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

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The World of Sweet Valley: Meet Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield (A free promotional book)

This next book that I’m going to recap is quite a bit different from the others. In truth, I didn’t even know it existed until someone sent it to me several years ago.

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As you can see from the cover, this book was a free promotional item handed out with purchase of any book in any Sweet Valley series. It’s not technically a Sweet Valley High book, although that is the series it talks about the most – it was released under the overarching brand “The World of Sweet Valley.” The copyright date is June 1994. The book is surprisingly easy to find online; you can order used copies from various vendors on Amazon.com, for example. Still, I don’t think it’s worth it for any but the most die-hard Sweet Valley fan as this is almost entirely content you can get elsewhere, as I’ll soon explain, since I’m recapping it anyway because it’s what I want to do with my life today.

The cover shows twin art from four of the series running at the time:

  • Sweet Valley High (debuted October 1983; twins age 16 and in grade 11)
    • See how they have the twins’ faces in a big neon heart? You could actually get that heart somehow as a light-up wall sign. I saw where someone posted a photo of hers once. When I think about seeing the twins staring down at me from within a glowing wall-heart, I feel frightened.
  • Sweet Valley Twins (debuted July 1986; twins age 12 and in grade 6 – something does not compute)
    • At the time this book was released, the series had been renamed “Sweet Valley Twins and Friends” (& I recall hating the new name)
    • The artwork (lower left corner) is from the SVT book The Great Boyfriend Switch
  • Sweet Valley Kids (debuted October 1989; twins age 7 and in grade 2)
    • I dislike this artwork, which is not what the twins originally looked like on the covers when the Kids series first debuted.
  • Sweet Valley University (debuted September 1993; twins age 18 and college freshmen)
    • The photo is from the first book in the series, College Girls. The cover models are pretty, but they look older than 18 to me.

The book contains samples from all four of these series. Interestingly, there’s no mention of The Unicorn Club, which was a new series out for just 6 months when this book came out. You’d think they’d want to promote the hell out of that!

On the back of the book, there’s a brief letter from Francine Pascal:

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The book opens with Elizabeth narrating (of course). She babbles on about herself and her twin, California girls bla bla, then gets into the theme of the excerpts, which is “twin switches”. Oddly, the book doesn’t tell us exactly which book each excerpt is from (or even which series, although that part is obvious for anyone who pays attention). Not sure this is the best way to promote the books to people who are reading this book because the promo attracted them to the series for the first time, but ok.

The first excerpt, from the Kids series, is supposedly how the twin switching “all started.” I don’t recognize this excerpt, but I think it’s from Sweet Valley Kids #16, Jessica the TV Star (1991). Todd’s house is being used to film some kind of TV special. Todd has a bit part and has been asked to find a girl to star with him in the brief clip, so he picks Elizabeth … only Liz is home sick from school that day, so he mistakenly asks Jessica instead. Jessica shows up for filming pretending to be her sister, but can’t handle that Todd has the only speaking part in the clip – answering a phone – and she’s supposed to just sit there, so she tries to grab the phone away from him and they have to keep re-shooting the scene. When Liz comes back to school the next day, she slowly figures out that Jessica is hiding something from her. She rides by Todd’s house on her bike and is surprised to see it packed full of people. It turns out Jessica blabbed about the special to her friends, and now the entire class has shown up to watch. Liz comes in and exposes Jessica’s twin switch to Todd who isn’t thrilled, but the director is delighted that there are twins and re-shoots the scene with both of them. What’s more, he loves how Jessica tried to grab the phone from Todd before, so he incorporates that into the scene – only he has Liz do it this time while Jessica continues to just sit there. Jessica is taught a lesson. Haha, psych! She’ll never learn any lesson.

