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“Sweet Valley High”: A glimpse at a legacy

Deanna Manzo

Anchor Contributor

Image via Caio/Pexels

Growing up in the 1980s you had to find ways to entertain yourself because technology wasn’t advanced, so reading was the norm. Going to the library was a fun day for the family – picking out your favorite books, and hoarding them in your backpack.

“Sweet Valley High” is a series of novels first published in 1983. These novels were written by Francine Pascal along with several ghostwriters who made the series what it is today.

This book series evolved from an idea about twin sisters, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Its timeless inspiration has helped generations of girls become their best selves. This series has created a genre that has catapulted a fun, girly tone with trendy clothes, hair essentials and makeup. The novels also inspired books years later such as “The Princess Diaries” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series.

The issues that jump off the page are about boys, dating, rivalries and school. You can relate to the many issues at hand whether you are of that age, or are older, but there’s no doubt that nostalgia is a factor as an older woman looking back at a book series that changed my life.

Many spin-off series soon braced the small screen including “Sweet Valley Twins,” “Friends,” “Sweet Valley Kids,” “Sweet Valley Junior High,” “Sweet Valley University,” “Sweet Valley Senior Year” and “The Unicorn Club.”

Twenty years later and they are still popular. It could be because they are sincere books about life situations. What do they have in common? For starters they deal with universal issues that anyone can relate to.

These are just a few titles. For example, the book “Double Love” is about Todd Wilkins’ struggles with sibling rivalry. He’s got his hands full as during this time both Elizabeth and Jessica want to date him.

“Playing with Fire” is about Jessica, who changes her whole personality in order to be with Bruce Patman, and how she finds Bruce with another girl.

“Family Secrets” is about Elizabeth and Jessica’s cousin, Kelly, who moves in with them while dealing with her parent’s getting a divorce.

It’s another day in the neighborhood. Saturday, a day to relax and cool off from the heavy workload of the week. For me, I got up early enough to make my cup of tea, jump in the shower and then plop down in front of the television set to watch another episode of “Sweet Valley High.”

That’s right, the book series was optioned for a television series. It thrilled me to see these characters come to life on-screen.

I enjoyed every moment of witty dialogue, absorbing the fun plot lines as my eyes were glued to the tube. Hours passed as the sunlight trickled into the living room. I admired Elizabeth and Jessica’s wardrobe, their fun sense of humor and how they delivered their lines.

Overall, this series has followed me all the days of my life. Years ago, I pictured living in their shoes by the beach, soaking in the sun. At night, I dreamt I was one of their friends while gazing at the stars on my porch.

The hope and inspiration these books gave me is the reason why I love to read and to continue with finding authors that will forever hold the key to my heart.

As an author myself, I inspire to be the kind of writer Pascal was, and inspire girls the way she had inspired me.


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