Sweet Valley Twins #45
A real champion...Somehow I managed to get through my entire life without having read a Sweet Valley book. Right up until today, anyway. Naturally I know of the Sweet Valley twins, sort of how Jessica Wakefield knows of horses. This book is a follow up of some sort of A Horse of Her Own plot plus a Sweet Valley twin. The long story short: Ted bought a horse he couldn't afford because some snobby girl failed to be responsible. Pretty basic horse story. Only this time we get to see the fall out of what happens when someone randomly decides to buy a horse they shouldn't have bought in the first place.
Elizabeth Wakefield's friend Ted Rogers is in big trouble. He's been behind in his payments to Carson Stables for the care of his horse, Thunder. Unless he wins the prize money in a regional jumping championship, he'll have to sell the magnificent animal.
With everything riding on this competition, Elizabeth offers to help Ted train. That's where they meet a mysterious new girl named Lucy Benson. Lucy seems to know a lot about horses. And when Ted takes a bad fall, only weeks before the competition, Elizabeth is convinced that Lucy can take his place. Elizabeth doesn't know that a secret fear has kept Lucy off a horse for the past two years. But she does know that Lucy needs to compete -- and win--for Ted's sake...and her own.
Ted is having money issues, and he's got one month to either fall into a life of crime or win a show so he doesn't have to sell his horse, Thunder. Elizabeth decides to drop everything so she can help Ted practice on Thunder at all hours of the day, because she likes the fact that she can ride Thunder also. Occasionally. Not that you see her do this at all. I have to wonder what Elizabeth's purpose is in this book, other than playing the emotional support for every other character. During their conversations in the tack room, or whatever they were doing, they discover someone slipping treats to the horses and find Lucy, random person that Elizabeth totally has to befriend and therefore eventually help. Lucy loves horses and is a "good rider," but she avoids the topic of riding like the plague so you know there's a deep, awful secret buried deep down somewhere. Then you have Ellen, one of Jessica's friends and fellow Unicorn member, who spends her time being completely ridiculous when she attempts to ride, but is somehow considered a logical threat at the show. I fail to see how this is possible, but this happens a lot in these stories, and I guess I'll just continue to be confused about it.
So there's that whole plot. Meanwhile you have Jessica and her friend, Lila (Thunder's previous owner). They happen to take a walk on the beach and the fact that there has been an oil spill manages to fly right over their heads. Like, they make the observations that the ocean is a) black and b) smells like oil well before they decide to climb around on some sludge covered rocks so they can ask someone what this substance is. Jessica finds a seal pup and makes the decision to become interested in helping the environment for the sake of being near the cute boy that is part of the clean up effort. She attempts to get out of this after she realizes that she signed herself up for cleaning sludge, and the boy isn't that cute, but by then she's become emotionally attached to the seal and suddenly makes a conscious effort to drive everyone mad with her lectures about paper napkins.
While that's going on, Lucy is having a moment of rebellion and tells Ted that she will stand in for him at the show when he falls off Thunder and breaks his leg. Ellen is not about to let this happen, because all of a sudden they're showing in the same class (before Ellen was in Junior Hunters and Ted was in Junior Jumpers, but halfway through the book I guess it was decided this wasn't dramatic enough). So Ellen demands that Jessica dig up some dirt on Lucy. Jessica inadvertently does this and finds out that Lucy's parents don't want her to ride. There was some issue. She fell, was diagnosed with epilepsy, her horse was sold, emotional scarring commenced. Seeing as how this is 1991, and apparently no one has an answering machine, Ellen starts to call Lucy's house repeatedly so she can tip her parents off and kick Lucy out of the show by turning Lucy's parents against her. Poor Ellen called all night, but could only get ahold of these people the next morning. So Lucy is in the middle of jumping when her parents show up and, because they're idiots, start shrieking as she's approaching a jump. But Lucy, being super freaking fantastic, still manages a clear round.
Because Jessica apparently has morals, she organizes some tween stupidity during Ellen's jump off. In that the Unicorns start a cheerleader type of display during her round, which causes Ellen's horse to spook. Ellen falls, and then flips out and chases everyone around while screaming and aiming to beat anyone she catches with her riding crop. That is true friendship.
Anyway, Lucy's parents have a breakthrough and let Lucy ride. Lucy naturally wins the show and Ted gets to keep Thunder, although he apparently hasn't thought ahead because who knows how he's going to keep affording board.
What's sort of sad about this is it's not a bad book, as far as horse books for the tween girl market go. I can't believe I just said that, but I guarantee you I've read worse. Like, Wild Thing by Dandi Daley Mackall? I would sooner beat my head against a cement block than waste my time writing a recap of that. Plus, you know, I decided I couldn't finish it well before she started rolling out the Bible verses. It was just that level of awful. Sweet Valley couldn't even aspire to being that bad.