A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some

As I mentioned in my last post, I have something brand new-to-me for today’s review! This is courtesy of the fellow SVH fan behind the awesome SV nostalgia Instagram account @svthenandnowview their March 20, 2020 post to see all of the screen captures if you’d like to read this little goody yourself.

*Drumroll* … straight outta Waldenbooks from 1983 ….

Screengrab from @svthenandnow on Instagram (the 1/10 mark is an Instagram slide marker)

I love everything about this, from the blue cover (does it match the twins’ eyes tho?) to the Waldenbooks logo. Speaking of Waldens, per @svthenandnow, this 8-page booklet was a special free publication of that beloved long-lost mall chain bookstore. I need to take a minute to pour one out for Waldens and my other lost love, Borders! (If you’re not familiar with those names, these stores went out of business and closed across the U.S. in 2011 after the parent company, also named Borders, went bankrupt. Yes, I am still in mourning. There’s nothing like a great brick-and-mortar bookstore, whether it’s a national chain or a small local business. And as small businesses especially can use our help these days (and always), let me take a minute to encourage you to lend them your support where you can. Commence the book-buying binges!)

The front cover is so fun, and I love the mention of the Sweet Dreams teen romance series! On the back cover, as I pointed out in my previous post, note that book #2 is called Love Secrets, not just Secrets. We know there have been other last minute title changes in the past, so I’m willing to bet that was in fact its original title and they just forgot to update it on the cover graphic.

The booklet opens with “Welcome to Sweet Valley High”, an introduction. The physical description of the twins is interesting – I’ll delve more into that in a little bit. We also get a description of each twin’s personality (you knew we would) including a long paragraph on how perfect Liz is (of course), then it talks about how Jessica regularly schemes to take advantage of her sister bla bla bla. There’s also mention of how Jessica is very possessive of Liz and is jealous of any of Liz’s friends who seem too close to her. I feel this trait of Jessica’s was dropped after the earliest books in favor of Jessica simply thinking Liz’s friends were too nerdy for her liking.

Next, the intro starts outlining the personality traits of other major characters such as Enid Rollins (“you might not even notice her …” – correct), Lila Fowler, and Bruce Patman, who apparently has “big blue eyes” … what? I had to go back and look at some Bruce cover art and I’m not seeing it. Does he really have blue eyes and I just forgot? I mean, it’s been a hot minute since I did a full book read-and-recap. There’s also some chatter about Mr. Collins, the Dairi Burger vs. the “dingy roadhouse” that only the bad kids go to, and the supposed “old money vs. new money” feud between the Patmans and the Fowlers, which really only seemed relevant in book 1. You know, that feud always sounded like an intriguing plot point to me but seemed like it got dropped faster than Bruce’s drawers at a sorority house. I swear to god I think there are many unpublished SVH stories out there! I like the description of the SV mall; we learn it has “lots of stores, a video arcade, two twin movie theaters, and a giant supermarket.” No mention of Casey’s.

Next we get brief synopses for the first six books. Book 2 is back to being called just Secrets again. The booklet also keeps calling book 2’s Fall Dance the “prom.” Is this another oversight or did they change it last minute? Then in the synopsis for book 3 (Playing with Fire), there’s a mention of a “homecoming dance” (by which I think they mean the dance-off in the beginning of that one). I don’t know if these are genuinely representative of changes or if it’s just someone at Waldenbooks had to whip this booklet up last minute and didn’t bother to fact check what they wrote, because they didn’t have a crystal ball to tell them that a grown woman would be sitting here documenting every little inconsistency on a thing called the internet a few decades later. The synopsis for book 4 just goes on and calls Robin Wilson “small, round” and “Butterball Robin Wilson” … yikes. I don’t know why I’m surprised given how badly Power Play treats the topic of weight (and I mean, the series in general).

Finally, we have an excerpt from Double Love, which is chapter 1. I won’t recap that whole thing but it opens with our classic introduction to Jessica, in which she makes a scene carrying on about how horribly ugly she thinks she is, insulting Elizabeth who is watching the spectacle, and continues through the end where Liz and Jessica prepare to find out if they made it into Pi Beta Alpha and Liz sadly thinks that Todd prefers Jessica over her. Now, there are some interesting changes in this excerpt vs. the final published version, not surprising since most likely this excerpt was taken from the review copy prior to the final edits. But whereas some of the edits are simple grammar & style changes, others are more notable. Here are the ones I found worth pointing out to fellow fans:

