Book name: Sweet Valley High Playing With Fire
Author: Francine Pascal
Genre: Vintage children’s book
Publication Date: 1984
Star Rating: 5/5
Playing With Fire is the third book in the 'Sweet Valley High' series of high-school stories.
Elizabeth Wakefield is happy with her boyfriend Todd. He doesn’t much like her twin sister Jessica, but Elizabeth feels able to ignore that for now.
At the fall dance, Jessica must spend the evening as the date of the fall king. She’s the fall queen, so the couple must appear together.
However, Jessica finds Winston boring and doesn’t appreciate his jokes. She abandons him for Bruce Patman instead.
Elizabeth becomes worried when Jessica starts dating Bruce. He’s a high-school student, his father’s rich and he’s very handsome.
Bruce ought to be everything that Jessica wants from a boyfriend.
Elizabeth’s concern arises because her sister is very independent and self-absorbed. This isn’t something that she appreciates about her twin, but she’s grown used to it.
Almost as soon as Jessica starts dating Bruce, she gives up all her friends and drops tennis in favour of simply watching him.
Fetching Bruce’s tennis balls and talking up his game, while not even playing herself, is totally unlike Jessica.
Elizabeth is astonished to see Jessica staying in night after night, keeping herself available in case Bruce calls even though many times he has other arrangements.
None of this is like the usually self-assured Jessica, and Elizabeth can’t explain why her sister has changed so much.
However, Jessica hasn’t entirely lost sight of who she is. Robin wants to join Jessica’s sorority, but there seems little hope of this homely girl being accepted without a pledge from someone as popular as Jessica.
Jessica has Robin running all over the place in return for the promise of a pledge.
Meanwhile, Bruce begins to make excuses. What is he up to behind Jessica’s back?
Playing with Fire was a classic 'Sweet Valley High tale'. Elizabeth is decent and puts others first. She’s happy in her relationship with Todd, and the couple give each other space to pursue friendships and hobbies. On the other hand, Jessica’s love life is a source of constant drama.
Jessica isn’t a particularly likeable person, and this provides plenty of narrative tension. On the other hand, no one likes to see a young woman treated dismissively by her boyfriend, so I was delighted when Jessica began to assert herself again.
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