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.

Monday, October 4, 2010

2010 is Ruined.

This recent news might just be the saddest thing I've heard all year...

If you're feeling too lazy to click that link, hey, that's okay, we've all been there. Just read the below sentence to see all you need to know.

"It is with great sadness that due to very low ticket sales we have to announce the cancellation of Whedon Fest."

That's right. There was once going to be a festival celebrating all things Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy, Angel, Dr. Horrible, Firefly and Dollhouse. And in this wondrous festival, there were going to be screenings, panels, something wonderful sounding called a "Geek-off Tournament", contests, a (sure-to-be relevant) dessert party and so much more. Nicholas Brendon (Xander) and Amy Acker (Fred from Angel) were going to be there (other famous people were going to be there as well, but those were the only two I cared about. And even Fred was pushing it a little bit.).

Here's the flyer for what could have been (this flyer has been hanging up in our house for about a month now):

...And now all of this magic is CANCELLED. Due to not even low ticket sales, but VERY low ticket sales. Just add some more salt in that wound and grind it up real nice. And then add some shame, as if all of this weren't embarrassing enough.

If there's ever a time that a group hug is needed, it's right now.

I had started writing this blog post a few weeks ago, when I first learned that a.)Whedon Fest existed and b.) it was coming to Toronto, and let me tell you, the mood of the original post was much different than this one. I hadn't written much, but it was exuberant. Excited. Nervous with anticipation and already planning the Buffy outfits I would wear. I was wondering how the whole "carrying a wooden stake in public" thing was going to pan out but figured it would work itself out. And I guess, in a way, it did. It is perfectly fine to carry a wooden stake anywhere in the confines of our home.

The part I was most excited about was just walking around the festival and being amongst fellow fans. I wanted to see the hardest-core of the hardcore ones, the fans who would make me feel ashamed for only have written one Buffy fanfiction script.

I wanted to see the type of people who have adorned their bodies like this:

And the type of people who spend their time making sick fan art pictures like these:

(This beautiful piece was made by Doc-PhantomShadow.)

Hard to beat sexy Buffy erotica, huh? This hot number was made by the talented hughzy11. I freaking love fan art and wish I was a better artist so I could contribute to this universe.

(PS--I bet the words "sexy Buffy erotica" are going to get me a record number of blog internet hits, maybe even more so than my multiple cat galleries. sexy Buffy erotica sexy Buffy erotica.)

I also really, REALLY wanted to see the Buffy-related costumes. Everyone knows the best part of any fan convention is checking out the costumes.

I wish these people were my friends. Kinda puts our own Buffy costumes to shame a little bit, huh?

Whatever, everyone knows that when you cut up a shirt and put on some fake blood, you're totally a Haklar demon. We don't need wigs and clothes all that fancy costume stuff. Just more money.

I also just wanted to be around the other Whedon fans, the ones who don't necessarily have permanent bodily declarations of their fandom or have named their first male child "Spike."(okay, I'll confess here that Velvet and I have had serious discussions about naming our next cats Spike and Drusilla. But we haven't done it yet, so we're still cool, right?) The fans who just really enjoy Buffy and the rest of the Whedon canon. I think it would be a really neat environment and would have made for an awesome blog post. A way cooler one than this one. PLUS I would have had a photo with Xander and Fred (hey graphic designer friends, looking for a fun project? Talk to me for details.).

I know, I know, this hurts.

Oh yeah, and I also wanted to try and give Nicholas Brendon a copy of my Buffy script. I know he's been busy lately with some extracurricular activities but I think he'd be happy to get back to his roots, especially since Anthony Stewart Head is on board.

But alas, I guess none of this was meant to be. So if anyone in the Toronto area would like to attend Whedon Fest, Velvet and I will be having our own version in our house. We will be screening every episode of Buffy in a row while wearing costumes and holding our own fan-art contest. We will have a geek-off tournament where we shall rapidly quiz each other on Buffy- (and possibly Angel) related questions. And as for celebrity guests, we will have our roommate Heather pose as different celebrities and talk to us (but quietly, as to not interrupt the non-stop Buffy watching.). Winners of the costume contest, fan-art contest and geek-off tournaments shall win walk-on roles in the Buffy fanfiction episode or a collage, winners choice.

Can the rest of 2010 recover from this devastatingly heart wrenching news? I don't really know. Probably not. So let's just forget about the remainder of the year and pre-order our tickets for Whedon Fest 2011! Out-of-town guests can speak to me about a discounted stay at our home.

We are going to get through this.