Friday, 12 February 2010

Sweet Valley High

Clicking around the weird wide web while attempting to guide salad to my mouth, I came across an article that says Sweet Valley High is set to be rewritten, making them Sweet Valley Thirty-year olds.


Back in the days when school ruled supreme, I went through a year-long phase of reading Sweet Valley Twins/High books. Well, I say reading, I mean more devouring. I don’t know why they caught my attention so much – the lives of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, the blonde super-cute twins from a rich family in California – didn’t resonate with me in the slightest, but perhaps that is why I enjoyed them.

Elizabeth was the nice good-mannered girl who wanted to be a journalist. Jessica was the bad girl (although good-at-heart of course) who liked fashion and boys. Elizabeth dated clever good-looking Todd (although the description good-looking is redundant – everyone who lived in Sweet Valley High was good-looking! No ugly munsters here). Jessica dated every boy that swept by, and those she didn’t were dated by her catty but extremely rich friend Lila. They hung out at the mall, and they drove convertible cars at sixteen (if they didn’t drive a convertible then it meant they didn’t care for status symbols, not that they couldn’t afford it. Between them they could buy and sell California). They were good at sports and academic studies (Elizabeth a ‘brilliant all-rounder’; Jessica not so good as she was out chasing boys, which made her thick). They were even nice to people who were not as rich as them, bless their charitable natures.

The books were written by author Francine Pascal, who engaged a team of ghost-writers to churn out a prolific number of books. There were Sweet Valley Twins, the Unicorn Club, Sweet Valley University – all sorts of sequels. I see now that although I read about thirty of these books back in the day, I barely dipped a toe in the glamorous waters of Sweet Valley – there are hundreds of stories out there. What more could possibly be written, and will the cast finally be allowed to get wrinkles?

Apparently we, if anyone who last read the books as a teenager still cares, are going to be very ‘shocked’ with Elizabeth and Jessica in their thirties. Is this the sort of ‘shock’ that comes from a role reversal, as that would be somewhat predictable? From a series that had the twins doing everything from falling in love with vampires to chasing a werewolf across London, does the author really truly believe the now grown and mature audience would be shocked? I would be more shocked if Elizabeth and Jessica turned into normal human beings that lived in the real world, but doubt that will be the ‘twist’ that finally happens for the series.

I can now see why I left Sweet Valley behind at fourteen when I discovered Jackie Collins. In a way there is the same shiny escapism, but with added sex. Suddenly all comes clear – if Enid Blyton is a guaranteed route to loving Agatha Christie, then Sweet Valley is the path towards Jackie Collins. Parents be warned!

Read Guardian article here
Read wiki on Sweet Valley here


Rose said...

I imagine in real life they would still be in California in very big houses. Kind of bizarre they think anyone cares!

Love the bit about Enid being the path to Agatha... certainly true for me- though I was shocked at how horrible Enid was in the TV film with Helena Bonham Carter- an absolutely vile woman it seems

Jayne said...

My dissertation was all about the psychology of how children choose books. The research was amazing (my essay less so, I sadly feel) but one thing that surprised me was the idea that a love for Agatha Christie books (and to an extent, Ian Fleming) was just an over-extended love of Enid Blyton. It made perfect sense to me, and I’d like to go back and study into that again one day.

I didn't watch that film, but I had read something of the sort. So sad to hear things like that about people who created such marvellous worlds for children to escape into, it almost tarnishes the stories.

Rose said...

Jayne your dissertation sounds totally fascinating- and it's true, I was an Enid girl and I worship Christie and Fleming (though I was a Bond girl before I was an Enid girl- my parents had me in front of the films anyway from a very early age and the early ones are quite faithful).

I am sure you could get an artcle commissioned about that- I would read it!

Jayne said...

It was totally fascinating - I still have all my notes somewhere. I read some brilliant books on those topics - cannot remember the titles now, but I am sure I can find them again.

And thanks! Yes, that's a good thought. I think once the novel finishes, at least this part, then I may go back to thinking about articles again. It seems I only have room in my head for one creative burst around full-time work, and I wish I could do more!