As a child, I spent many a Saturday morning patrolling yard sales with my mother. She was generally on the hunt for knick-knacks and duck decoys; I was always on the lookout for elusive tomes missing from my book collection.
I wasn’t hoping to unearth a first edition or anything – I was mainly looking to replace my copy of The Baby-Sitters Club #32: Kristy and the Secret of Susan, which had been tragically covered in bird crap during an ill-fated attempt at running away from home (which is really a story for another post).
I am going to come right out and admit it: I loved me some serialized young-adult fiction. The Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, The Girls of Canby Hall… I couldn’t get enough of them. I read “deeper” YA books as well (Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Lois Lowry), but it was the trials and tribulations of the Wakefield twins and the assorted BSC-ers that really got me into reading.
As these were the books that started my lifelong love affair with the written word, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of them. (Yes, I still have quite a collection… don’t judge me.) I’m betting that a few of you out there might enjoy taking a look back with me.
So, without further ado, I bring you… Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love.
Sweet Valley High documents the lives of 16-year-old identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. These size-6 California cuties are described as having “silky, shoulder-length, sun-streaked blond hair”, “almond-shaped eyes the blue-green of the Caribbean” and “perfectly shaped bronze legs”, as nobody wants to read books about vaguely ovoid, pasty teenagers with dull, lifeless hair. They may look alike, but they certainly have different personalities. Elizabeth (right, in the photo above) is kind, studious and demure. Jessica (left, by default) is snobby, conniving and boy-crazy. Just look at them! Elizabeth’s no-nonsense hairdo and high-necked sweater make her practically a nun when compared with Jessica’s wild mane and rebellious jean jacket.
SVH books generally follow the same plot structure every time: Jessica does something devious/crazy/illegal; Elizabeth suffers silently/frets/fixes it; lather/rinse/repeat. In Double Love, Elizabeth is in love with Todd Wilkins, star SVH basketball player. Todd Wilkins is in love with Elizabeth. Naturally, Jessica wants Todd for herself. Both twins are recent inductees of Pi Beta Alpha, which, according to Jessica, is “the positively best sorority at Sweet Valley High”. (This would mean there is more than one sorority, which is baffling because I’ve never even heard of a high school having A sorority, let alone MULTIPLE sororities. But I digress.) So, of course there is a Big Dance coming up, and Jessica decides that it is her mission in life to get Todd to take her to the dance instead of Elizabeth.
When Todd has the gall to ignore Jessica’s flirtations, she did what any girl in her position would do: Sneak out of the house, go on a date to a bar with the most dangerous 17-year-old high school dropout in Sweet Valley (Rick Andover), get dragged out of said bar by the police after a brawl breaks out, and let the cop that’s driving you home think that you are actually your twin sister.
Naturally, this escapade becomes public knowledge at Sweet Valley High, so everyone in school thinks Elizabeth is a total skank. Todd Wilkins has a hard time processing this turn of events, even after Jessica tearfully confesses to him that it was actually she who was the skank. Being a complete dolt, he thinks Jessica is trying to take the blame for Liz and then proceeds to ask Jessica to the Big Dance.
However, his love for Liz cannot be forgotten. When Jessica throws herself at him after the Big Dance, Todd gives her a mere kiss on the cheek. So she did what any girl in her position would do: GO UPSTAIRS AND TELL HER SISTER THAT TODD TRIED TO RAPE HER. I kid you not. Jessica is a straight-up crazy bitch.
While Jessica is ruining everyone’s lives, many other important things are happening in Sweet Valley:
- Mr. Wakefield may or may not be cheating on Mrs. Wakefield with his sexy co-worker Marianna West (Spoiler! He’s not)
- The Fowlers (new money) and the Patmans (old money) are both battling to take over Sweet Valley High’s football field and turn it into a factory or a formal English garden, respectively (Spoiler! They both lose)
- Older brother Steven Wakefield is in love with Tricia Martin, a girl from the Wrong Side of the Tracks (Spoiler!Their love finds a way to survive in this crazy, mixed-up world)
(In my youth, I didn’t pick up on the class conflicts that were tearing Sweet Valley apart! The Fowler/Patman rivalry is a modern Hatfield-McCoy feud, and Steven was afraid to take his love for Tricia public because she has a slutty sister and an alcoholic father.)
But, let us go back to the main storyline. Elizabeth and Todd are both moping around because they’re still in love with each other, despite her thinking that he is a rapist and his thinking that she is a skank. Jessica and Elizabeth are driving home after a sorority meeting one night when their car stalls out at a red light. A Good Samaritan approaches to help… but wait! It’s a drunken Rick Andover, who proceeds to carjack them and speed off into the night with the terrified Wakefield twins still on board! Don’t worry, though – Todd Wilkins manages to save the day by blocking the road with his beat-up Datsun and “a tough look on his face, a look that meant business.”
Todd realizes that Jessica really WAS the skank that almost got arrested blah blah blah Elizabeth finds out that Jessica lied to her about Todd trying to rape her blah blah blah Todd and Elizabeth kiss blah blah blah Jessica gets off essentially scot-free.
The book ends with Enid Rollins (Elizabeth’s boring best friend) crying her eyes out on the front porch of Chez Wakefield. We are left with this cliffhanger: “What is the dark mystery in Enid’s past, and how does Jessica use it to her own advantage? Find out in Sweet Valley High #2 – Secrets.” OH YOU KNOW I WILL
Favorite line of the book: “Between classes, the halls of Sweet Valley High resembled the battle scene from Star Wars, with bodies hurtling in all directions accompanied by collisions and dropped books.” Wow. That’s pretty intense. Maybe that’s why Rick Andover dropped out… he couldn’t face the front lines of combat every time the bell rang.
Second favorite line of the book: “Whatever she was going to say next was lost forever because suddenly she was in Todd’s arms, and they were locked in a long and searching kiss.” What were they searching for? Cavities?
SVH #1 by the numbers
Mentions of the twins’ eye color: 7
Lavaliere shout-outs: 2
Instances of mistaken identity: 2
Instances of Jessica borrowing Elizabeth’s clothes: 2
If you made it this far, thank you for indulging me. I’m planning on making these recaps (Sweet Valley High, Baby-Sitters Club, etc.) a regular thing because they 1) make me laugh hysterically and 2) get me writing.