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So some of you who talk to me off of LJ already know that I've been on a real Sweet Valley nostalgia trip. I've always been a sucker for teen/tween girl lit (my epic Nancy Drew collection is a real testament to that), but Sweet Valley is something different for me. You see my love for Nancy was something private almost. I read all the books, and I adored Nancy, but none of my friends were really into her, and my epic detective adventures were something I usually took on all by myself. Sweet Valley, on the other hand, was something we all read together. We had epic Sweet Valley games we played when we were very young- Like Sweet Valley LARPS almost (I was always Jessica). We all spent hours at the library reading the books, since our parents didn't really approve of them (something that just made them even cooler), and we'd save all our money to snatch copies up at school book sales.

Sweet Valley was this wonderful forbidden fruit, and we were obsessed with it.

So you can imagine my delight when I came upon my precious Sweet Valley books packed away in a box among, well, a million other boxes of books. Though my joy wilted slightly as I remembered that I'd sold a few of them when I'd been in High School, and damn, I'd never finished collecting them all anyway. My collection was nothing compared to what it had once been, and it broke my heart.

Broke, but always willing to shop, I've been slowly re-building and filling in my collection so I can read the whole series again from the start. I've decided not to read them in release order, but in chronological. I'm skipping the 'Sweet valley Kids' books for now, simply because I have no memory of reading those. I know I never owned any, and I don't think I ever peeked at them in the library. Though if I ever find them cheep on Ebay, I might give them a go... Instead I'll be starting with the Twins books, and going on from there.

We'll start with book one, Sweet Valley Twins : Best Friends

Let's talk about the plot first. If you've never read any Sweet Valley books, the gist is pretty simple. Jessica and Elizabeth are pretty much the perfect blonde twins next door. They have natural blonde hair, the same blue-green eyes... They even have the same dimple! Yeah, and if you ever forget that, don't worry, the books will remind you all the fucking time. It's mentioned at the start of every Sweet Valley book, and often randomly in the middle of the book. You know, in case you forgot between page one and page fifty. Gee, that's swell and all, but where does the conflict come in? Well wouldn't you just know it, but the girls couldn't be more different (a shocking plot twist you didn't see coming, I'm sure). Where Elizabeth is studious and kind, Jessica is- Well, manipulative conniving bitch is probably the best way to describe her. The books generally go like this:

Jessica: I want that money/thing from the mall/boy/whatever Elizabeth has.
Elizabeth: Fumes silently about Jessica's behavior.
Things: Go wrong
Elizabeth: Is a doormat and either helps Jessica or lets Jessica take what she wants.
Jessica: 'Learns a lesson' but still gets her own way and does the same shit next week.



On this cover we see the girls in matching sweaters. I'm actually not sure who is who, but I'm guessing Elizabeth is the one with her sleeves cuffed. The outfits are pretty tame here, nothing too 80's or early 90's going on. In fact, you can probably buy that outfit today.



Here is a modern update of the twins' look. Snazzy.

So the book starts with the girls walking home from school. Elizabeth has wandered off ahead because she's a holier than thou bitch who can't deal with Jessica's shallow friends, and Jessica is all 'Boo Bitch, why are you walking ahead of us?' There's a passive aggressive exchange where Lizzy basically calls Jessica out on being thoughtless (apparently she got peanut butter on Liz's hairbrush?! What, was she eating and styling at the same time? Gross), and it's almost a confrontation- until Liz caves like the doormat she is, and not only seems to forgive Jessica's, but also agrees to help her with her math homework, despite her own heavy homework load.

Then were suddenly hit hard by Jessica's hatred of fat people. Apparently fat people are just, like, awful and are totally ruining everything. Here is an excerpt from the book:

"Did you see Lois Waller in gym class today?" Jessica asked. "She was practically oozing out of her leotard. Fat everywhere. They shouldn't let a tub like her take ballet."

"Jessica," Elizabeth said, "she can't help it if she's fat."

"She can too," Jessica insisted. "She could lose some weight and she can help looking so ugly. I mean, she doesn't have to wear those baggy dresses and let her hair fall in her face."

