'Sweet Valley High' returns: Or, why nostalgia trumps taste


Sweet Valley High has returned to bookstores today with a where-are-they-now sequel, Sweet Valley Confidential. And because of this, I am having a lot of feelings. Like, dear-diary, dot-your-I’s-with-hearts feelings. Here is what happens the minute I hear the words Sweet Valley and conjure images of its endless series of ’80s paperbacks about gorgeous California-blond twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield: In my mind, I am suddenly lounging on the floor of the Oak Forest Public Library in the Young Adult aisle in the back left corner on the second floor, leaning against the several shelves containing the battered SVH selection in its entirety. I am tearing through Dear Sister, in which good-girl Elizabeth awakes from a coma acting like popular-girl Jessica (lining her eyes with kohl pencil and everything!), in one sitting so that I can then take the next two, Heartbreaker and Racing Hearts, with me. I smell of Love’s Baby Soft perfume because while I’m engrossed in the Wakefields’ lives, I’m also hoping for my own storyline to happen here; I’m hoping the love of my seventh-grade life, Greg Blakely, will happen to show up here at the library to study. He’s smart. He lives nearby. Some days this happens, and he even says dreamy things to me like, “I saw your school picture. It’s really good this year. Much better than last year’s.”

Most days, however, Greg’s a no-show. But I can get through it because I’m spending most of my afternoons in Sweet Valley anyway. (I will eventually go home to my diary with a unicorn on the front and write poems about my feelings for Greg — no joke — with titles culled from the book series. I actually set “Double Love” to music that I can still hum. I really wanted to be Debbie Gibson, which is its own whole pop culture-therapy issue. Good lord, junior high is terrifying.) And now, as I contemplate a grown-up sequel to Sweet Valley High featuring the likes of Elizabeth’s upstanding boyfriend, Todd Wilkins (now apparently engaged to Jessica), hunky Bruce Patman, and Jessica nemesis Lila Fowler, I am rather crazed to drop the very good Dave Eggers book I am reading to return to all of them. I am assured by EW’s own very astute (and equally fond-of-SVH) Karen Valby that it will not be high literature, and yet I do not care. Though author Francine Pascal deserves credit for some seriously addictive plotting — this was the original original 90210, kids! — revisiting those characters is more about basking in Love’s Baby Soft-scented memories than about Reading Important Books. That said, I learned to love reading — and even the idea of being a writer — thanks to the Wakefields, so that’s something.

I suppose it’s the same feeling that draws otherwise perfectly rational adults to those NKOTBSB concerts and any of VH1’s I Love the [Fill in Pivotal Decade for You Here] marathons. What other nostalgic pop culture have you indulged in for the memories, Pop Watchers? And who else has Sweet Valley High nostalgia?

Follow me on Twitter: @jenmarmstrong

Read more:
EW’s ‘Sweet Valley Confidential’ review

Comments (43 total) Add your comment
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  • Meg

    If only Ann M. Martin did another grown-up Baby-Sitters Club. I would give up my entire savings.

    • bran4jay

      I agree with Meg, entirely.

    • Sara

      I would too, in a heartbeat.

    • BLM

      BSC was the best! That brings back memories of saving my allowance and begging my parents to take me to Walden’s bookstore so I could buy the next BSC series book.

    • KSM

      I would seriously line up outside of a bookstore at midnight for a grown up BSC.

    • Eve

      You guys actually bought the series? I mean, in elementary school I was totally obsessed with BSC and the spin-off about the little sister. So much that I would get 2 or 3 of them a week from my school or public library and finish them by the end of the day! My parents certainly would not have paid for all those flimsy, but oh so sweet, books!

  • Mel

    I adored SVH, and will probably check the books out of the library. Thank God my library has self-check out….

    • SXiPPY

      I wonder where Ramona & Beezus Quimby are today, along with Henry Huggins? It would be interesting if Beverly Clearly, in her elderly state, were to write an adult update on the lives of little scamp Ramona and her easily irritable sister. How would the adult life have corrupted her? Would she have been incarcerated in a woman’s prison for having takin gone prank too far? Curious…

  • Kim

    I pre-ordered it months ago. It’s on its way! Cannot wait.

  • Ada

    I am not willing to spend money on this book but I made sure that I was the first on the library waitlist for this book when it was announced it was being released. I can.not.wait.

  • Jamie

    I LOVED these books! I wanna beat up my father for gettin’ rid of them…I so wish I still had them. I”m so excited about all this…

  • Anitamargarita

    Love’s Baby Soft perfume! HAHA

  • Lee

    Oh wow! SVH kicks Gossip Girl’s butt any day of the week. Remember Suzanne from New York? I’ll never forgive that heartless b*tch for trying to frame Elizabeth’s favorite English teacher, Mr. Collins, for assaulting her. Those books had the best crazy plotlines and background characters. I really thought high school was going to be as glamorous as one of Lila Fowler’s pool parties when I read those books in middle school.

    • Lexie

      OMG tell me about it….I waited and waited for the day I would turn 16 thinking my life would be just like those of the twins and all their SVU friends….Then I turned 16 and boy was I disapointed!

    • Nicole

      Oh my god, me too. I couldn’t wait to turn 16 like it was some kind of all-access pass to cool-world or something. I was going to have all the latest fashions a la Jessica, a great, handsome boyfriend like Elizabeth, and a Jeep. It’s painfully obvious how much I took books like SVH, Sweet Valley Twins (remember those??), BSC, the Sweet Dreams series and all the rest to heart when I read my diaries (several) from age 10 to 15. I wrote everything as though I was a protagonist in one of those books. It’s hilarious. But, years later, I still have a soft spot for YA books that I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of (but I’m much more discerning now, or at least I like to think I am).

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    I’m totally ticked that Jess and Todd are engaged! I spent my entire childhood dreaming that Elizabeth and Todd would wind up together!


    • Vanessa

      Me too! Todd and Jessica? It’s just not right. And Elizabeth and Bruce are besties? *shakes head*

    • Renee

      I’m ashamed to say that was my first thought too (Todd & Jessica?????)! I LOVED SVH. Can’t believe it’s back. Perhaps a trip to the library is in order…

  • AN

    I got my copy from Amazon today and am so excited to crack it open! I read them all – Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley U!

  • frankie

    My best friend from elementary/middle school and I were obsessed…OBSESSED…with these books….(and BSC.) I heard about this book and immediately thought of her; next day I had an email from her telling me about it! We live far from each other and havent talked in AGES but those silly books keep us bonded forever!We both ordered it and I cant wait to spend a day (hour?) of reading nostalgia.

  • Jackie

    WOW. That’s all I can say. I think my ‘Sweet Valley High’ books might still be stored in the closet of my old room at my parents’ house, and now I kind of want them back. I am SO tempted to buy this book!

  • Vicki

    LOVED SVH! I bought every one with my hard earned babysitting money. I felt pure joy every month I saw the shiny new book at the book store and I still have every one. I was thrilled to learn I was having identical twins 8 years ago, but they turned out to be boys who will, unfortunately, have no interest in my collection.

  • Lily

    I cannot wait to read this book! SVH and The Babysitter’s Club kept me at the bookstore weekly growing up!!!

  • Jojo

    The cover of Playing With Fire up there: is it just me, or is that John Barrowman as Bruce Patman???

    • Jessica

      It’s not just you. The first time I saw John Barrowman, I thought that if there was ever a SVH movie (thank God for Diablo Cody!) he could definitely play a slightly-older-than-high-school Bruce.

  • Amy

    I used to put the books inside my text books so my parents thought I was doing homework instead of reading SVH books.

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