Books Remembered #9: Sweet Valley High - Francine Pascal
This is a semi-regular feature where I reminisce about books or even series that I read over and over again. Or even a book read once that changed the way I looked at life. I wanted to re-introduce it as I wanted to highlight some books that have been out for a while and maybe don't get as much attention as the new releases. It’s not a review of the book(s) but merely remembering the impact it had on me and how it’s shaped my reading habits and likes –what made that book(s) memorable.
I’ve always been a big reader – addicted according to my mother. This was because whenever I found an author or series I liked I wanted to read everything they’d ever written. And before Urban Fantasy, before Anne Rice, before Christopher Pike, before Point Horror, there was Sweet Valley. Sweet Valley was my first experience of Americana where everyone lived in sun drenched California, the rich were snobby and shallow, the cheerleaders and jocks were the most popular people in school and there were these ‘perfect size six, blonde haired, blue eyed identical twins’ – Jessica and Elizabeth. Jessica was the fun loving, risk taking, shallower twin with numerous boyfriends while Elizabeth was the more studious twin who had a steady boyfriend and wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be their friend so much - especially Elizabeth! They had the perfect life – with understanding but generally absent parents, cool friends, sneaky plots to see their boyfriends and help their ‘poor’ friends in Sweet Valley. It was how I imagined everyone in America lived and I gobbled up the books. They were numbered and I wanted to read them all plus the numerous special editions. I spent all my pocket money on them (I could a book every two weeks if I saved) and begged my Gran to bring me back books from the series when she visited family in Canada.
I also read Sweet Valley Twins but it was SVH that I adored! I loved the crazy schemes, the number of times the twins would steal a boyfriend off each other (I swear neither of them ever had a boyfriend to themselves!), the serious storylines covering drugs (bad), teenage sex (frowned upon), the beautiful people (no-one was ever ugly!).For me, Jessica and Elizabeth were the perfect teen role models growing up. Even now I have fond memories of the series and while I haven’t kept any of the books, I wanted to write this Books Remembered before I started to reading the new Sweet Valley Confidential so I could try to capture the adoration I had for them. I know that various other series were written about them including going away to university, but to me they will always be juniors at Sweet Valley High and while I lost track of them around book 90-something, I can’t wait to see what they now up too. I wouldn't say these books had as big an impact on me as others, but they were one of my first favourites and I loved them! Were you a Sweet Valley addict as well? Were you a Jessica or Elizabeth girl? :)
PS – I thought it would be fun to try re-reading some of the classic SVH books as well, but despite all the books that were printed and scouring all the second book stores I know, I could only find one Sweet Valley High book! What happened to all the other books...?