Posted in Podcasts

Episode 9: Belinda Billie B*ll*cks

Dove: Apparently I didn’t remember to update this on Monday, so:

Wing, Raven and Dove talk about Sweet Valley Twins 24: Jumping to Conclusions; Super Edition 2: Holiday Mischief; and 25: Standing Out. They also discuss Bleak Valley and how these books tie into this theory.

Music is provided by Stuart Taylor, who can be contacted on if you wish to commission music.

You can read our recaps at Sweet Valley Onlinetumblr or visit us at Facebook or Twitter (follow @SweetValley_)

The book mentioned can be found here.

Also: TB, I’m so sorry, but I (Dove) keep referring to you as “TG”. Apologies.

Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #19: The Bully

Sweet Valley Twins 19: The Bully - Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 19: The Bully – Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Bully

Tagline: How do you stop the meanest kid in Sweet Valley? [Dove: Wait. How do you even find the meanest kid in Sweet Valley? Who compiled the initial list? Who narrowed it down? Were independent ombudsmen involved? Why isn’t Jessica the meanest kid in Sweet Valley? I have so many fucking questions.]

Summary: Dennis Cookman is the biggest bully at Sweet Valley Middle School. Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, along with the whole sixth grade, are trying to figure out what to do about him. When Dennis smashes Jimmy Underwood’s bicycle, some of the kids feel he’s gone too far.

Just because Dennis is bigger and older doesn’t give him the right to pick on the sixth graders. Something has to be done to stop this bully once and for all! That’s when Ken Matthews comes up with the perfect dare that will expose Dennis Cookman as the coward that he really is.

Initial Thoughts:

I love/hate this book. I’ll explain what I love and what I don’t. Oh, and I’ve been reading this book since 1990, and it was only on this read-through I was able to figure out the layout of the cave to make the plot make sense. Note from the future: Or did I? Someone draw me a fucking picture!

The cover: Why is Jessica gazing at a spot over Dennis’ right shoulder? Did she – SQUIRREL!


Posted in Podcasts

Episode 6: My Legs are Spatulas

Wing, Raven and Dove talk about Sweet Valley Twins 16 Second Best; 17 Boys Against Girls and Super Edition 1: The Class Trip. They also discuss Bleak Valley and how these books tie into this theory. Music is provided by Stuart Taylor, who can be contacted on if you wish to commission music


Posted in Podcasts

Episode 5: Never Change, Jessica

Wing, Raven and Dove talk about Sweet Valley Twins 13 Stretching the Truth; 14 Tug of War; and 15 The Older Boy. They also discuss Bleak Valley and how these books tie into this theory. Music is provided by Stuart Taylor, who can be contacted on if you wish to commission music.

Posted in Podcasts

Episode 4: See You Next Tuesday, Jessica

We discuss Sweet Valley Twins 10 One of the Gang; 11 Buried Treasure; and 12 Keeping Secrets, and how they tie into Bleak Valley.

Music is provided by Stuart Taylor, who can be contacted on if you wish to commission music.

We mention the podcasts Super Serials and Teen Creeps.

Posted in Bleak Valley

Welcome to Bleak Valley

It’s hard to know where your imagination will take you.

At the age of eleven, my favourite film was Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon. If you don’t know it, I suggest you check out the IMDB page. Cliff Notes: it’s a Martial Arts Motown Musical which sees our African American hero and master of Kung Fu, Bruce Leroy, take on a gloriously high camp bad guy Sho’nuff, the Shogun of Harlem.

All the cool kids my age worshipped at the altar of Star Wars, but me? I wanted to be this guy:

What can I say? It caught me. Truth be told, I love it still, without a hint of irony.

Dove was caught, by her own admission, by the Sweet Valley Twins series at a wholly appropriate age. She started with The Haunted House, a book which I recently had the pleasure to recap, and after that she leapt feet-first into the bowl of twee soup, the bowl in which the Wakefield twins float like Aryan croutons. She bought book after book after book, and devoured them with joy.

Wing and I came to this series with jaded, adult eyes. We’re enjoying the process, and the books too (I think), but they are definitely Not Meant For Us. Dove knows what’s coming, while we’re going in blind. Eyes wide, daggers drawn, probing for blood and giggles.

Dove, some years older and much more sarcastic, is rereading her youthful passions with a critical (and humorous) mindset. She too is enjoying the text, but she’s likely more amped by our reactions to the shenanigans undertaken by Jessica and her Unigibbon cohorts than by the shenanigans themselves.

