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Sweet Valley High series,

A young adult book series created in 1983 by Francine Pascal

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I wanted to be a Wakefield

  • Dec 31, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+5
I remember when my mom brought home my first Sweet Valley Twins book. It made me think of strawberry ice cream, with its pink pastel cover and "sweet" series title. My mom gave it to me when she arrived home from work, knowing how much I loved to read. I dove right in, and by the time I'd finished the last page two days later, I was hooked. I begged my mother for another book, and another, until I was saving up my allowance to buy the next novel in the series.
My introduction to Francine Pascal, and Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield happened in second grade. It was also the year that I wrote my first fictional short story. I've long-since considered that year to be the beginning of my love affair with writing. I'd already loved to read, but after reading the Sweet Valley series, I knew that I wanted to write stories just like that. Or write anything, really. 20 years later, and I still feel the same way. All thanks to Francine Pascal's SV series. 
I graduated to SVH in junior high, which was when my mom finally allowed me to read this series about high schoolers. I imagined myself as practically part of the Wakefield clan, with parents Ned and Alice, and big brother Steven. I related much more to Elizabeth, the quiet, "good" twin. Wasn't she on the school newspaper staff? In junior high, you have no idea what clique you'll be absorbed into when you hit high school, and since Liz's personality wasn't much of a stretch from my own, maybe I secretly hoped I could be like Jess, too. Yeah, Jessica was the cheerleader, and the "bad" girl. Maybe I envied her and wanted to be like her just a little bit.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed living vicariously through these fictional twins. I loved weaving in and out of their respective circles. I loved reading about spoiled Lila Fowler, obnoxious Bruce and the rest of Jessica's friends as much as I liked Liz' best friend Enid and goody-goody boyfriend Todd. Though many of the books revolve around trivial plots like cheerleading wars and stolen diaries, over time the characters and the stories evolved into really complex and sometimes even risque plots. To name a few, "When Love Dies" is about Steven's girlfriend dying of leukemia. Date rape is the subject of "Don't Go Home with John." I know that compared to what teens are reading and watching these days (See Gossip Girl), these story lines don't sound very scandalous, but I think that they were very cutting edge for their time. 
In the series, I truly loved all of the books. But I absolutely adored the Magna editions. The recounting of the Wakefield family line was awesome. And you know I was almost in shock when I read that Alice Wakefield had almost married Bruce's dad in the 60's. Oh, what fun reads those were. The Fowler and Patman legacies were just as engrossing. 
Okay, as my brother would say, I am "nerding out" right now. But I swear, thinking back to my love affair with the world of Sweet Valley is like a...I don't even know. I just haven't thought about those stories in so long, really.
I never did get into the Sweet Valley University series. I think that's when they stopped using the drawings for the book cover, and switched to real models. The girls they chose just didn't resemble the picture of the Jess and Liz that I'd formulated in my head over the years, and totally killed the fantasy. I tried to get into the television series that debuted in '94, but again, the show just didn't stick closely enough to the books.
And ten years later, what became of my beloved collection of SVH books? I traded one passion for another. Desperate to get out of the 909 (before it was 951) and start living, I sold them to a used book store for a mountain of pennies in order to buy a train ticket up north. It was a one way ticket, and I've been in SF for nearly ten years. So I lovingly credit Francine Pascal's little series with helping me realize that I was going to be a writer, and for helping me get to the amazing city I now call home. 

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August 16, 2009
Just words "Sweet Valley High" bring a smile to my face. Such great memories and such fun books. I totally identified with Elizabeth too:D I didn't realize they made a TV series. How did I miss that? Thanks for the great flash back!
 
January 19, 2009
Couldn't be happier that you decided to nerd out on this particular topic!! Great review -- what a fun ride to relive all the characters I so adored. Awesome parallel to your love for both writing and also for your great great city of SF. So cool. I had an equally voracious appetite for this entire series, blowing through one after another as quickly as I could. I agree with every point you made here too!! Same favorite characters, same love of both the trivial and the thought provoking story lines. Ah, waxing oh-so-nostalgic right now = ) Funny story - my husband works in TV production and got hit on by one of the twins that played the characters in the TV (or was it a film?) rendition. Too funny. What could I do but laugh, really?
 
January 10, 2009
I know many female peers who got into journalism simply b/c of Elizabeth Wakefield's involvement in the school paper! Though as a kid, I liked Elizabeth, as I grew up, slowly I shifted over to Jessica's side, the "bad" twin. :)
 
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More Sweet Valley High reviews
Quick Tip by . July 11, 2010
These were some of my favorite books growing up. They were quite entertaining. I loved Sweet Valley High so much that my mom subscribed to a book club and I got 2 new Sweet Valley books a month. I would devour both books in three days and be waiting eagerly for the next month's books.
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
Not as good as the Baby Sitters Club!
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Seeing this series listed brought a smile to my face. I spent plenty of time reading through this series as a teenager.
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
Another series I can't believe I actually read
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
Oh my gosh! I haven't thought about these books in years. They were always a bit on the weepy side for me. Someone broke up with him to be with her and this and that. Entertaining when you're young and seeing it played out in school yards and hallways. Not so much when you are an adult or at least you pretend to be.
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
it was interesting I read this in my "younger" days
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
I enjoyed these as a young adult. Not meaningful but stimulating.
Quick Tip by . June 21, 2010
fun but lacked real depth, plot. all pretty much the same
Quick Tip by . June 19, 2010
I think these were fun reading growing up. Deal with a lot of issues young teens deal with.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
These are pretty cheesy
About the reviewer
Nicole Milliner ()
Ranked #362
From Riverside, CA. Loving and living in San Francisco for almost eight years. My tasty husband and I are raising a brilliant, gorgeous daughter and an amazing little boy. Life rocks right now. I'm a … more
About this book

Wiki

Sweet Valley High is a book series created by Francine Pascal, who presided over a team of ghostwriters for the duration of the series' creation in 1983. The series ended twenty years later with over 152 books to its name. Over the years, the books were written by many ghostwriters (including Emmy-award winning screenwriter Rodney Vaccaro), and revolved around the lives of teenagers Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, twins who live in Sweet Valley, California. The series quickly gained popularity and spawned several spin-off series. The last Sweet Valley book, Sweet Valley University, was published in January 2003. The books are generally classified as young adult or kids' fiction.
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Young Adult Fiction, Wakefield Twins, Francine Pascal, Sweet Valley High

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