Published by Bantam Books on September 1 1984 (first published 1983)
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Will Jessica steal Todd from Elizabeth?
Who will Todd choose — the glamorous Jessica or the gentle Elizabeth? Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are identical twins — beautiful, blonde, perfect — but they couldn’t be more different from each other.
Elizabeth is friendly, good-natured, and kind, and the complete opposite of her clever, conniving sister.
Jessica believes the world revolves around her…and the problem is that most of the time it does. Jessica always gets what she wants—at school, amongst her friends, and especially with boys.
This time, she’s got her eye on Todd Wilkins, the good-looking star of Sweet Valley High’s basketball team—and the one boy Elizabeth really likes. Now the twins are in a game of double love, with Todd as first prize.
Will Elizabeth fight for the Todd? What will Jessica stoop to in order to get what she wants? Can the bonds of sisterhood stand up to the pangs of a broken heart?
Welcome to Sweet Valley High… the beloved series by Francine Pascal.
The tagline: Will Jessica steal Todd from Elizabeth? The answer: Yes of course!
It’s par for the course with Jessica Wakefield, one half of Sweet Valley High’s beloved (or not!) twin sisters who are the envy of everyone who comes across their path. The golden-haired 16 year-old beauties Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield were the main protagonists of this long-running series.
I think a little background is needed here. I was a huge Sweet Valley High fan when I was younger. I was in those awkward pre-adolescent years where I was desperate to read fiction aimed at a slightly more mature audience (though I did read adult fiction as well; what can I say? I was definitely precocious).
Sweet Valley High was like a sirens call to me. I was a little too young perhaps to realise just how completely over-the-top and unrealistic these books actually were. I devoured this series – I wanted to live in Sweet Valley and be as popular as those Wakefield twins. Looking back, I can certainly see the major flaws but I was completely addicted back then and idolised the twins and their popular and pretty friends (though there were none as pretty or popular as them of course 😉 ).
As part of my aim to re-read (or in some cases read for the first time!) vintage young adult novels primarily published in the 1980s and the 1990s, I decided that Sweet Valley High would be the perfect place to revisit.
And now, onto the re-read! I will probably not re-read the series in its entirety as there are many awesome blogs that do recaps and fully detailed reviews (some of these listed below) who do a very better job than I could ever hope to do plus I do not think I have the constitution to read all 150+ books! Still, I would like to re-read and review what I can.
Now, onto Double Love, the first book in this (in)famous teen series. I read this one when I was younger but it was one I was not quite as familiar with (I re-read everything back then, multiple times). I remember it took me awhile to track it down (in fact I think I had to request it through the library – remember those days?) and I only got the chance to read it once. Still, the entire series follows a similar format so it was easy to slip back into this world, in spite of the (many) years away.
Double Love introduces Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield thusly:
“Both girls had the same shoulder-length, sun-streaked blond hair, the same sparkling blue-green eyes, the same perfect skin. Even the tiny dimple in Elizabeth’s left cheek was duplicated in her younger sister’s – younger by four minutes. Both girls were five feet six on the button and generously blessed with spectacular, all-American looks. Both wore exactly the same size clothes, but they refused to dress alike, except for the exquisite identical lavalieres they wore on gold chains around their necks.”
You will hear this description, with very little variance, in Every. Single. Book. Even when I was younger, this began to grate on my nerves, but since this is the first book I will forgive it this time! 😉
The book is quick to point out the twins differences though. I mean, Elizabeth always wears a watch and Jessica never does (apparently things never start until she got there!). And of course, there is the tiny beauty mark on Elizabeth’s shoulder – can’t forget that (I think my sarcasm meter has kicked in already – and I’m only on page 4)!
Okay, backtracking a little. The plot of the book. Elizabeth has a big old crush on Todd Wilkins whom she states she has never really spoken to before. Hmm…the Sweet Valley Twins books (set when the twins were in sixth grade but written later that SVH) had the two of them dating as far as I can recall, so already there is a bit of a continuity issue here…
Anyway, Elizabeth has a crush on Todd but has told no one about it. Jessica is also interested in him (mainly because he is a popular basketball player). But (horror of horrors) it seems as though Todd may prefer the dependable (read: boring) Elizabeth and Jessica just cannot have this. Her reaction is to lie and manipulate the situation in order to win Todd for herself (lord, this re-read is going to be super-fun)!
When Todd doesn’t react quite the way she wants, Jessica decides to go on a date with town bad-boy Rick Andover and ends up going to Kelly’s (the only bar in town – really??) and winds up being escorted home in a police car. The police somehow mistake her for Elizabeth and soon the story is out at school. Elizabeth is ostracised (do these kids even know how to have fun?) by her peers who see her recent behaviour as completely shocking and character destroying (again, wut??)
To Elizabeth’s utter dismay, even Todd believes these vicious rumours and she is left heart-broken when he ends up taking Jessica to the dance (there is always a dance in these books – always). When Todd basically does not fall all over himself with her, Jessica decides to get her revenge by telling her sister he could not keep his hands to himself (seriously, how come I never realised at the time that Jessica is essentially a psychopath?)
Nevermind though, all is forgiven when Todd rescues the twins from a drunk Rick Andover and Elizabeth gets revenge on her sister by arranging a little dunk in the pool for her (because that’s a fitting punishment for a girl who falsely cries date-rape!)
Where to start? Where to start! I still have a lot of holdover nostalgic love for this series (I can’t help it really!) but I didn’t realise just how ridiculously thin the plot was and how annoying the Wakefield twins really were.
I used to desperately want to be Jessica (even though I knew I was more like Elizabeth – quiet and more bookish) but re-reading this has really cemented just how unhinged Jessica really was (throughout the book her emotions swing from one extreme to another and she is quick to put on the tears to get her own way). What I used to think was endearing and high-spirited now just comes across as mean and devious (with a side of psychopathy thrown in).
Elizabeth, the one I really related to, just comes across as a snivelling doormat (I lost count on how many times her eyes filled with tears and her heart broke in her chest). We haven’t even gotten to her being completely patronizing and superior yet (that joy is still to come)!!
Now for the serious question: does this series hold up to the test of time? No, not really. It is very dated (I have trouble believing kids in the eighties even spoke like they do in this) and sexism really does rear its ugly head more than once (how everyone turns on Elizabeth for ‘her’ misdemeanor in particular, but also how Jessica reacts to her mother’s audacity at working and not being home to fix dinner, and in the way their brother Steven acts at times).
Did I still enjoy it? Immensely, in a ‘I can’t believe I enjoyed this’ sort of way! Will I read the rest of the series? Definitely (might need some alcohol though!)