Tuesday, April 22, 2008

sweet valley high redux

There is no other series of books that marked my youth in the late '80s and early '90s more than the Sweet Valley series. While I was more partial to the Sweet Valley Twins (the cover art to me was less creepy, plus, I was quite young when I started to read them, maybe around 8 or 9 yrs old), it was the success of the Sweet Valley High series that launched all the spin-offs. Fluffy, superficial, at times repetitive to the point of ad nauseum (if you'd ever noticed, every book had at least one and a half pages devoted to the descriptions of the twins, and line by line, were the same in every book), this was a pure guilty pleasure, sugar for the brain at a time when little girls still read for pleasure.

Fast forward 25 years, and Francine Pascal, the creator, is relaunching the SVH series with all new references, bringing my favorite twins, Elizabeth and Jessica, back into relevance. The texts are the same, but any references to the '80s are all but trounced so that a new generation of little girls can fall in love and choose their favorite twin.

I don't know how this repackaged series will fare when it's up against more salacious offerings like "Gossip Girl," "A-List," and "Clique," which are supposed to be much more risqué. Sweet Valley High was designed for quieter, more conventional times, and they are as familiar as apple pie, not sour apple martinis.

Anyhow, I won't be buying any issues, but it definitely brought back memories when I heard that they were going to try to make these books a part of pop culture again. I must confess, the new covers starring soap actress Leven Rambin are kinda icky. I'm not feeling her look at all. There was a (God-awful) TV show that starred real-life twin actresses Cynthia and Brittany Daniel, and while I hated the show, they emit more life into the characters than this girl, who looks kind of snotty in the photos. She looks like she smelled something bad. :p

Leven Rambin above

Cynthia and Brittany Daniel below

Fun fact, all the cover art from the original series were painted by an artist named James L. Mathewuse. I never thought too much about the artwork until they replaced him, and now I'm all fawning nostalgia.

BTW, my fave SVH issue has to be #50, "Out of Reach." It wasn't any classic to write home about, but I remember feeling in awe that there was a Chinese-American character at all (!), and that her challenges were on how to blend in with that very vanilla society. I would say that for a series that hardly ever rhapsodized on the issues of race, this was a defining moment for me as a reader.

Source & Source & Source & Source & Source

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