1984: I was 10 years old. I loved dolphins and Barbies and spent hours wishing that I was 16, drove a red Fiat, and that my identical twin, somehow separated from me at birth and that my parents denied having (hey, I saw The Parent Trap! If it could happen to Hayley Mills it could happen to me!) would show up.
Giving credit where credit is due, Francine Pascal inspired a love of reading for me. While I was (obviously) reading before I discovered the Sweet Valley High series, I have this distinct memory of laying on the bottom bunk of my knotty pine bed-set wearing polyester dolphin shorts and not wanting to do anything but read about the lives of these idyllic twin girls in this fictional town that sounded, like, WAYYYYY better than the VALLEY.
While we didn't have matching lavaliere necklaces, Annie, Debbie and I shared a 3-way best friend charm and and an obsession for these books. We traded older copies back and forth as we waited for book #5 or #6 (out of what turned into a 150+ book series) to be published and dreamed of being cheerleaders, dating and having our own phone lines.
Then? We grew up. SVH was traded in for Flowers in the Attic (a series to this day I chastise my mom for letting me read), Stephen King and even Clan of the Cave Bear (on another note, a new book in that series was also released last week). Dreams of being a teenager were replaced by the reality of being a teenager and by the time I turned 16 the only car I wanted to drive was a convertible VW Rabbit.
Last week, Francine Pascal re-ignited the 9 year old girl in all of us with the release Sweet Valley Confidential. Jessica and Elizabeth, "10 years later." And while it's fuzzy math on that 10 years (yet it's modern day in the book; they Facebook and Twitter and use their iPods, yet they are only 27) "something has torn the twins apart and they are no longer speaking!" Well, duh. Of course it's that Jessica did something horrible to her "4-minute older" big sister and for the first time, Elizabeth stood up for herself. Didn't we all see this coming in 1986?
Let's be honest here. This book is no literary work of genius. This isn't an epic Freedom-esque tome in which Elizabeth delves deep inside her soul to see that she has settled for less than she dreamed. This is Sweet Valley High as we all remember it. Remember how each of the books always used the same lines to describe things like the Wakefield's house, the Twins' good looks, the restaurant they always went to eat at? All those phrases are back... but instead of being annoyed, I was relieved and almost comforted by the memory of these words.
The story is what you would expect. No more, no less. But it was perfect for what it was: nostalgia. In fact, i think this book was just Francine Pascal's excuse to finally let Jessica and Elizabeth swear, drink and have sex. As my friend Annie (now Ann) so eloquently put it, they "turned into us."
Yes, just like us, Jessica and Elizabeth have also grown up.