-We’re told the twins have “cameo skin”. Uh, so like the ivory profile of a cameo necklace? My copy of the finished book does not say that; it says “perfect skin” in that spot. I guess they realized that the twins might not be that pale with all the time they spend in the California sun. Of course, in later books their skin would be emphasized as a “peaches and cream complexion.”
-In the booklet, Jessica adds a complaint about her height that is not in the final book. “She lamented that she would probably have to spend her entire life being no more than five foot six.”
-Liz’s annoyed response to Jessica’s carrying on in the published book simply says: “Your figure’s terrible, your legs are chopsticks, your knees are bony, and on top of that, your face is all wrong. Right?” In the excerpt, it goes (changes bolded by me): “Your figure’s terrible, your legs are chopsticks, your knees are bony, your face is the wrong shape, your hair’s dull, and your eyes are blah. And on top of all that, you’re practically a midget. Right?” I would say they probably changed this since “midget” can be considered a pejorative, but I think that might be too much credit for 1983.
-The paragraph about Jessica’s not wearing a watch has an extra sentence in the published book: “And if she was late, let ’em wait.” Glad they added that – it sums up Jessica’s selfish attitude perfectly.
-The paragraph about a previous conversation Liz had with Todd changed from Liz “hoping he wouldn’t notice the way her cheeks were flaming” to “hoping he wouldn’t notice how nervous he made her.” I prefer the original.
-In the excerpt, when Liz agrees to let Jessica borrow her infamous tuxedo outfit, Jessica gleefully “planted a noisy kiss on the top of her sister’s head.” In the published book, she simply “headed for her sister’s closet” instead.
-In a scene where Jessica completes a Pi Beta pledge task by having a pizza delivered to Mr. Russo’s class in Liz’s name, the class looks at Liz with shock. In the excerpt, they’re surprised because Liz is “the brain, the serious twin” whereas in the final it becomes “the level-headed, serious twin.” Hah! They didn’t want to make her sound too nerdy I guess.

The booklet ends with a note to look out for the first book on its release date of September 15, 1983, although it’s touted on the cover as debuting in October. Close enough, sure.

If you’re curious about those PBA pledge tasks, since I don’t think I documented them in my original recap (honestly, because when I was younger I thought all the details I love to nerd out over, would bore people and nobody would read my blog, LOL):

  1. As I mentioned before, Jessica orders a pizza to Mr. Russo’s chemistry class and embarrasses Liz by having it put in her name. Maybe this was inspired by 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Liz explains it away by saying the class wanted to see how much heat the pizza would lose on its way from the pizza parlor to the classroom. Mr. Russo actually buys it, most likely just because it’s Liz.
  2. The pledges have a singing telegram sent to Principal “Chrome Dome” Cooper’s office. (By the way, I’ve always assumed Principal Cooper’s character was inspired by Archie Comics’ legendary Principal Weatherbee.)
  3. The pledges dye the mashed potatoes in the cafeteria purple, grossing everyone out because I guess they don’t realize there are in fact purple potatoes (and they are delicious), not that this is particularly common knowledge.

Some other choice quotes from the excerpt:

“This sounds like a job for my new tuxedo shirt.” Liz, in response to Jessica whining she has nothing to wear for their all-important PBA induction day.

“A wicked gleam of mischief lurked in the aqua-marine depths of Jessica’s eyes, while Liz’s reflected only sincerity.” I immediately thought of Linus in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: “Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.” Hah! That’s what y’all think. Just give Liz a little while.

After Liz makes Jessica promise to have her outfit cleaned and back in her closet by the weekend:
Jessica: “On my honor.”
Liz: “I’m doomed.” You’re damn right you are, it’s amazing you’re still alive 100+ books later with a sister like this, Liz!

Speaking of doom, coming up next, we’ll see if the twins survive Death Valley or wherever it is they’re going in the next miniseries! Till then, as Heather Mallone would say, toodles!

Comments on: "It’s All Happening at … Sweet Valley High (a 1983 Waldenbooks promotional booklet)" (3)

  1. I miss Waldonbooks. sniff!
    I guess because there’s a King and Queen, I always thought that the dance in Secrets was supposed to be the Homecoming dance.

  2. Oh man, to be a tween in ‘83, with all of Sweet Valley ahead of me, having no idea just what an amazingly batsh*t Willy Wonka tunnel ride I was in for. *wistful sigh*

  3. IN LOVE WITH MATTHEW!!!! said:

    When SVH first came out I remember seeing the first three in a mall shop called Printer’s Ink. Playing with Fire was newest a at the time. Has it really been taht long?!

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