'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?
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