Tag Archives: Sweet Valley Twins

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!

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Sweet Valley Confidential: The Verdict? Perfect! [Warning, Spoilers]

30 Mar

Unlike the sugar-coated, predictable, solved-in-sixty-pages plots of our bygone series, Sweet Valley Confidential is surprisingly… real. Told through a series of flashbacks – to high school, to SVU, and to the events that led to the war between the twins – each chapter provides just the right amount of tantalizing detail to keep you in complete suspense. It was absolutely unputdownable – to the point where I was pacing my living room like a maniac, screeching, “Lila had a boob job?!” “How the fuck did Liz find out?” and “Who has Steven been screwing all this time?”

And yet, it reflects just enough of the series we so lovingly snark, with the resurgence of original Sweet Valley personalities like Caroline Pearce, Ken Matthews and Jeffery French. It harks back to those defining events – the death of Regina Morrow, the demise of Enid-the-Drip – that even snarky old me remembered with a fond smile.

All the while, the book poked just the right amount of fun at the Sweet Valley franchise, with self-referential remarks such as

“Bruce Patman kissed her [Elizabeth] ! That had never happened before. At least, not while she was conscious anyway, but that’s another story.”

Yes, folks, a warm-wine-in paper-cup reference from fan favourite “Dear Sister”.

Although heavy on those age-old Sweet Valley-an themes of true love, sisterhood and commitment, the emotions ‘Confidential dealt with were surprisingly raw. For once, not everything fell into place for our twins, as even they had to cope with rejection, criticism and the realisation that they were  –  shock horror – not the perfect sized-six beings of the past.

Before I give you the story straight up, let me add this disclaimer: my recap can not do this epic work of chick lit the justice it deserves. Recapped in chronological fashion, it seems a little blah, but this suspense-filled book is anything but. Go and get yourselves a copy [or if you’re an Aussie* befriend your fellow Americans / have a super-awesome reader who will express mail you a copy].

Heavy spoilers below the cut!

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In the word “TEAM” there is no “I” [but apparently there are two Wakefields]…

7 Mar

TEAM SWEET VALLEY #1 “JESSICA GOES FOR THE GOLD”

Jessica Wakefield is the star gymnast representing Sweet Valley Middle School at the state championships. Surprised? Oh, you poor deluded soul. It doesn’t matter that Jessica has never attempted gymnastics/played a team sport/committed to anything longer than one book before. Why not, you ask? Because she is a Wakefield, of course! And Wakefields are awesome at life. And vaulting, apparently.

[On a side note, it’s little wonder that I cannot hack losing and have to be the best at absolutely everything I do. See what you’ve done to me, Francine? See?]

The school is competing at a local meet, and Jessica is kicking ass on the uneven parallel bars:

“It was a killer routine too-full of complicated hand changes and death-defying leaps from one bar to the other. She leaped to the high bar, swung, then came back in a blind back-straddle over the low bar. She’d never felt so strong. Then Jessica leaped to the high bar for her big move. She did a long hanging kip, then casted to a full handstand on top of the high bar and did a pirouette. The crowd went wild. All around the gym, people were jumping up and down, cheering for her. Her face glowing with excitement, Jessica turned around and waved to HER public. Finally the head judge stood up. “Nine point seven,” he announced.

Of course.

This is making me hate Jessica. It’s also making me want to dig out some of my old “Gymnasts” books. I always did have a crush on the coach, Patrick.

So Jessica has developed a fierce rivalry with Dawn Maven, star of the Weston team. I wonder if Dawn is also new to gymnastics? Or if she’s been working her ass off 35 hours a week since she was five like most people who are good at something. Also, where is Weston? What happened to the Secca Lake team? Or El Carro? Big Mesa? Palisades? Dawn is a mega-bitch, but I like her. She oils up the bar so Jessica falls off. Jessica mixes sugar in the chalk bowl so Dawn slips and busts her ankle.  Dawn has a Margo moment when she threatens to “fix her, and fix her good”. This goes on and on until Jessica somehow finds a sense of guilt, becomes Dawn’s personal rehab physician, and they agree to play fair at the upcoming California Games. How Jessica can remediate a sprained ankle in the space of a fortnight astounds me.

