by G.G. Andrew
There are many memories that burn bright in my early days of reading, but few can compete with the day I discovered Sweet Valley High.
As a third grader, I was at a friend’s house when we stepped into her sister’s room and saw a revolving book carousel filled with paperback Sweet Valley books. Those 1980s covers held such pretty, pastel images of handsome guys, pink phones, and two perfect blond twins (with their matching size six bodies, aquamarine eyes, and lavalier necklaces). It was book love at first sight.
A lot of my friends read The Baby-Sitters Club books, but here was something even better. Smuttier. Older girls who drove and french-kissed! Much to my mom’s chagrin, I spent the next couple years devouring the series whenever I could (and even, years later, still read book blurbs to find out what befell my beloved Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield).
But, as much as Sweet Valley has fed my fascination with sisters, opposites, and relationship drama through the years, it wasn’t all that…realistic. Here are six ways Sweet Valley lied to me about love and life:
1.) Kisses don’t always taste like french fries and milkshakes.
In Sweet Valley, Elizabeth Wakefield’s perfect boyfriend Todd always seemed to be french-kissing her after they left the Dairy Burger, the local hangout. In real life, it’s more likely you’ll be kissed by someone who recently drank a Pabst Blue Ribbon, or just rolled over in bed.
2.) Your flirty and likely evil sister will probably get the guy.
We were supposed to root for Elizabeth in Sweet Valley High, the “good” sister who kept up her grades, worked on the school newspaper, and was kind to all. And Elizabeth usually ended up with the best high school boys. But in real life it’d be Jessica who’d nab all the guys. Sure, Jessica was pretty much a sociopath, but she was a perfect size six too, and she wore bikinis and knew how to flirt.
3.) You don’t get to date the high school basketball star and then the stellar soccer player.
It just won’t happen.
4.) If you land in a coma, then come out of it with a temporarily different personality, people aren’t going to let that slide.
Elizabeth Wakefield took an ill-advised ride in her boyfriend’s motorcycle in Dangerous Love, and as a result got into an accident and slipped into a coma–and then somehow woke up with a completely different personality. She flirted shamelessly, she hung out with rich bad boy Bruce Patman, she was irresponsible–shit, she was like Jessica. Then something happened like she got hit on the head again and bam! back to the old Elizabeth, and everybody was happy. But if this ever happens to you in real life, you’ll be lucky to come back with any friends, let alone the star basketball player by your side.
5.) Getting listed in anything resembling a slam book will be more likely to lead to an uglycry, not romance.
Superlatives (“Most popular,” “Most likely to marry”): less likely to start love connections, more likely to ruin your life.
6.) That rich, arrogant jerk you knew in high school probably isn’t going to do a 180.
In a strange followup to the world of Sweet Valley, in 2011 Francine Pascal published Sweet Valley Confidential, an update of the Wakefield twins ten years after high school. Elizabeth and Todd had broken up, and he was now with Jessica, and (spoiler alert) Elizabeth developed feelings for… Bruce Patman? While the pairings were kind of inspired, the book was not so much, and I couldn’t help but think that Bruce probably couldn’t go from alphahole to Nice Guy in ten years. Unless, of course, he had a motorcycle accident that landed him in a coma. Then, as we all know, anything is possible.
G.G. Andrew writes quirky romantic comedy–stories about people who fall in love with the most unlikely person, and stumble through some awkward conversations, mistaken identities, and ill-advised kisses along the way. Her latest book is GRAFFITI IN LOVE, a romance between an infamous British graffiti artist and the American woman who hates him. There are no twins in it. Nor, sadly, pink phones.