1. The Plot
Sweet Valley High basketball team captain Todd Wilkins is dreamy as all fuck and the mega-good-looking Wakefield twins, Jessica and Elizabeth, will do just about anything to get their grabby little hands on him. Well, Jessica will, because she doesn’t give two fucks about anyone or anything except herself, but Elizabeth — the Hamlet of this particular piece — is too busy dealing with her own fucking persecution complex and trying to solve her problems by crying to do a damn thing about this conflict of interest that is, like, ruining her life.
That’s the main plot of Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love, but along the way, we get a high-speed car chase, a bloody, drunken brawl, and a courtroom drama — so this shit ain’t just romantical, by a long shot.
Anyway, these are some things that kind of stood out to me in this one:
3. 1) Jessica’s first mega-bitch moment happens in the opening pages.
Todd Wilkins (probably the cutest guy in the school) calls to speak to Elizabeth and Jessica acts like she’s not home. Then the following exchange occurs:
Elizabeth: Who was that?
Jessica: Oh, just Todd Wilkins. He called to wish me good luck with Beta Pi* today! Wasn’t that sweet of him?
This is just a hint of the sociopathic behavior we can come to expect from Ms. J. Wakefield as she lies, cries, and manipulates her way through her sordid, miserable existence. The most worrying revelation, hinted at here, and borne out in the subsequent pages, is not so much that Jessica will never be worthy of a class act like Todd Wilkins, but that she knows it and she doesn’t fucking care. She is interested in Todd for one reason and one reason only: to prevent her sister from having a modicum of happiness in her life. The single-mindedness with which she pursues this goal is frankly terrifying.
*Apparently they are rushing for a sorority in high school? Is this a California thing? Or just some shit that Francine Pascal made up because she literally does not give a fuck?
5. 2) Elizabeth’s first insufferable goody-two-shoes moment is pondering “as she did very often … how lucky she and Jessica were to live in Sweet Valley.”
Apropos of literally fucking nothing, she just starts thinking about how lucky she is because she has a nice life. That is not normal for a 16-year-old. That is a psychopathic thought for a 16-year-old to have. Elizabeth is — no question — going to grow up to be a psychotic, flesh-eating bureaucrat who smiles at you with her fat, vacant, soulless face while she tells you that you’re being fired/evicted/sacrificed in some unholy ritual, and then suggests to you without even a fucking hint of irony that you should try to look on the bright side of it.
6. 3) It is a tradition at Sweet Valley that if anyone finds out the identity of the person who writes the “Eyes and Ears” column for The Oracle school newspaper, they throw that person fully clothed into the pool.
7. 4) Jessica thinks of herself, literally, as “the most fantastic girl in school.”
8. 5) Rick Andover: best character.
He is a high school dropout with an eagle tattoo on his muscles and he introduces himself to Jessica this way: “Pardon me, Heaven — which way to Mars?” which, like, not to delve too far into this, but are Heaven and Mars both supposed to be planets in this metaphor? Or just generalized locations? And assuming that heaven is supposed to be Jessica, which I think it is, what is Mars in this case? Is it another person? Because now we are dealing with an extremely weird and worrying pick-up line. Or is he saying, like, “You represent heaven to me, but I am such a rebel that I don’t want to be in heaven but instead on some weirdo planet, like Mars. But also I am taking you with me. I am building heaven on Mars. With you.” It’s actually fairly profound.
Later, he tries to scheme on both sisters at once and this is the thing that he says: “Well well well, if it isn’t Heaven, and her sister, Heavenly.” Rick Andover is the best character.
9. 6.) The subplot is about a fight over the school’s football field in which a nouveau riche family want to turn it into a factory and an old-money family want to turn it into a Victorian garden.
10. Closing Thoughts
I honestly wouldn’t have thought this was possible, but by the end of this book, I was almost beginning to sympathize with Jessica Wakefield a little bit. She is an insane person, granted, and a genuine danger to her friends and family, but can at least some of this acting out be pinned to the fact that her twin sister is the IRL queen of all the smug, sanctimonious, unendurable prigs who ever walked the Earth? I think so.
Anyway, we’ll find out next time in Secrets, wherein forgettable loser Enid Rollins has some dumb secret that we’re all supposed to get worked up about.