Donald Zwerdling, who is basically Winston Egbert on acid, [read: more annoying, more persistent, more clumsy, and just an all around nerdburger] provides something vaguely resembling amusement in the B-story. He missed out on a spot on the boy’s team, [thanks to their captain, Bruce Patman] so he has decided to carry the drinks for the girls and be their assistant. Genius! Betcha Bruce wishes he’d thought of that. Also, can we take a moment to stop and laugh at Bruce doing gymnastics? Bruce on the pommel horse….Bruce busting his tighty whities on the rings….Ha!

At the California games, for once Jessica doesn’t win. Amazing. Riding her bike home from Dawn’s the night before, she sprains her ankle, and scores a measly old 9.4 on the bars to Dawn’s 9.6 [you may remember the highest score all book is still Jessica’s 9.7, of course]. She even congratulates Dawn on the victory, which is very un-Jessica. Obvs the ghosties were under instruction to teach us all a lesson. But like so many of these lessons we learn in Sweet Valley [you need a boyfriend to be worth anything, fat people should be burned at the stake, you CAN cheat on your guy 15 times a year, you SHOULD ALWAYS listen to Elizabeth etc, etc..] I’m choosing to ignore it.

‘Cause winning is everything, bitches.

The best part of this book? There’s barely any Elizabeth [she’s off playing volleyball for the school]. The worst? Jessica not getting her come-uppance. At least not properly. Seriously, does any of the shit she pulls have any consequence beyond the same book?

Continuity note: Amy gets a 9.2 on her floor routine at the California Games. So she’s pretty much the best in the state. However, back in SVT#2, Amy is so bad at classical ballet that she scores the role of Coppelia the doll. I’m sorry, but someone who can barely point their foot and keep time in Madame Andre’s sixth grade dance class is probably not a state level rhythmic gymnast.

Cheerio!

 

The Ghostwriters Must Really Hate Us: SVT #103 “Elizabeth Solves It All”

31 Jan

Smug bitch. Is that too mean? She is twelve, after all. But something about the legs swung over the desk, the self-obsessed newspaper cut-out and the state-of-the-art laptop [this IS 1997, after all] are really pissing me off. And don’t even get me started on the prissy white sandshoes. Mine never looked like that.

I must really hate myself, because the first paragraph was enough to turn any sane person away:

“To Our Readers,

The Sixers is proud to announce, ‘Dear Elizabeth’, an advice column just for kids. Send in your questions and get great advice from Elizabeth Wakefield. As you all know, Elizabeth Wakefield is a great student, a great writer, and a person who cares about other people’s problems [Read: meddlesome shoulder patter]. So write to Dear Elizabeth, care of the Sixers, room 204, and take advantage of the wit and wisdom of SVMS’s very own professional adviser, Elizabeth Wakefield.”

I’m sorry, but “professional adviser” ?! What could possibly qualify a twelve-year-old for that role? Elizabeth, of course, feigns embarrassment on the matter [i.e. fishes for compliments about how awesome she is]. Fortunately, Amy Sutton is there to kiss-ass:

“Don’t be so modest, Elizabeth,” Amy said. “You are a great student, and you know it. Besides, we need to drum up business. Right Maria?” Continue reading

My Christmas Wish: Sweet Valley Twins Special Edition “A Christmas Without Elizabeth”

13 Dec

I am totally digging this cover. For starters, there’s a shot of a woe-begone Liz with all her hair chopped off, sporting a fugly and completely unflattering red ensemble. But that has nothing on the title, nor the by-line: ““What If Elizabeth Had Never Been Born?” Oh, what if! Please, ghostwriters, make my day –

The first part of the book is actually rather likeable. Jessica had been elected head of the SVMS party planning committee, and like Angela of “The Office” fame, the power is going to her head. She has a kitty of $186 to spend, once she’s come up with a knockout theme to impress all the boys she’s after. Liz, meanwhile, is helping at the homeless shelter, and she befriends a poor family called the Glasses, whom she can pity and shoulder pat whenever she likes. The volunteer work is so all-consuming that she is blowing off TBT, Amy, homework and even the Sixers. She steals the $186 and gives it to Mrs Glass to put a down-payment on a rental property. Because they are poor, I fear it may be a place on the Wrong Side Of The Tracks, possibly near The Shady Lady or The Martins. Mr Glass is “working away” and uncontactable, and without the money for a week’s rent, the family are evicted. That night, Jessica figures out that her twin stole the money, and Elizabeth is the subject of everyone’s anger from the Glass kids to the Unicorns. And so she bawls, and feels sorry for herself and wishes that she had never been born… [If Only].

