Sweet Valley: Out with the Old, In With The New

17 Apr

Last week we re-visited one of the turn-of-the millennium editions of Sweet Valley University, an incredibly trashy Secret Love Diary that made “The Evil Twin” look like the work of one of the Bronte sisters.

Call me a Luddite, but the Sweet Valley I reminisce about was that of the Miller’s point rendezvous, and letter-writing dating services, not Conor McDermott’s moody thought poems and Lacey Frell’s fricken emails. And so, to continue our look back at late-nineties-early-noughties YA fiction, lets examine the Sweet Valley of old, and how it compared with the titles that emerged from that god awful Y2K period.

Outfit recaps below the cut!

Old music:

Johnny Buck

Jamie Peters

Colleen Dunstan

The Droids

New music:

Conor McDermott

Pearl Jam

Kurt Cobain [5 years too late, but hey]

Old TV shows

Primrose Place


Jeremy Franks: Frankly Speaking

Anything starring Arnold Weissenhammer

New TV shows:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Martha Stewart

Dawson’s Creek

[so actual TV shows]

Old titles:


A Night To Remember

Double Love

Meet Me At Midnight


Me, Me, Me

So Cool

As If I Care


The Twins Take Paris

Best Friends

The Secret of the Magic Pen

Barnyard Battle

SVJH: [Newer, hipper titles…]

I’m So Outta Here

One 2 Many

Boy. Friend

Get Real


Old plotline #1

Regina Morrow dies from a line of cocaine and we heap pity and withering glances at Betsy Martin

New plotline #1

Conor McDermott laspes into the family curse of alcoholism and we are actually encouraged to empathise with him.

Old Plotline #2

Ken Matthews turns blind after a car crash and within 80 pages he is cured and has started dating Terri Adams.

New plotline #2

Ken Matthews gets kicked off the football team due to his lack of participation, and it takes 15 books for him to work his way back on, and start seeing Maria.

Old plotline #3

Rapid character revolutions: The New Jessica! The New Elizabeth! Who’s Who?

New plotline #3

Gradual character development and growth: Jessica’s maturity and monogamy, Elizabeth loosening up, Conor’s struggle with booze

Old plotline #4

Jessica hooking up with everyone in sight and getting away with pinning the skank tag on Easy Annie Whitman.

New plotline #4

Jessica getting branded a slut by the entire school. [I really wish they hadn’t done that. Her outfits became incredibly boring and unsnarkable after that.]

Twins’ Pastimes


1. Hanging out with Lila, Cara and Amy at the beach [or in Elizabeth’s Case, shoulder-patting the project of the week]

2. Volunteering as candy stripers at Fowler Memorial Hospital

3. Absent parents

4. The Sixers


1. Hanging out together with a select few students from El Carro, and Maria Slater

2. Working back to back shifts at House of Java and doing homework

3. Nalice actually insisting on part-time jobs and curfews

4. The Zone ‘Zine



Look at that perfectly painted “O” mouth!

Ah! The trusty shoulder pat! How did we let this one go?

SVT covers courtesy of The Hidden Bookcase


SVJH covers, starring midriffs, overalls, and a whole lotta tude

So edgy! So Y2K…

Isnt he cool, you guys?

Places to Go….


Dairi Burger

Beach Disco

Palomar House

The Box Tree Cafe

Casey’s Ice Cream Parlour



I Scream


Cue Cafe


House of Java


Old sayings:

“That is 137 shades of awesome” – Jessica, every book

“Todd was trustworthy, dependable and loyal” – Ghostwriters, every book

“Enid-the Drip” – Jessica

“Pardon me, Heaven – which way to Mars?” – Rick Andover, SVH#1 “Double Love”

Anything involving husky voices, purring, batting one’s lashes and murmuring softly.

New sayings:

“Like, what’s up with THAT?”

“Your guy is really sweet to you all the time when you’re JUST FRIENDS,”

“What’s the Big Deal?”

“Everyone’s telling me to take it easy.”

“Everyone’s been, like, so caught up in this college thing,”

“Ok, so how am I going to work this?”

Anything that combines the words ‘Like’, ‘totally’, or ‘get real’ with a reference to Brittany Spears or Dark Angel.

Old formats

Third person prose

The odd secret diary

Droid’s Lyrics

New formats


Instant messenger

Phone transcripts

Poetry and moody song lyrics courtesy of Connor

Thoughts [I do not need to know what Elizabeth is thinking. Seriously.]

