Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cut it Out, Sweet Valley High!

Ever since receiving some very exciting news, I can't stop thinking about Sweet Valley High, the book series I was obsessed with growing up. For those people who sadly didn't have these books in childhood, they featured a set of high school twins, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield.

And these twins were perfect. Not like just pretty hot. PERFECT. Part of the first chapter of every book in the series was devoted to describing the perfection of these two. Silky blond hair, long, lean legs which were tanned by the Californian sun, aquamarine eyes which sparkled like some kind of crazy reflective gemstones, stunning size 6 figures (my, how times have changed!), etc. etc. They also had wonderful, caring parents, lived in a Spanish-style house with a pool (I didn't even know what a "Spanish-style" house was when I was a kid, but knew that I wanted one). Elizabeth was smart, kind, responsible. Jessica was sexy, daring, athletic. In short, the perfect pair. The series followed them through various adventures in high school and was wildly popular with young girls who desperately wanted to be a twin everywhere.

(In case you haven't figured it out yet, this might be a girl-centric post, but guys, it's definitely still worth reading so you can impress your lady friends or sisters.)

So it was a grand day indeed when I heard the recent news that Sweet Valley High will be returning to us but following Jessica and Elizabeth as grown-ups this time-- meaning no more high school dances, football games or cheerleading squads. I'm not quite sure how the new series will be, especially since most of its readers now cherish the series in an ironical kind of way, appreciating how ridiculous it actually was. But I'm not kidding myself here; I'll be buying the books the second they hit stores.

So in honor of this news and all things Sweet Valley, here you go--my top five most memorable Sweet Valley High books.

1.) All Night Long (#5)

In this book, Jessica begins dating Scott Daniels. Scott's an older boy. He's wild. WILD! As we all know, Jessica's the more daring, crazier twin. She lives to break the rules and will try anything...even dating a more experienced boy. I honestly don't remember too many details of the plot (I'm sure it was incredibly complex and surely not capable of being summarized in one sentence) but the part I remember the most vividly is when Jessica and Scott go to an "all-nighter" college beach party. Jessica drinks a beer (!) and Scott tries to go a little too far with Jessica by playing with her red bikini strings. The book doesn't go into too much detail but I remember reading it as an 11 year old and being blown away. He PLAYED WITH HER BIKINI STRINGS. AT A COLLEGE BEACH PARTY. Holy cow. That's unimaginable. I thought this book was the raciest thing I'd ever read (clearly, I was an incredibly lame kid and hadn't discovered Judy Blume yet).

Also of note in this book: Elizabeth must pretend to be Jessica to fool their Mom (who doesn't enjoy a good twin swap? I think it's the main reason I wanted a twin sister so badly when I was younger), and of course, the awesome cover art. Scott Daniels is the creepiest guy I've ever seen. You know he's an older college guy (and possibly a pedophile) because he has a moustache.

2.) Crash Landing! (#20)

This book is also classic old school SVH. In it, Enid Rollins (Elizabeth's nerdy, uglier and in all ways less superior best friend) is taken on a private flight by her boyfriend George, who has just earned his pilot's license. George promptly crashes the plane and Enid is left paralyzed from the waist down. George is pretty pissed by all of this because he wanted to dump Enid after the flight and now that she's all paralyzed and stuff, he feels just a little too guilty. As a fun subplot to all of this, Jessica falls in love with her cooking school teacher, Jean Pierre.

I really liked this book because it was just so relatable. Who hasn't crashed their own plane, left their significant other paralyzed and then had to pity-date them until they could miraculously recover use of their limbs? Just another part of high school and growing up. Francine Pascal always understood that and was really there for you when you went through these difficult situations. Also interesting was how even when paralyzed and in a heartbreaking situation, Enid Rollins could still annoy me.

3.) The Evil Twin (#100)

As the series grew older (not the twins, I think they remained in their junior year of high school for at least 10 years), Francine Pascal really upped the ante. I mean, it had been upped before (kidnapping! plane crashes! slam books!) but now things got real. Jessica and Elizabeth went to London and were almost killed by a werewolf (I'm not kidding), Jessica was accused of cheating on the SAT'S (!), Elizabeth went through a manslaughter trial (how did stressed-out, faded-tan Elizabeth make even manslaughter trials seem glamorous??? The power of these girls... ).

The Evil Twin is the final book in an epic six-part series. In it, an evil girl named Margo, who just happens to look identical to Jessica and Elizabeth, becomes obsessed with the twins and stalks them from afar for months. She memorizes every detail of their lives, dyes her hair blond (oh, excuse me, I mean a glossy, sun-streaked silky golden shade of perfection , as Francine would say) and then begins posing as Elizabeth. She hatches a plan to kill Elizabeth on the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve and take over her life. Happy New Year!

I won't reveal the ending of this book but will instead insist YOU MUST READ IT. It is amazing. Reading the summary of it, you might say to yourself "Really? This weird stranger girl managed to completely fool not only Elizabeth's boyfriend Todd, not only Elizabeth's parents and best friend Enid, but her twin sister Jessica, too? No one noticed a thing?! REALLY? " Yup. Margo was an evil genius. She's terrifying and we all need to be careful because something like this could easily happen to any one of us. I couldn't put this book down and just writing about it now makes me want to re-read my copy. Which I am going to do.