"Jessica," Elizabeth groaned.

"Well she's ruining our class," complained Jessica. "Ballet is supposed to be beautiful and graceful, and she was crashing around like a rhinoceros. It's tough on the kids with real talent."


Liz instantly calls her sister out, implying that the only person Jessica is talking about when she brings up talent is, of course, herself. Jessica isn't fazed though. Obviously she meant herself, and blah blah, she's going to be famous one day, okay? (lol for the record, I think Jessica's passion for ballet lasts less than three books)

We then get a whole exchange where we learn Lizzy has been given permission to start a paper just for the sixth graders at their school. she wants Jessica to write for it and Jessica, being Jessica, couldn't be less interested. Liz is crushed that her twin doesn't want to do everything she wants to do (cause omg they do everything together!1!1!!!), and pouts. This is kinda the setup for everything else to come.

while Liz is setting up the new newspaper with some girls Jess has deemed 'dorky', Jessica is desperate to join The Unicorns, who are like, you know, only the most perfect and pretty girls in school! The Unicorns want Jess, but they aren't too keen on Liz, and they ask Jessica to complete her pledge tasks without letting Liz know. Oh yeah, there are pledge tasks to join a Junior High popularity club (there are dues too. WTF?). So Jess has three simple but mean tasks. The first involves swiping a teacher's lesson plan book and getting it back in the teacher's bag by the end of class without her knowing. The next involves tricking three random girls into using the boys room, and the last involves *gasp* not dressing like her sister. Jess manages all three without a problem, and for whatever reason Liz is heartbroken that Jess doesn't want to dress alike anymore.

There is a brief interlude with the girls first ballet class at a real dance studio, where Jess makes an ass out of herself and pisses off the teacher by trying to be a special flower- and between that and lesson number 2, Liz finds out that Jess is a unicorn now and is all emotional over the fact that she wasn't asked to join and that Jess didn't tell her. Being a brat she goes and talks to their mother who's just like "Bitch, you do not need to do everything Jessica does, grow the fuck up and live your own life." Okay, she doesn't use those words, but that's the gist.

Liz starts getting weepy over 'The Good Old Days' and reminds Jess of one time they were playing barbies or something. For once Jess comes off as the mature sister. Liz asks her if she misses those days, and Jessica is very honest when she says no- but that she does like to remember them. It's basically Jessica's simple way of saying it's nice to remember the past, but you can't live in it. One thing leads to another, and eventually Jess suggests she might be able to get Liz into The Unicorns. Liz, despite hating everyone in the club and frowning on a group of people who gossip and talk about boys, is thrilled by the prospect, and is sure this is how her and Jessica will stay BFFs forever and ever. That's right, Liz, who's supposed to be level headed and pulled together, thinks she should become a Unicorn and pretend to share Jessica's interests just so they can hang out. Never mind the fact that they live together and share a room. No, Liz needs them to do EVERYTHING together. Even shit she hates.

We also find out that their older brother Steven, who is in high school, has been dating an 8th grader- which is kind of gross. I think Steven is only in 10th grade, but still, that's a bit of an age gap, isn't it? The real juicy bit is, however, that the girl he was seeing was *gasp* a girl who got kicked out of the Unicorns for being a skank who dates high school boys. I find this confusing since, really, The Unicorns are the kind of girls who want to date high school boys... So why is it bad she was dating him? Was she sleeping with him? 'Cause I could believe they would be a bunch of slut shamers, who can't cope with other girls putting out- even though they all probably give boys blowjobs behind the bleachers... Whatever. The Unicorns seem to have a ton of bullshit rules.

While Jess is at her first Unicorn Club meeting, Liz spends the afternoon with her friend Amy. Liz realizes she's having a blast, and worries she wont have time to chill with her friends after she joins The Unicorns. Meanwhile, at the meeting, Jess is having a blast, but knows Liz is going to whine until she gets her into the club. So Jess tells the girls that she'll have to leave the club if Liz can't join and lies about how her parents expect them to do everything together. The Unicorns panic, because you can't leave The Unicorns. It's fine if they kick you out, but leaving would make them look bad (LOL). The girls tell Jessica they'll give Liz a chance, and tell her that they will give Liz her pledge task at lunch. Just one task this time, but it's gonna be a tough one they warn.