That was the first part of the book. The good bit. From here on in, Liz is taken around town by a spectre, whose sole purpose is to visit Liz and prove how wonderful she is and how the universe wouldn’t function without her. The angel, however, is fairly shrewd, making this observation about St Liz:

“Personality Problems Profile. Elizabeth can be very self critical. She takes on more responsibility than is age-appropriate. She can be stubborn and exhibits a tendency towards self-righteousness. She is a major goody-goody.”

She then takes Liz for a spin around the Valley, “A Christmas Carol” style, showing all the things that would’ve happened had Elizabeth never been born:

#1 Without Liz, Sophia Rizzo is a social pariah, and her brother ends up in reform school because he got in so many fights defending her.

#2 Sophia’s mom and Sarah Thomas’ dad never get married.

#3 Sarah Thomas is dead. [Apparently without Liz, she would have died from falling down a flight of stairs.]

Dear God.

#4 Denny Jacobsen is dead. Without St Liz, there was no-one to rescue him when a monster wave hit and his surfboard whacked him on the head.

I’m starting to see a pattern here.

#5 Brooke Dennis a social outcast. [Maybe a leper?]

#6 Mary Giaccio/Wallace is still in foster care and has mousy, limp hair.

#7 TBT is miserable and boring without the love of his life and stays at home playing video games all day [so really, nothing’s changed.]

#8 Amy and Winston are not on the Booster’s cheer-squad. OK, I read Booster Boycott, and Liz had nothing to do with me being on that squad, dammit!

#9 I get beaten up by Jerry McAllister and Charlie Cashman. [Would’ve liked to see Liz stopping that one. ]

#10 The Unicorns are called the Sharks and they smoke actual cigarettes! OMG!

Enough, spirit, enough! Show me no more!

#11 Alice is accused of having an affair and Nalice divorces, because there was no St Liz to defend her! [She’s been boning Hank Patman all along, I knew it! If only Liz had covered it up and she could continue her wicked ways….]

#12 Ned is a divorced alcoholic who hangs out at Kelly’s.

#13 Steven has a tattoo, an earring and a ponytail. He is also in the hood. This is what happens as a direct result of a divorce in Sweet Valley. And the divorce is a direct result of Elizabeth never having been born.

Here’s an excerpt of the Wakefields, sans Liz:

Mrs Wakefield ran out the door after him. “Will you at least be home to open gifts tomorrow morning?”

Steven stopped in midstride halfway across the lawn. “Did you get me that CD player I want?”

“Steven, you know we don’t have that kind of money –“

“Then the answer’s no.”

 

#14 Without Liz, Jessica is ugly and unpopular. When the Sharks come round pretending to be her friend, she jumps at the chance. They then force her to scale City Hall and remove the star from the top, and she falls to her death.

It is now that Elizabeth realizes she is crucial to everyone’s livelihood, and agrees to go back to the real world.

When she “wakes up”, she’s at the SVMS Christmas party, as the guest of honour. A guest of honour? At a fucking Christmas party? With all this miracle work, she’s practically Jesus Christ, so why am I not surprised?

Everyone is gushing over her, and the crowd cheers every time she opens her mouth. Then the friggen Glasses turn up with good news – they’ve moved into an even better apartment! In the space of one day! Even Mr Glass is there, which is surprising because I was beginning to think he might be George…

The moral of the story – Elizabeth Wakefield is central to the functioning of Sweet Valley, to California and to the entire solar system. Can I have the past two hours of my life back? Please? Francine, if you’re reading this: “A Christmas Without Elizabeth” is the perfect title for a spin-off series, where Margo finally has her way….Just a thought.