4.) The Treasure of Death Valley (115) and Nightmare in Death Valley (116)

Another epic adventure, this one involved Jessica & Elizabeth (along with Todd, Ken, Bruce and Heather Mallone, Jessica's cheerleading nemesis ) going on a camping trip to sunny Death Valley.

Want to know why I remember this book so much? Because besides immediately becoming hopelessly lost in Death Valley, the gang encountered a number of other problems, including:

-having no food or water (totally believable)
-poisonous snakes and scorpions (sure, there are lots of scary creatures in the desert)
-flash floods (hmm, not that common...but alright)
-avalanches and subsequent injuries (sometimes when you're camping, you fall off of cliffs...I guess that happens.)
-stumbling upon hidden gold and a treasure map (wow! What are the chances?!)

Okay, Francine Pascal, you have OFFICIALLY jerked us around too far. This would not happen. No way. Oh, but of the convicts develops a crush on Jessica, there are "Dear Diary" entries written by all of the campers, and Bruce Patman and Liz almost hook up...okay, these books were awesome. Read these two if you feel like being taken on an insane journey which feels like it will actually never end, in the best way possible.

5.) The Wakefields of Sweet Valley (a Sweet Valley SAGA)

This was a very special book, often described as a "sweeping saga," which is no lie. It tells us the back stories of five generations of the twins' ancestors, which sounds kind of boring until you realize how cool the ancestors are. There's a Swedish immigrant, a set of twins named Jessamyn and Elisabeth (nice touch, huh?), ANOTHER set of twins named Samantha and Amanda (I loved that I shared a name with a part of Wakefield history), a trapeze artist in the circus, a flapper of the Roaring Twenties and a hippie flower child during the sixties. Love, tragedy, fate and chance all mix into this megastory, which teaches us one important lesson: The Wakefields are the most perfect people to ever walk the earth. (this is probably the main lesson of the entire series, actually.)

Fellow fans, I'd love to hear your fave SVH books. Did you want to be Jessica or Elizabeth more? Did you like the short-lived TV series? (NO. The characters were all so much hotter in my head.) Will anyone else be reading these new books? LET'S HAVE GIRL TALK! Boys, you are also welcome to participate.


  1. I only remember the show.
    You know I can't read, so there's no explanation needed about the books.

    p.s. You have two twins, Velvet and Brooke Shields. But you aren't triplets, cause Velvet and Brooke look nothing alike.

  2. My favorite SVH was book #7-Dear Sister, when Liz wakes up from her motorcycle accident coma and has lost her memory. She then becomes a "bad girl" like Jessica. So cool.

  3. holy crap sam this is the best/most hilarious post ever.

    i remember those books. especially the wakefields of sweet valley, and crash landing! i think i also got the one after crash landing. and one i really liked was the new jessica, where she cuts her hair because she hates being mistaken for elizabeth, and elizabeth cries. quality stuff.


    now i know what i'm reading over the christmas holidays...

  4. my personal fav has got to be 'Beware of the Snowman' "No melting allowed! Jaclyn used to live with her aunt Greta in Chicago. But not anymore. They've moved to a place called Sherpia. It's a tiny village on the edge of the Arctic Circle. Jaclyn can't believe she's stuck out in Nowheresville. No movie theaters. No malls. No nothing. Plus, there's something really odd about the village. At night there are strange howling noises. And in front of every house there's a snowman. A creepy snowman with a red scarf. A deep scar on his face. And a really evil smile... " ....oh oh wait... thats a Goosebumps know a series with substance that actually matters...

    Good post Sam :) lol.

  5. Hey there gurl!
    My daughter sent your blog my way, said I'd enjoy the most recent post and boy, do I ever. Keep it up!
    Think of me when you do a "Father's Day" post, screw Mother's Day!!!! Hahaha, I kid, but not really.

  6. Wow, this was a great post, brings back so many memories!!!!! I think I need to go back and read some of these again!!!!


  7. wow! you might enjoy these...

  8. I'm so glad all of you enjoy this awful/amazing series as much as I do (especially you, Tim Trollope! A surprise guest). Since writing this post, I've been re-reading my old SVH books and am still in love with them.

    Cancelled Newsletter--I thought you were spam and I was going to celebrate getting my first spam comment, but that link was legit! And pretty hilarious--thank you :)

    Exciting news everyone--I have started writing my own SVH book. I can't reveal too much but it is based in Canada. UPDATES TO FOLLOW!!!!

  9. you have me nostalgic for my childhood. I love all the books and still have them. My favorite is the first, "Double Love", it made me want to read more and the book where Regina dies. I cried, I was so devastated I forgot it was all make believe.

  10. Natalie, I know what you mean. When I was younger, I'm pretty sure I shed actual tears while reading "Winter Carnival" (a Super Edition one), where Elizabeth thinks that Jessica has died in a car accident. Silly me, believing that Francine Pascal would kill off a somewhat-major character!

    Because of SVH, I have no desire to ever try cocaine, ride a motorcycle or date a college boy (they're all bad news).