I was in grade two when I read my first Sweet Valley High book. I still remember, it was called “Operation Love Match”, a two hundred plus page novel, so not appropriate for the eyes of an eight year old, but I devoured it. I felt like such a grown up. I don’t think I understood everything that the book was about, but it started a long love affair with everything Sweet Valley – the books that defined my childhood.
Like most girls who grew up in the 90’s, Sweet Valley High books were everything to me. I started reading the junior high ones, called the Unicorn Club, then I moved on to SVH, dabbled a bit in Sweet Valley University and ended with Sweet Valley Senior Year, which was my favorite series. I remember being a kid and wanting to join the fan club, watching the short-lived TV show, that so wasn’t for my young eyes. Reading those books made me think high school was going to be so glamorous. Everyone would have cool cars (Jessica and Elizabeth had that jeep), after school students would go to the local burger joint and hang out, and I could work at the school newspaper just like Elizabeth worked at the Oracle. I quickly found out that high school wasn’t like Sweet Valley High, but it continued to be a place I could escape to, and read about teens dealing with issues that I didn’t get to experience.
This was all brought back to me this past weekend, reading “Sweet Valley Confidential” the newest book by Francine Pascal. It picks up ten years after high school where Jessica and Elizabeth are twenty-seven. The book describes the lives of the sisters and what happened to their family and memorable characters from the series like Todd Wilkins, Bruce Patman and Winston Egbert. I wasn’t expecting literary greatness when I picked up the book, and honestly it wasn’t that great, but it was a super fun read because it felt so familiar. It was the same easy, clear, simple writing style that I remember, the characters acted the same, and found themselves in crazy situations. Reviews on Amazon are mixed. It wasn’t a book that I’ll remember for years to come, but on a boring weekend, it was great to curl up and find out what Jessica and Elizabeth were up to.
One thing that did bother me about the book was I didn’t recognize every character from the old books that were mentioned. That could be because my favorite SVH series was the last one, Senior Year, released in the late nineties. I would get the new one every month and still have every single one. These books were a lot more contemporary than the earlier ones, characters dealt with bullying, sexuality, gambling, suicide and alcohol addiction . Characters thoughts were written out in diary form at the end of every chapter, and the cast was much more multicultural than in the earlier books.
I remember swapping them with my friends, having a HUGE crush on Angel Desmond, a very hot bartender, and getting so wrapped up in every story line. I picked up the series a few years ago and still got tied up in it.
Sweet Valley books were a great escape and were a big reason I fell in love with reading. Being grown now, reading “Sweet Valley Confidential” was a fun way to look back on the characters I grew up with and remember the old days.