In truth, while you can revisit your childhood haunts, they’ll never be as memorable as they once were. It’s hard to rekindle the fire that warms you the first night you camp in the dark with the characters you love.

In one aspect, Wing and I are lucky. This is our first viewing of the shitshow. We’re slouched in our matinee seats, the popcorn prose slick with a banal butter but still kind on the tongue. For Dove, the snacks have grown stale, and the performances are rote and weary. Sweet Valley isn’t quite as sweet as it once promised.

So it was nice when something came along to grab Dove’s imagination.

It was a throwaway comment, at first. I made it for a laugh, the way I make most comments. Dove snickered. Job done. She then referenced it in the podcast, so I reinforced it. Nothing sinister in intent, no matter how sinister the actual idea.

The idea?

Jessica Wakefield doesn’t exist. She’s merely a construct in the mind of Elizabeth Wakefield, an abused Only Child whose imagination spawned the whole of Sweet Valley in order to escape her lonely, imprisoned, apocalyptic clusterfuck life.

This simple concept, conceived in jest with no real consideration, has burrowed deep into Dove’s mind, crab-clawing a home amongst the horror tropes and My Little Pony trivia. When she talks about it – and she talks about it – her eyes light up with a gleeful abandon. Those of us that know her, we know that glow well.

Dove has set upon the books, voracious once more. The hackneyed stories, once ingrained as static tableaus, unmoving and complete, now squirm and writhe afresh. Elizabeth’s actions and motivations are examined through a jeweller’s loupe, their patina and hue stress-tested for authenticity.

Does the theory stand up to scrutiny? Can the storylines in the Sweet Valley Twins series really be explained away as the fevered ramblings of an abandoned and abused pre-teen mired in a hellish and loveless quagmire?

The characters we see are jagged jigsaw-fits of a shattered personality.

Jessica. Elizabeth’s “twin”. A beloved sociopath that gets her own way no matter what the cost. Manipulative, rational, deliberate, serene. A version of Elizabeth with the power to set her own agenda, the stillborn heart at the core of the real Elizabeth’s existence.

The Unicorns. A pre-teen Jekyll and Hyde, both popular and vapid, beautiful and ugly. An ideal image of what Elizabeth would hope to be, yet dry-brushed with a tainted aspect so she can live with the truth of her awful situation.

The Sweet Valley Sixers. Elizabeth’s paper. Her passion, her voice, a bulletin that both frees her mind and locks her cage. She longs to be heard, to be rescued, to be real, but all she can do is report on the lives of the imagined players in her absurd theatre of repression.

Her parents, the Elder Wakefields. Awesome, beautiful, nondescript, one-dimensional. A textbook mother and father, seen through the eyes of a neglected child with no real frame of reference.

Elizabeth herself. Popular, hard-working, responsible, perfect. Everything that the real Elizabeth longs to be. But at her core, the imagined Elizabeth is ineffectual, quick to capitulate, unable to assert any influence on her own surroundings. She’s drowning, and smiling as she sinks.

By exploring the many stations visited by this offbeat train of thought, Dove is having fun. Having devoured the majority of the books, she has framed this theory with characters and plot points that Wing and I have yet to discover. We often receive bouncy texts and emails, outlining how the plot of Book X supports the theory, or how Characters Y and Z interlock to form some unexplored shard of the real Elizabeth’s true character.

We have a name for this conceit, this desolate nightmare. Elizabeth’s altered reality, the purple underbelly of her cracked psyche, the Dark World of her mind and soul.

Bleak Valley.

Dove is back to loving the books, for all new and slightly disturbing reasons. And her enthusiasm is delightful. Wing and I have vowed to indulge Dove’s newfound vigour for all things Bleak Valley, and we hope to incorporate our discussions and ideas into future podcasts and recaps. Not as something that eclipses the thrust of our recapping, naturally; more something that accentuates the main course, a few sprigs of Bleak Valley parsley on the steak of Sweet Valley Twins.

So, look out for an irregular post every now and then, entitled Bleak Valley, in which Wing, Dove and myself discuss our latest recaps and examine how they might fit into the Bizarro World of Lonely Elizabeth’s Grief Cupboard. There’ll be brief chats and laughs about this in the podcasts too, demarked and skippable in case the darkness is Not Your Bag.

Bleak Valley. Where the town of Sweet Valley is nothing but a spark of hope in the mind of a lonely and frightened girl. Where an abused and abandoned child clings to a chipped reality through frenzied desire and force of will. Where a neglected Elizabeth dreams of a better life.

Yeah, it’s hard to know where your imagination will take you.