Before "Gossip Girl" and "Twilight," there was Sweet Valley High, the teenage romance novels that followed the sun-kissed lives of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. With their silky blond hair, aqua blue eyes, and 5-foot-6, "perfect size six" figures, the Wakefield twins were the all-American sweethearts of the 1980s and 1990s.
And now they are all grown up in "Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later," released by St. Martin's Press on Tuesday.
The twins are now 27, on their own, and bitterly estranged. Book-smart Elizabeth has fled heartache in fictional Sweet Valley, Calif., for the rough streets of New York City. Popular, attention-seeking Jessica is back in her hometown, and engaged to her twin sister's high school sweetheart.
Throughout the 1980s, pre-teens consumed the twins' stories like so much addictive candy, following the girls and a consistent cast of characters through the trials and tribulations of high school and teenage drama.
In this new book, readers are immediately hurled into the present with references to Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Facebook. By the end of chapter one, Elizabeth, a struggling writer, contemplates sleeping with her boss, reveals she cries after orgasms, and calls her twin "a heartless b----."
Honey, I don't think we're in Sweet Valley anymore.
Amy Pattee, associate professor at Simmons College and author of "Reading the Adolescent Romance: Sweet Valley High and the Popular Young Adult Romance Novel," said the series' trademark twins played to readers' dreams of being both the good and bad girl.
The new book aims to play on those same readers' ideals of adulthood.
"More and more grownups are interested and reading young adult novels," said Pattee. "When we look at the success of books like 'The Hunger Games' trilogy and how many grownups are invested in them, we can definitely see an interest or a market for visiting those nostalgic favorites."
Original Series "Really Scandalous"
The book piqued Diablo Cody's interest. The screenwriter who penned "Juno" and "Jennifer's Body" has already bought the rights to the book and will adapt it into a film.
The original series created, as Pattee put it, "a fantasy of adolescent life in the 80s." But there were also doses of ugliness within the fantasy, including stories on eating disorders, drug overdoses, and date rape.
"The books are really scandalous. There's a lot of crazy stuff that happens in Sweet Valley, and either we forgot it as we got older, or it didn't seem like a big deal," said Sarah Pitre, a blogger with revisiting, re-reading, and disseminating Sweet Valley High novels. The new book, according to Pitre, already has a solid foundation on which to build.
"I'm assuming that what the Sweet Valley High empire is trying to do is put a new polish on that drama, because they have all the ingredients there already, they have all the Gossip Girl there already, they just need to update it."
In Sweet Valley High the endings were not always happy, but there was almost always an important black and white moral lesson: don't drink and drive, snorting cocaine will kill you, and love thy beautiful twin sister, through thick and thin.
Book Taps Into Fans' Nostalgia for Simpler Times
Both Pitre and her co-blogger Erin Curtis – also the founder of the blog – say they are "rooting" for Jessica Wakefield, the archetypical bad girl of the series, in this new book. Pitre, 32, said she reads adult novels as well, but she isn't giving up her young adult books anytime soon.
"It's nice to go back and revisit a time when things were simpler, but things were still exciting and your whole world was still ahead of you," she said.
She hasn't read Sweet Valley Confidential yet, but she knows what she wants from Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield.
"They're adults now. I don't know what that means, I don't know if they're going to be more crazy or mature or what," said Pitre. "I'm hoping for crazy."