“Look who’s after Roger Barrett!”
If you skipped ahead to this installment without reading the previous one’s “B Story” section, you’re in for a big surprise: Roger Barrett is now Roger Patman! No, he and Bruce didn’t get married; Roger just found out that his real father was NOT Mr. Barrett (dead) but Bruce’s uncle, Paul Patman (who’s dead), a secret Roger’s mom (also dead) never told.
Now what would such a story be without some evil scheming by Miss Jessica Wakefield? (A reader recently sent me an email citing these schemes as the principle reason she read the series.) This time, she’s not only cruel but also petty. She’s after Roger, who she thought was cute before he became a Patman but considered off-limits because, eeeww, he was POOR. Now that Roger’s rich, he’s officially chaseable, but there’s a big problem: Roger has a steady girlfriend, Olivia Davidson. By this time, we should know that Jessica doesn’t consider such obstacles reason to back down. Her logic, according to page 21, is as follows: “Olivia Davidson...is hardly the right sort of girl to go out with Roger Patman. She may have been fine for Roger Barrett, but Roger Patman needs someone a little more exciting.”
While Roger’s “new” uncle, Henry Patman, is eager to love Roger just the way he is, Aunt Marie (Mrs. Patman) isn’t so sure. She has very rigid ideas about how a proper young man should behave, and these ideas are conveniently rather anti-...well, anti-anything that Roger is. Running is too antisocial, wanting to become a doctor is too “messy” (seriously, p. 100), and dating a shy girl is too...well it just won’t do. That means Olivia is out and someone prettier, louder, and better at tennis is in, at least if Mrs. Patman has her way. Enter Jessica, who manages to win over Mrs. Patman by waiting on her hand and foot during a picnic and pool party thrown in Roger’s honor. This is only a prelude to the real party, a formal one at the country club to which Jess desperately wants to accompany Roger. After deftly implanting this idea into Marie Patman’s head, there’s just one thing left to do: break up Roger and Olivia. Piece of cake.
In fact, splitting up the now-rich Romeo and his too-funky-for-polo-shirts Juliet isn’t that hard, particularly since Olivia is apparently a total idiot. What else can you call a girl who isn’t suspicious when Jessica Wakefield suddenly befriends her right after her boyfriend becomes the richest, most talked about boy in town? Were Olivia in her right mind, she would’ve smelled foul-play from a mile away, but she and Roger are both a little dizzy from the, um, fumes of change. That’s right. Of change.
Jessica works her evil magic, tricking Olivia into looking like a fool on the tennis court, dismissing her dress for the country club party as inappropriate, and basically convincing her that money has changed Roger forever. And voila! Jessica steps in (at Mrs. Patman’s suggestion) as Roger’s new party date.
So, who’s going to save the day and set everything right? Well, who else but the twin who hasn’t been mentioned yet? Elizabeth’s perspective is a bit less biased than Jessica’s, of course. She sees Olivia as beautiful and original, not as some frizzy-haired weirdo. And though it pains her to speak ill of her twin – a fact that has been making me cringe since Book 1 – by now she knows a cruel Jessica scheme when she sees one. She calls Jess out after Roger finally gets wise, and puts the stupid, stupid couple back together. Never missing a beat on a count of remorse, Jessica finds a new date in the nick of time.
Among other things, I found it interesting that the Patmans have such bizarre ideas about what is normal or acceptable. What aunt wouldn’t be pleased that her nephew aspires to be a doctor? And what’s so bad about running as a hobby? Sure, it’s not a particularly social sport but if you recall, Roger is not your average jogger. He won the Bart, for God’s sake – that certainly improved his social status. And who did he narrowly beat to win that race? Bruce Patman. Of course, while Bruce likes to run, he prefers to win, and the sport he wins at is tennis. If you go back to Book 3, you’ll remember that Bruce’s obsession with tennis, while respected by his mother, is far from normal. Just as Mrs. Patman wants Roger to be exactly like Bruce, Bruce tried to turn Jessica into Mrs. Patman (no cheerleading! no miniskirts! only tennis and tennis dresses!) But NOW, Mrs. Patman wants Jessica to date Roger so Roger can be more like Bruce, and...OUCH! My brain! I don’t think I can possibly discuss this further without a diagram.
Guys, I’m not making a diagram.