***

As many of you know, I am a major Sweet Valley nut. But above and beyond that, I am a Christmas dork. I freaking love Christmas. I turn into this corny, caroling version of myself. So this year, I decided to put a Sweet Valley spin on my Christmas decorations. The Evil Twin scene from last week is in the living room. And this is what became of my book collection:

Introducing Trusty-Sort-of-Boyfriend-Todd: Sweet Valley Twins #43 Elizabeth’s First Kiss

8 Nov

Between the combover, the mutism and the vacant look on his face, Todd had all the makings of a Liz Wakefield project.

For obvious reasons, I skipped to the last chapter first, knowing that if the kiss happened as promised, Fran-Pasc wouldn’t waste it on the rest of the book. And it happened…kind of. Although it was more of a peck on the cheek and less of a salty-french-fried-chocolate-millshake-makeout. They are twelve, after all. And he is only her sort-of-boyfriend. So after plowing through all the ocean-eyed-sunstreaked-haired-same-but-different mantra, I discovered that this book is pretty much a toned down version of Double Love [i.e. The twins fight over Todd, but Jessica doesn’t accuse him of sexual assault.]

Jessica has the hots for Todd, or at least the idea of Todd, and because all the Unicorns are getting sort-of-boyfriends, she needs one too. Only strangely, whenever Todd is around her, all he wants to do is talk about Liz, because THAT’S ALL ANYONE DOES IN SWEET VALLEY.

I quite like Liz in this book [SHAME!] – she actually seems like a real 12-year-old noticing boys for the first time. In true Liz fashion, she overanalyzes everything that Todd says and does, which reminds me of myself until oh, about four years ago. And I am in my 20s. For instance, she and Toddles have an awkward conversation about bowling in which she admits how clumsy she is, and then she proceeds to beat herself up for the next week for so stupidly offending him. Then, when Jessica asks her to go bowling she wonders if Todd will think she’s going because of him, but then if she stays home Jess will get a crack at TBT and BLAH BLAH BLAH. I still hate Liz, but maybe that means I hate myself.

As is the case in Double Love, Jessica pursues Todd with vigor, and Liz lets her get away with it, because she is a doormat. Without confessing who her crush is, Liz asks Jess for dating advice, and of course gets the solution to all relationship woes, a makeover, from her twin. Please note Jessica hasn’t been kissed yet, which surprises me. So Liz rocks up at SVMS decked out in purple and with her hair curled, and because Lila is a bitch [who I love] she sends a rumour around that Liz is looking for a boyfriend. So everyone from me to Randy Mason chases after her, even though it’s TBT she wants. [Trusty Boyfriend Todd? Trusty sort-of-boyfriend Todd? TSOBT?]

Anyway – eventually the whole gang decides to go to the bowling alley, and TSOBT only agrees to go with Jess because Elizabeth will be there too. Todd, you are waaaaay simple.

And you have an extraordinarily long neck

Luckily, Jessica ditches him for Aaron Dallas, so he is free to go off and hold hands with Liz and deliver the timely peck. What would have been awesome is if, when they were bowling, Liz did something clumsy and Todd fell for her in spite of it. But no, we are in Sweet Valley, so instead we get this scene:

“If I bowl a strike,” said Elizabeth, “it’ll be the first one in my whole life.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” Julie reminded her. “Come on, we want to win!”
Elizabeth stepped back, took two running steps, and threw the ball. To her enormous surprise, it went straight down the middle of the lane and smashed into the pins. Every single one of them crashed to the floor.
“A strike!” Amy yelled, jumping up and down. “I knew you could do it! Now we’re ahead!”
“Hey,” Todd said admiringly, “that was pretty good.”

Screw you, Liz. On the night of my first pash, I tripped over the bloody sound equipment at the school dance and the plastics laughed in my face. So screw you.

While all this is transpiring, [maybe bad things happen to me because I use words like ‘transpiring’] Steven is two-timing a sporty feminist chick called Lindsay [who I dig], and an flirtatious, vapid airhead called Candace [who I do not.] I liked Steven waaaay more in SVT, when he didn’t fawn over his sisters and mope after much-younger girls and dead people. He totally strings both girls along, then has to ditch Candace at the bowling alley and break her little heart. Go Steve! The only thing I dislike is that he asks Liz for relationship advice.

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