Jessica introduces the next excerpt by explaining that Liz isn’t the goody-goody everyone thinks she is and that she has just as many faults as everyone else, but is better at hiding them. LOLLLL. The excerpt is from Sweet Valley Twins and Friends #66, The Great Boyfriend Switch (1993) which I remember buying and reading. The story in that book is that Liz is dating Todd and Jessica is dating Aaron Dallas. Then at the Valentine’s Day dance, Jessica abandons Aaron to dance with Bruce Patman, whom she starts kissing in front of everyone. Meanwhile, some biotch named Veronica Brooks is trying to steal Todd from Liz, and doing a great job at it because Liz and Todd are both wimps. Liz and Aaron wind up bonding over their shared misery, then they start kissing and dating. The twins end up outraged at one another, and the excerpt is about how Liz and Jessica independently decide to fix things with Todd and Aaron by impersonating one another at some big party someone is holding. Jessica, posing as Liz, is interrupted mid-make-up with Todd by an angry Veronica, and she confronts Veronica for stealing a locket that Todd had given Liz and they get in a shoving match at the party, which ends with “Liz” flying through a patio door at “Jessica’s” feet. The twins then realize what they were willing to do for one another to fix shit and make up. The plan also works on Todd and Aaron because those dummies are too dim to realize that Liz and Jess have switched, even though each girl keeps accidentally referring to “herself” in the third person, blatantly not acting right, and shit like that. When Todd and Aaron move in to kiss and make up with Liz and Jessica, the girls quickly make excuses and dash off to switch clothes, then run back outside to hook back up with their respective 12-year-old doofus beaus.

The third excerpt is from one of the SVH werewolf books I just recapped, A Date with a Werewolf. Liz introduces it by sheepishly explaining how she fell for Luke Shepherd (and totally glossing that shit over – she puts it as “we became close”). She also says that Joy Singleton’s throat had not only been ripped out, but “chewed on.” Haha, that’s a nasty detail that I am 99.9% positive was not actually in the werewolf books. The excerpt, which I think was altered slightly in the beginning to start less abruptly, covers how Liz impersonated her sister in order to prowl around Pembroke Manor looking for clues.

Finally, Jessica introduces an excerpt from one of the Sweet Valley University books (no clue which one). This is the only one of these four series that I never read any of, but I’ve heard a good amount about it. Basically, Jess and Liz are pledging the Thetas, a sorority that their mother was supposedly part of. (Hippie Alice was part of a sorority?)  Jessica dances with a black man and the president of a fraternity starts giving them shit over it because he’s a racist POS. Liz tells the frat prez off in front of everyone, and then she gets a note from the sorority president telling her she has to apologize to the president for offending him and go on a date with him to prove her loyalty to the Thetas. OK, so the Thetas are obviously garbage, and Liz refuses to do it.  Jessica is so afraid that Liz will get them blackballed that she impersonates Liz and goes on a date to the homecoming football game with racist frat boy, who predictably acts like a douche the entire time. Jessica as Liz even makes an impassioned plea for forgiveness. OMG, this is so gross. Liz skipped the game to study (of course), but Steven and girlfriend Billie are there and they see “Liz” with racist frat boy and are appalled. Steven confronts Liz after the game (which Billie has some kind of problem with because she thinks Steven is acting too much like an overbearing dad or something). Liz quickly realizes it was Jessica and pledges to get back at her. Jessica gleefully informs us that Liz forgave her later on, because she “has to.” And that pretty much sums up one of the main reasons why Jessica never learns.

Next, the book gives us special sneak previews of Elizabeth’s Secret Diary and Jessica’s Secret Diary, two Magna Editions that were released later that year. (It’s almost time for me to recap these.) The main purpose of the diaries is to further our understanding that Liz is a hypocrite and Jessica is a sociopath. Liz’s diary excerpt is about how she cheated on Todd with Ken Matthews when Todd first left for Vermont. I guess I’m supposed to be shocked, but Liz is always cheating on Todd with somebody so … Jessica’s diary excerpt is about how she impersonated Liz to go on a date with Jeffrey. During a romantic stroll on the beach, Jeffrey suddenly realizes “Liz” is Jessica, or that’s the impression Jess has, but he makes out with her anyway and then never breathes a word of the incident to Liz. Nice Jeffrey character assassination! And again, how shocking that Jessica would try to make out with her sister’s boyfriend, because she’s never done it before! The only thing that really raised my eyebrows was that they inserted racier language into these. E.g., Jessica thinks about “ripping off Jeffrey’s clothes.”

Lastly, there’s a Sweet Valley trivia quiz which covers all four series. At the end of the quiz, the book says: “To find out the answers, turn to the next page, hold the page up to a mirror, and read the reflection!” Then you turn the page and the print is just regular facing type and you definitely don’t need a stinkin’ mirror. Editing fail!

In the back of the book: There’s yet another Sweet Valley Fan Club ad, plus a promo advertising four upcoming Christmas books, one in each series.

Coming up next …: Now that we’ve finished our werewolf arc, it’s time for the next thrilling mini-series!

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