Jess decides a chance to join is good enough, and pats herself on the back for being an awesome liar. When she passes the news onto Liz, Liz is thrilled- At least until she gets her task. Remember the fatty Jess was hating on at the beginning? Well, Liz's task is to take her for a milkshake, and then *gasp* scrape off the whipped cream and replace it with shaving foam. Liz is appalled by the idea, since everyone is already so mean Lois (you know I'm picturing some poor 300 pound teenager struggling with childhood obesity, but the truth is fat Lois is probably a size 16 or something), Jess tells the girls Liz will do it, and then gives Liz hell over embarrassing her and saying no. Liz says she wants to join, but not if it means hurting someone. Jess doesn't see why it's a big deal since it's shaving foam, "not poison". She doesn't seem to understand that it's not the foam Liz is upset about, but the idea of publicly humiliating someone for kicks.

As you probably already guessed, Jessica decides to do the task for her twin without telling her. She invites Lois for a sundae as Liz, and changes into the clothes her sister had been wearing to pull a twin switch. No one suspects a thing. It works fine, Lois is humiliated, and Liz is in. Never mind that Lois doesn't come to school for days after, aparantly no one is worried about that. Jess is, and I quote "Sure that Lois' parents just got sick of looking at her and sent her to a fat farm."

Yep, that is an actual thing Jessica thinks.

So Liz goes to her first meeting and is bored to tears listening to them gossip and talk about boys. Then, surprise surprise, she learns Jess did her pledge and has a fit and storms out. When she goes home she cries to their mother, again, who again has to tell her that being a twin doesn't mean being the same person and that not being in the club doesn't mean she'll never see Jess again.

Liz decides to call Lois, whose parents are trying to find a way to enroll her in private school, despite not having the money for it. Apparently Lois is so embarrassed that she doesn't want to come back to Sweet Valley, but Liz points out that there are mean girls at every school, and begs Lois to come back. She tells her they can sit together at lunch and suggests she work on the paper with her and Amy. Lois says she'll think about it.

It all wraps up fairly nicely. Liz makes Jess apologize to Lois, and even though Jess wasn't allowed to quit The Unicorns, apparently it's fine that Liz does (whatever). We learn that Roberta, the girl who was dating Steven and got kicked out of The Unicorns, dumped Steven for being immature- and apparently has a thing for some college boy? That jailbait whore! :o But wait, it gets better! According to Steven, she wasn't kicked out of The Unicorns at all! No, apparently she quit when one of the other Unicorns made a pass at Steven, who turned her down because, and this is another quote, he "Doesn't want to make a habit of dating 8th graders". though, and this is a spoiler if you have any plans to read Sweet Valley Confidential, Steven turns out to be gay anyway (despite having been been in love with a woman and dating chicks like crazy in all the other books), so his relationships with these girls are probably fairly innocent anyway, right?

On a totally unrelated note, the girls have a mini tiff and as a result Liz and Jess get their own rooms, because apparently there's been an empty spare room in the house everyone forgot about? I don't even know what to say to that, but anyway, they get their own space and are all buddy-buddy again- Except that's not enough for Liz, who calls Lois and makes a plan to get back at the Unicorns. Lois is so happy that she says she'll go on a diet if it works. Really? That's going to inspire you to diet? I- I don't even know what to say about that, but whatever works for you, Lois.

They pull the prank on one of the girls (why they single out Lila, I'm not sure. I guess because Lila called Lois a pig at one point), and it works. I'm not sure what the moral here is. It's okay to prank mean girls, but not fat chicks? I- How is that okay at all? Is it only okay if Liz thinks you have it coming? Ugh. That bitch.

The book ends with a lead in to book #2.

Overall, it's actually a really good start to the series. It sets up everything you need to know without being dull. You learn about the girls differences without it being spelled out for you, and you even get a good glimpse at their friends who will feature in the stories more as the books progress.
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