Sweet Valley High and its world of model-perfect teens with boring romantic intrigues never interested me, but unfortunately I was an omnivorous reader and the books were often around. It’s much the same way I ended up reading a lot of V.C. Andrews at the supermarket.
The general plot of the books was ‘vanilla kids pout and date, with occasional forays into mild drug use’ (seriously, try reading these character descriptions – you’ll start seeing pastels and mayo float before your eyes), and yet I can barely remember any specifics. Those that I do probably say a lot more about me than the books:
1) Elisabeth and Jessica go off to college. Elisabeth experiences actual human emotions and starts snacking on cookies when she feels lonely. Jessica’s trashing it up like one assumed she’d always do when the leash was loosened. Cut to – Halloween. Elisabeth tries putting on the same costume she’s always worn, because she and her sister have always been a perfect size 6 (actually written repeatedly like it was a character trait). But OH NO, she’s too chubby to zip it up! She immediately dumps her cookies into the trash and resolves to be more actively social and not snack anymore. And with that all her problems related to crippling self-doubt and loneliness vanish, and presumably she returns to her perfect size 6 after three workouts.
2) Elisabeth takes a ride with her ‘bad boy’ boyfriend (he has a motorcycle – again, this should not be a character trait but in the bland softness that is Sweet Valley, it counts). They take a spill and Elisabeth, not wearing a helmet, lands in a coma. When she comes out of it, she acts just like Jessica! This creeps everyone out, because the twins’ behavior is diametrically opposed! You can’t have two ‘bad’ girls, you need a ‘good’ one for this entire thing to work! I do not even remember what happened but assume another well-timed bonk on the noggin restored Elisabeth to her dull, perfect, bookish state.
3) There was some spinoff series of Sweet Valley Kidz books where they solved crimes and reality took a holiday. This one had a foot in dull normality as it started with a class trip to the zoo, but quickly took a left turn when Elisabeth got bonked on the head (again) and the rest was a blatant, self-referential rip-off of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’. There was a magic rainbow bridge, talking mice, and direct quotations about doing impossible things before breakfast. I was reading this in a dollar store, and my parent offered to buy it for me. I said nah, speed-read to the end, and instead got a desk doodad filled with red sand where you turned it upside down and as it fell the sand formed a pattern. It was so rad*.
*It was actually a piece of crap, basically one of these but with a star pattern, and yet even now I stand by my youthful decision as that hunk of plastic was far less crappy than the book.