What they wore in 1983:

Lila adjusted the top of the designer jumpsuit she had bought before her father had so severely limited her buying power. She thought the look was dynamite. But opening a few buttons on the oversize top of the whit jumpsuit, it slid silkily off one shoulder, an effect Lila intended to use to her full advantage. The white showed off her tan to perfection, and the gold chains around her neck were a perfect addition. With a healthy spray of perfume, Lila was set to go.

– SVH “SuperStar” Lila’s Story

Lila? Is that you?

Tracy looked fantastic. She was wearing a slim dark skirt and a soft blue denim shirt and cowboy boots.

– SVH “SuperStar” Bruce’s Story

Jessica had on a tight, fluorescent green miniskirt and a matching top. Over the top she wore a sheer, shimmery, chiffon-print blouse that was tied in a knot at her waist. Her earrings dangled to her shoulders and picked up the multitude of colours in her blouse.

– SVH #85 “Soap Star”

What they wore in 2000:

“Just a sec!” Jessica screamed, finishing off her hair with one last pull of the round brush and shutting off the blow dryer. She grabbed a tie-back tank and micro-micromini – it was still basically summer, after all-from her closet and threw them on hurriedly, slipping into a pair of wild, straw-flowered Steve Madden mules. A quick brushing of bronzer, lip gloss and mascara and she was done.

–          SVU “Secret Love Diaries” Jessica

Not floral, I know, but I had to have an excuse to wear these suede mules…

Lacey was wearing a very mini black dress, and her hair was all up with little tendrils falling around her face. She looked like she was trying to look eighteen – and failing miserably.

SVJH #30 “Too Many Goodbyes”

I couldnt resist some turn of the century hair. Butterfly clips! And tendrils! Bless

Lacey wore a clingy purple patterned top, black vinyl pants and black hi-top sandals. “Too hip for words,” as Lacey would say. She was wearing purple lipstick too. Even her toenails were purple.

–   SVJH #17 “Whatever”

Pity the Unicorns have stopped recruiting

Lacey, you are SO bad-ass. Whatever, girl.

Even Elizabeth was wearing a spaghetti strap green tank top and a black skirt that was slit up to the knee.

–          SVHSY #2 “Say it to my Face”

Ah! Pure minimalist chic!

Old villains

Margo Black and Nora Chapelle

John Marin


Tatiana Muller

Heather Mallone

New Villains

Lacey Frells

You SO dont mess with a chick in lime green overalls, girlfriend!

Melissa Fox [She’d have nothing on Margo]

Jessica’s HOJ boss.

My verdict: anything written in the Sweet Valley Series post-2000 was baaad. I don’t care in the slightest to listen to a pack of moody strangers moaning about their massive problems. Did Roger Barrett Patman have a whinge to us every book? No! Because like everyone in Sweeet Valley proper, he got his shit sorted by the final chapter. Moreover, I don’t give a fuck where Evan Plummer and Melissa Fox got into college. I would’ve liked a heads up on Rosa Jameson, though. She was going places, that girl. And it was way too hard to find outfits to recap in the later editions, given that there wasn’t at least one dance/party/Fowler bash in every book. I thought that was mandatory in Sweet Valley! In fact, despite all my snarking, I much prefer the sugar-coated, coffee-coloured, shoulder-patting, Wakefield-winning world of the original SVH, SVT, and to some extent, SVU. And if I ever see Andy Marsden wandering down the hallowed halls of SVH, I will take him down. [and obis I’m not a homophobe A la  Charlie Cashman, but because there’s only room for ONE token class clown around here, kids. And that’s Winston.]

3 Responses to “Sweet Valley: Out with the Old, In With The New”

  1. sophie April 19, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Thankyou! Conor’s blahdiblah-I’m-too-cool-for Sweet Valley really did NOT do it for me either. Bring back the bikinis and the beach disco any day!

  2. liesel April 22, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    Aaahhhh, I absolutely love this post… too hilarious!
    It’s strange seeing the old VS new series being compared & contrasted like the way you’ve done above. People have spoken about it sure, but never quite put together something along the lines of this, in such a visual manner.
    Love the effort you’ve put in to it Ms. Winnebago… the Old Villains VS New Villians made me laugh the most…scarey Lacey Frells?! (as if :P)

    • Anne Marie @ Totally SV May 2, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

      Yeah I was bitterly disappointed with Senior Year, cant even go near the Junior ones….the bit that always makes me laugh is, in the old days you’d have a frizzy haired bookworm as ‘Reader of the Month’, whereas in Senior Year, you have offers for a 99 cent NSYNC cassette! Free Bowling for Soup poster! Christina Aguilera! Dawsons Creek! Urban Decay!!! Name Drop! Name dropppp! blah blah blah :-p

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