One Girl’s Re-Examination of Sweet Valley High: Double Love
WOOOOOOOOOOOO, BAAA-BY. So, I put off any and all writing of this article until I was all the way finished with Sweet Valley High: Double Love (dun dun dunnnnn) and, oh my God ya’ll, that place is twenty-seven flavors of messed up.
I haven’t read this book since I was twelve, which, thank GOD I read it at that age, the crucial period when you’re trying to gain a shred of confidence and forming lasting opinions on how men should treat women. Thank God at twelve I read through a five-page description of what “perfect” looked like (blonde hair, blue eyes, white but tan, with skinny legs — this is some Aryan BULLSHIT, by the way, Francine Pascal.) I’m sure that was really great for my already failing sense of self-worth. I knew I would never look like or be the Wakefield twins but god almighty did I want girls similar to the Wakefield twins to like me.
You remember the Wakefield twins:
Elizabeth is the beautiful, smart people-pleasing martyr who’s constantly consoling in a very motherly way despite any pain she may actually be experiencing.
Jessica is the sexy, bad-bitch, sociopath whose manipulations gaslight you non-stop through all 189 pages.
They are both described as “dazzling” sixteen-year-olds because who among us was not?
Sweet Valley is like Leave It To Beaver meets Malibu Barbie, where the greatest insult known to man is “jerk” and each day is as sunny as the day before it. Every male has a “slim athletic build” and there are actual names like “Winston Egbert.”
However, as we soon learn upon reading Sweet Valley High, sisterhood is complicated, even when you’re perfect.
I’m going to take you through some different situations, predicaments, and very, very aggravatingly stupid non-problems some of the characters were faced with, and tell you who you should follow in the footsteps of or do the complete opposite of. Sound good? Great.
(Disclaimer: all of these problems could be solved if anyone in this town knew how to fucking communicate but everyone internalizes everything and they’re all going to die from stress at like 45.)
- If you’re caught up in a situation with a dude that makes you extremely uncomfortable, act like: Jessica. Jessica will tell a bitch off if necessary. When town rebel Rick Andover takes her to Kelly’s Bar for a date and has exactly one beer and one shot before he starts sexually assaulting her and getting in fights at the bar (oh this book is fiiiiiillled with some seriously scrumptious toxic masculinity, you guys), Jessica, to her credit, is like, “SO HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO: TAKE ME HOME.” (He does not. He gets arrested. The cop gives Jessica a ride home.)
- If a cop asks for your name, act like: Not Jessica. Like, probably not the best idea to give a police officer the wrong name, Jess. That is definitely illegal, even if you give the correct last name but the wrong first name. But what are legalities to the rich, white, affluent members of Sweet Valley, California anyway?
- If you like the same guy as your sister and/or best friend, act like: NEITHER OF THEM. MY GOD! I am sincerely not trying to victim blame or emotion shame here but Elizabeth straight up cries 70 times in this book because she can’t just tell her own blood that SHE LIKES TODD AND IT IS HURTING HER DAMN FEELINGS THAT JESSICA IS FLIRTING WITH HIM INCESSANTLY. Jessica, meanwhile, derives some sort of sick pleasure out of kind of knowing this but bragging about any and all interactions with that dumb oaf Todd to Elizabeth’s face anyway? This whole town is allergic to communication.
- If a man doesn’t give you what you want, act like: NOT JESSICA. Honestly, if a dude isn’t giving you what you want or need I am not above a whole lot but starting a rumor that he’s a borderline rapist IS, UM, BAD!!!!!! Just one woman’s opinion.
- If your dad is working long hard hours and you feel your mind start to wander as to why this could possibly be, handle like: NEITHER OF THEM. Poor Ned Wakefield! The dude is pulling all of these long nights and early mornings with co-worker Marianna (‘Marianna, the divorcée, as she’s always referred to, like it’s the greatest insult known to man) because he’s trying to get her this promotion he feels like she deserves! Ned Wakefield is out here actin’-a-feminist and Elizabeth and Jessica stress themselves out nearly to the point of a heart attack because they’re absolutely certain their father is having an affair! Again, the lack of communication is almost too much to bear.
- If you think your sister or someone you know was sexually assaulted, handle it like: Not Elizabeth. Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that the sexual assault situation Jessica told Elizabeth about was completely and totally fabricated (WHICH IS BAD AND NOT OKAY AND BAD). But like! Elizabeth is just more or less like, “Goddammit, I really liked him.” (She does not say ‘goddammit’, she would never even think those words.) What are you doing! Go to the police! Tell an adult! Do anything but just mope around being bummed that the guy you thought you liked just “isn’t who you thought he was.”
- If you have a best friend who is trying to be there for you, handle it like: Again! Not Elizabeth! This poor Enid girl! All she does the entire book is try and be there for Elizabeth because they are “BFFs” (I really don’t know what the definition of ‘best friend’ is in this series but I think it’s just someone you talk to between classes). She’s trying to help her out because Enid KNOWS she likes Todd and Elizabeth just constantly stiffs her! Open up to your gal pals, ladies! That’s what they’re there for! It’s good for your health!
- If someone is trying to spread rumors that you were arrested, handle it like: Sorry, Elizabeth. Again. Not Elizabeth. There’s this rumor going around school that Elizabeth was arrested (Because Caroline saw “Elizabeth” get out of the cop care when really it was Jessica committing a felony by giving the wrong name to the po-po) and Elizabeth just like, does nothing about it? Even though she’s convinced this rumor is going to end her life?
- If someone is constantly throwing you under the bus for their own benefit, handle it like: Wow I am really shitting on Elizabeth with this article, huh. The girl needs a little coaching! Or to not have someone as manipulative as Jessica in her life! But you can’t really get rid of sisters! So, buck up, Lizzie! The constant manipulation show Jessica puts on is honestly triggering and she needs to take several seats but MY GOD, Elizabeth! Put Jessica in her place! You never do anything wrong but are somehow consistently apologizing to Jessica! And for what?
- If a guy pulls up next to you in his car and says, “Excuse me Heaven, which way to Mars?” handle it like: Not Jessica. First of all, tell him his pickup line makes no sense and then Never Under Any Circumstances GET IN THAT CAR. WYD, JESS?
Friends. I highly encourage you to re-read this “so bad it’s good” cult classic series, especially since the rumors have been circulating again that Sweet Valley High is hitting the silver screen, and you know I’m praying the Hadid sisters get involved. Who would you want to see act out the legacy that is Elizabeth & Jessica Wakefield?
Liz Welle is a professional feelings feeler but gets paid to do social and digital stuff for brands in Minneapolis while occasionally food styling on the side. She lives in Uptown with her boyfriend and their thirteen plants. She is doing her best.