Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SVH 2.0

I know the Random House book most people are clamoring for right now is Christopher Paolini's Brisingr, but I'm not one of the clamoring. Mostly because I don't read fantasy. What I do read, however, is chick lit. Lots and lots of chick lit. Growing up in the mid-'90s, the premier chick lit franchise was the delightfully cheesy Sweet Valley High series. There's a certain camaraderie among Sweet Valley fans. We like to reminisce about the endless descriptions of out-there clothes, pick our favorite twin (I'm definitely an Elizabeth), and if Zazzle or CafePress had been around back then I'm sure we'd have a spate of t-shirts that proclaimed TEAM JEFFREY or TEAM TODD.

And now, those t-shirts can be ours.

Starting in April, Random House is reissuing the Sweet Valley High series. Everyone's favorite blonde, five-foot-six, lavaliere-wearing identical twins are back in all their identical-but-couldn't-be-more-different glory. Random, bless them, gave out galleys at ALA Midwinter, so I picked one up and read it.

What you may consider spoilers will follow. If you're spoiler-sensitive, now may be a good time to click your back button.

At their cores, the SVH books are still the same. They're still about life in sunny, middle-class Southern California. Jessica and Elizabeth's personalities are still the same. Jessica still schemes and ruins Elizabeth's clothes, and Elizabeth still prefers spending time with a few close friends over going to parties. Some details from the original series are changed. The twins no longer drive a Fiat Spider or hang out at the Dairi Burger. Elizabeth has an anonymous blog instead of an anonymous print gossip column. That's the bad news. The good news is that the plot still holds up, more or less.

The greatest thing about the SVH series is that the plots are timeless. Regardless of decade, teens still deal with issues of sibling rivalry, romance, feuding families, annoying but loving older brothers, and gossip. Those themes that drive the SVH series are still relevant today, which is why I think there's a good chance this repackaged series will find a new generation of readers. The other nice thing about the series is that there's no overt sex (at least, not in the first book), so this could be a nice recommendation for those who like "clean" romances or those who want a step up from The Clique but one down from Gossip Girl. Jessica and Elizabeth certainly like boys, but they're not hopping into bed with them. Even though Jessica likes a little danger in her life, she's not stupid enough to stay with the guy who endangers his life (and hers).

And years after I read the first books, I still want Lila Fowler's wardrobe.

crossposted at carlie@bccls


Anonymous said...

Oh lordy... and just after I weeded the last of my library's Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Junior High, and Sweet Valley High Senior Year for lack of use/poor condition. Thanks for the warning, er, head's up! The packaging looks very "now" -- I wonder if they really will hit the spot for Clique fans. There's a new series called Ashleys that also looks to be a contender.

Little Willow said...

When they first announced they were going to repub SVH, I had an entire conversation about the series and the "contemporizing" with customers. It was one-sided, because NONE OF THEM read the series. (Youngins!) One point I made: "They better still be wearing their lavalieres, not those Tiffany's-heart-chain-Lizzie-McGuire-Movie necklaces."

Lisa C. - The first book of The Ashleys is in my to-read pile. In fact, I passed it to a discerning teen first, and she liked it well enough.

Anonymous said...

I loved these books! The originals, found in my grandmother's basement, and all the various spinoffs from the library. I hardly remember them now, though. Except didn't one book have something to do with an earthquake? I want to say a refrigerator fell on someone, but that sounds ridiculous, so I don't know if that actually happened.

Jennie said...

Yippee! So excited!

Keris Stainton said...

Thanks for the heads-up! Have just written about this at the chick lit site I edit, Trashionista