house that weekend. While playing Truth or Dare, Jessica asks Maria if she's secretly an undercover movie start, and she confesses that she came to Sweet Valley to prepare for an upcoming movie. She also tells them about all the famous people in the movie and how they're actually filing in Sweet Valley. They can all come and watch the filming in person, and she'll even introduce them to the celebs.
Maria joins the newspaper staff and accepts a job writing about the drama club tryouts, which is how she meets Mandy. She winds up getting along better with Amy and Liz than anyone else and even lets them read a short story she started writing. It's oddly enough about a movie star moving to a small town to prepare for an upcoming movie and is written inside a red notebook. When Liz hears the story about Maria's secret past and all the rumors, she puts two and two together.
Lila comes up with some big news. Her dad recently redecorated her yacht and agreed to let her have a part for all the movie stars on it. Since they're coming to town the next week to start shooting, she tells Maria that they can come a few days early for the party. Maria agrees before running home to cry on the shoulders of her big sister Nina. See, Maria isn't actually a star and there is no movie. She hasn't worked in years and came to take a break from acting until she's older. Nina tells Liz the truth in the hopes that she can help, but all she really does is talk to Maria about telling everyone the truth.
Mandy and Maria agree to work together for the tryouts and even agree on doing Romeo and Juliet. They just can't agree on what scene to do or who will play who. On the day of tryouts, a mystery man plays Romeo to Mandy's Juliet. Halfway through, he rips off his hat and mustache to show that he's Mandy. They then switch parts and finish the scene. Both make it into the club.
The day of the party arrives. Everyone is having fun when Maria shows up with her sister and parents. She makes a big announcement about how she really is just a normal girl and how no celebs are coming to the party. People start applauding her for no real reason. Jessica apologizes for going a little crazy, and Lila laughs it off because at least she got to throw a killer party. Oh, and some random girl named Pamela keeps following Elizabeth around and dressing just like her.
*Alice is a little suspicious that Jessica is faking being sick to get out of a quiz at school. If she still can't tell when one of the twins is faking it, she never will.
*Maria shows up for the first day of school in a suede skirt. I thought she wanted to fit in with typical sixth graders?
*Lila initially refuses to let Jessica make a purple banner for the party because her dad's yacht uses shades of puce and apricot. They then have a fight about the color puce. I looked it up, and man, is that an ugly color!
*Um, why doesn't Jessica try out for the drama club, and is the drama club mentioned again? I know she acts in school plays later, but I'm not sure the books ever mention the plays being drama club productions.
*I get that these kids are only in sixth grade but come on! Jessica can't understand why Maria has time to hang out by the pool or write an article because she should be out signing contracts all the time. They have to know what actors actually do.
*Maria wears a long black velvet dress with a white satin bow around the waste to the party, which sounds much more age appropriate than a suede skirt.
*One of her biggest acting roles was as a giant roll of toilet paper in a television commercial, and yet they still think she's a huge star.
*Maria complains to Nina that she's at least a head taller than all the boys in school. On the cover though, she's barely taller than Jessica who is relatively short when compared to the guys.