Sweet Valley High

Sweet Valley High was a young adult book series featuring a set of identical twins living in southern California. The books were so annoying their creator couldn’t even stand to write them; she hired a team of ghostwriters to do her dirty work.

Just The Facts

  1. The main characters, sixteen-year-old twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, are the most beautiful and popular girls ever.
  2. Sweet Valley, California, is a magical place where nobody ever ages and all the drunks and drug dealers conveniently live across the railroad tracks where they won't bother anyone.
  3. The series was created in 1983 by Francine Pascal, a woman who had never been to California and probably didn't have any friends in high school.

The Wakefields

It's a well known fact that fictional twins have to be exactly the same or completely different, and the Wakefield twins fall into the second category.

Jessica is the bad twin. She whores it up all over town (in a mostly PG-13 kind of way, of course), and seems to have no conscience when it comes to screwing people over for her own gain. Her favorite pastimes include kissing, shopping and making fat girls cry.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, loves nothing more than to find some unsuspecting teen in trouble and offer her sage advice. Liz always has a steady boyfriend, but sometimes she just can't help cheating on him because it would be rude of her to turn down the multitude of other guys who ask her out.

We are told in every book that the twins are the very best of friends despite their differences, but we only ever see Liz bailing Jessica out of trouble.

The twins' brother, Steven, attends Sweet Valley University, but he comes home almost every weekend to creep around Jessica's friends. Steve has issues; he tries to turn every girl he dates into his one true love, Tricia, who died of leukemia. He's kind of a freak.

Ned and Alice Wakefield are bad parents who are always at work, but nobody seems to have a problem with this, including their children.

Writing a Sweet Valley High book

Being a Sweet Valley High ghostwriter was probably a pretty sweet gig. They never seemed too concerned with continuity, and any book was complete as long as Elizabeth got to pat someone's shoulder and Jessica got to act like a psychopath.

Another thing the ghostwriters didn't concern themselves with was trying to get any kind of message out to the young readers who turned out in droves to buy this crap every time a new book came out. Not any kind of good message anyway. In book 10, for instance, we find out you can get whatever you want - a spot on the cheerleading squad in this case - if you try to kill yourself.

Almost every book tries to make sure we know that looks are everything. Sweet Valley is full of beautiful people. There used to be two fat chicks, but one of them starved herself until she was thin and hot, and nobody ever talks to the other one. We don't recall any fat boys who weren't popular football players.

Jumping the Shark

When the series was nearing its hundredth book, Francine went a little soft in the head. There were suddenly vampires and werewolves, evil twins and serial killers all over Sweet Valley, and naturally, they were all out to get our beloved Wakefield twins. Luckily, most of the series' original readers had grown up and moved on by that time, and the new generation of readers didn't seem to mind. The series trudged along for another fifty books or so, and then an earthquake came and fucked up Sweet Valley on the twins' seventeenth birthday. The series ended there.

Spinoffs and Sequels

Because of the success of the original series (and yes, despite how awful it sounds, it really was successful), Francine Pascal saw fit to grace the world with even more Sweet Valley books. Want to know what the twins were doing in second grade? Sweet Valley Kids! How about sixth grade? Sweet Valley Twins! And don't forget Sweet Valley University! And Senior Year! And Junior High! And she's still not done. In early 2011, we'll get Sweet Valley Confidential, in which we'll see the twins at age 25. We can't wait to find out whether Jessica turned out to be a prostitute or a porn star. Or maybe both! She always was an ambitious little slut.