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In Today’s News: the Return to Sweet Valley High

On the front page of the New York Times today is an article about Sweet Valley Confidential, a return to the series many of us loved as teens (or younger), the Sweet Valley High series.  Now it’s a book for adults.  Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are 27 years old and as the article points out, are “living on separate coasts, drinking, having casual sex and – gasp – enjoying it.”

Why is this news?  Well for one thing the book is a bestseller, and a film based on the original series is in production.  According to the NYT, the original series, begun in 1983, included hundreds of books that sold 150 million copies worldwide.

But it’s also news, again according to this article, because there’s a lot of buzz about this children’s series being reinvented for adults and including adult behavior like -gasp- sex.  Here’s a great quote from writer Francine Pascal: “I’ve had people who have questioned Elizabeth having orgasms… And I say to them, if they’re listening, would you deny a 27-year old woman the right to have an orgasm?”

Wow.  Because we don’t have enough these days to be concerned about, right? (Like, say, pink nail polish on boys?)

I didn’t read a lot of teen fiction when I was a kid, and I didn’t read many books aimed at girls.  Most of the books I loved fell somewhere between fantasy and literature.  And when I got into romances I went straight from Judy Blume to adult romance novels.   But something about these books hooked me.

Elizabeth was the good twin, and Jessica the bad one.  But even Jessica wasn’t really bad, just a little selfish.  The two sisters were completely different but always there for each other.  They were perfect in such a ridiculous way — of course they were popular and beautiful, had tons of friends, a perfect family and a glamorous life.  They had lots of problems but it all worked out in the end of every book.  It was a soap opera for girls, long before Beverly Hills 90210.

Of course, the girls should really be in their forties now, rather than 27, but I imagine being 27 is just a little more marketable.

I can’t say this is worthy of front page news, and I don’t know that I’ll read the book, which seems to be getting truly horrible reviews.  But it was a fun article to read and brought back fond memories of a series I loved.

Did you grow up on these books?  Will you be reading this one?  If you do, let me know what you thought.

7 thoughts on “In Today’s News: the Return to Sweet Valley High

  1. I could not get enough of these books in 5th and 6th grades (not sure if that was the age they were targeting, but I read them then) and I impulsively bought the book yesterday after impulsively buying cupcakes. I skimmed some reviews after buying (oops) and while I’m expecting (and OK with) less than stellar writing, I read that the book has errors in it (like internally contradictory information). If that’s true, reading this will drive me nuts. I can’t tolerate stuff like that–wasn’t there an editor?

    You can read my copy when I’m done if you want. I’m sure you’d be able to finish it in a couple of hours. Given how slowly I read it’ll take me, um, longer.

    • Thanks but not sure I’ll take you up on that! I think I might hate it. Maybe I’ll hit the library and read the old ones. Now if there’s cupcakes involved, that’s different.

  2. I loved these books when I was younger and remember scouring the local library with my friend for ones we hadn’t read! I love that there’s an ‘adult’ version but I probably won’t pick it up, mostly because I don’t want to tarnish the memories of loving the series before I had any idea about literary merit! Will be intrigued to read some reviews, though!

    • The reviews are pretty horrible, mostly from people who loved the books. I think I’m with you — why tarnish a series you loved? Plus I’m so not a chick-lit reader.

  3. I used to love these books – especially when they put out one of the special editions, like the mysteries that were twice as thick as the normal ones. Sometimes the storylines were so wacky – wasn’t there one where the Wakefield family goes to a spa and its staffed entirely by formerly homeless teens who were taken in, given extensive plastic surgery to conform to some beauty ideal, then worked the spa? My God, where Francine Pascal thought of these things…

    As terrible as the reviews of this book are, I really, really want to read it. I know that it will be no good but I’m not sure I can resist for much longer.

    • I bet you read much later ones than I did… the early ones were pretty tame. I think I was reading the first 10-20 as they came out.

      I hope to hear from you if you read it! I’m thinking about going back to read the old ones. It’s funny how I loved them and I can’t really say why. Not my type of book at all! I definitely empathized with Elizabeth being the good, responsible one. Except for that whole gorgeous with popular boyfriend thing…

  4. haha I had a friend who LOVED these books as a teenager so this would make a funny present. They never appealled to me so I never even picked one up. I wonder if this is the start of a craze?

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