Title: Playing With Fire
Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William
Series: Sweet Valley High #3
Blurb: Watch out, Sweet Valley High! Once again, Jessica Wakefield has gotten her way. Fresh from her greatest social triumph, Jessica proceeds to sink her hooks into rich, handsome Bruce Patman, the most eligible, sought-after guy at SVH.
Or has Bruce gotten his hooks into Jessica? Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, notices a big change in her sister. Suddenly Jessica’s following Bruce everywhere and dropping everything just to spend time with him.
Elizabeth doesn’t trust Bruce one bit – he’s arrogant, demanding, and way too fast. Jessica can usually hold her own with any guy, but this time Elizabeth’s afraid her sister may be going too far…
Review: So this one picks up after Jessica won the title of fall queen at the dance, but was stuck with school nerd, Winston Egbert, as her king. She doesn’t want anything to do with Winston, of course. She only has eyes for Bruce Patman, the rich kid who drives a Porsche, but she’s stuck with Winston for all official school activities for the rest of the year, like the dance contest which kicks off this book. Of course, because she’s Jessica, she has to break Winston’s heart just as soon as Bruce shows her the slightest attention and she ends up going to the after party with Bruce instead.
It’s almost karma — the two worst people are together. A match made in heaven, really. Here’s the thing though. Bruce is a bit more . . . more than Jessica is used to. He wants to move faster than she does, or has in the past. For example, at the after party, they are swimming in each others arms and he unties her bikini top. Jessica is used to being the one in control of everything when it comes to guys, but that’s not the case with Bruce. Elizabeth is worried about her sister, but when Jessica tells her to mind her own business, there’s not much that Elizabeth can do.
As time passes, Jessica gets more and more obsessed with Bruce, even more obsessed than she usually is with herself. She cuts class, ditches other plans with friends. And her relationship with Bruce is really toxic. He’s manipulative and mean. They play tennis up at his estate (because of course he lives on an estate) and he gets angry every time Jessica scores. She doesn’t even question him about it – instead, she stops playing to her full potential and throws the match so he can win and be happy.
Elizabeth describes Jessica as “a helpless puppet — and Bruce Patman was pulling all the strings.” Definitely not the Jessica we all love to hate. He even convinces her to quit the cheerleading squad. In turn, Jessica ends up treating one of her friends, Robin, almost as bad as Bruce is treating her — dropping plans, using her for help at school, foisting Winston off on her. Of course, Jessica doesn’t see it that way, but when does Jessica ever see the way her actions affect other people? It’s almost karma that she is being manipulated as badly by Bruce, but even so, no one deserves to be treated like this.
Bruce finally pushes things too far and Elizabeth helps Jessica see that he had been cheating on her. She breaks up with him, very publicly at the pizza parlor, where she throws gooey pizza on him and dumps a pitcher of soda over his head. She even makes things up with Winston.
There is also a subplot about the rock band at school, the Droids, getting picked up by an agent who promises to break them into the L.A. rock scene. The promise of success drives up tensions between the members of the band and, when their gigs are nothing but dive bars, it doesn’t help matters. The agent turns out to be a dud who only tried to “help” them because he had a thing for their lead singer, Dana.
I can honestly say that I didn’t spend the entire book hating Jessica this time, only because I was worried about her for most of it. I’d like to think she might have learned something, maybe that looks and money aren’t everything, and that she should really give people like Winston or Robin a chance. But this is Jessica we’re talking about, so let’s be honest, it’s not gonna happen.