Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sweet Valley Highs and Lows

I got my first taste of the Sweet Valley High series when I was around eleven years old. I was on a camping trip with my dad and  brother, and a lot of driving was involved. They would talk sports all day, and my dad worried I was bored. So when we stopped for gas he asked me if I'd like him to buy me a book. The convenience store's  selection wasn't huge, but they did have number two and number four from Sweet Valley High.  He bought both of them for me, and I enjoyed them more than I was willing to admit.

While those were the only two copies from the high school series that I ever actually owned, I read a ton more. In middle school and high school I  read them whenever I slept over at my best friend Shauna's house. I would usually wake up before her, so I could choose from her large selection of the adventures of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. And what adventures they had! Amnesia, abductions, tons and tons of guys... what wasn't to love?

Shauna and I were both aspiring writers, so we coined our own series, Sour Valley High, where the twins were ugly and unlikeable. But that's another story.

Years later, after college graduation, Shauna and I moved to Minneapolis. It was the fall of 1994. Our first week  there we happened upon the Sweet Valley University series, and bought several copies. We were alone and a little overwhelmed in what felt like a huge city. Retreating back to our new apartment and reading these novels was a bit of a regression, sure, but it felt like being home.

Now Shauna and I live in separate states, we're both married with children, and when we talk, it's not about Sweet Valley High. However last week I happened upon a blurb in Glamor Magazine, that talked about how Diablo Cody is writing the screenplay for the Sweet Valley movie, and that there's a new series of the novels out, Sweet Valley Confidential, and it's meant for adults.

Yesterday I downloaded the free sample chapter onto my kindle. Elizabeth is living in NYC, working for a small-time magazine, and worrying about whether or not she should have sex with her boss on their first date. She also reflects on how she cried after each orgasm she had with her last, semi-boyfriend. Yeck. TMI. This is Elizabeth Wakefield we're talking about. She's like that perfect girl from high school that seems above most human endeavors, like using the bathroom and burping.

Anyway, long story, I posted the link about these books on Shauna's facebook wall. One of her friends saw it, and wanted to know if I'm a fan. Turns out this friend is the voice on the audio book for Sweet Valley Confidential!  How cool is that?

Because honestly, there are a lot of fans out there, whether they admit it or not. It's the perfect escapist kind of read. These twins have it all. They're beautiful, with their blond hair and turquoise eyes. They're talented; Elizabeth with her writing skills and Jessica with her social skills. They attract all sorts of guys, although Elizabeth mostly sticks with her long-time boyfriend Todd, while Jessica plays the field.

But their luck doesn't end there. They have two things that most women would kill for, but none will ever get:

1. They have each other - an alter ego that reflects their beauty and perfection, while also presenting the polar opposite. A ying to the other one's yang.
2. They don't age at a normal rate. Seriously. When I was in grade school I read about their high school adventures, and now in Sweet Valley Confidential,  Elizabeth and Jessica are twenty-seven.
How is that possible? I'm forty, and I started out younger than them. They ought to be at least forty-five,  approaching menopause and their mid-life crises.
 It's so unfair.

However, when that book comes out, I'll probably read it. But only if Shauna buys a copy first.

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