They’ve been perpetually perfect since 1983 and, to this day, we still love them. Yes, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield (those lovely California blondes with stunning size six figures, blue-green eyes and matching dimples) drove their jeep of drama into our hearts decades ago and left it there.
Far from the gentle and charming childhood classics we’d grown up with, Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High books – devoured under our duvets at night or behind Geography textbooks in school – ushered us into the minefield of teenagerdom with kidnappings, boyfriend stealing, lies, secrets and some seriously dodgy fashion choices.
We love a bit of teen book series nostalgia here at Novelicious so, without further ado, here are 10 of the most dramatic Sweet Valley High book covers. With over 150 to choose from, let’s just call this Part One.
1. All Night Long
Jessica starts dating college student Scott Daniels who is older than she is and much more experienced. Jessica, because of her late night with Scott, pleads with Elizabeth to take a test for her, which infuriates her, and gets her into a fight with Todd.
While we were used to seeing Jessica in the arms of random boys as long-time SVH readers, this was no boy. Scott Daniels, college student, had a moustache. As if that wasn’t enough to cement his older man status, he lived in a frat house and drove a red Firebird. Between the face lace, the precarious positioning of Jessica’s shirt and the sexually loaded title, we couldn’t turn these pages fast enough.
2. Miss Teen Sweet Valley
Feminist Liz and traditionalist Jess clash over Jess becoming Miss Teen Sweet Valley.
Feminism and feuding siblings? This was a cover after our own hearts. It was like Francine Pascal really got 14 year old us, you know?
3. Out of Control
Aaron Dallas has problems dealing with his parents divorce, and his anger alienates him from everyone in his life. Meanwhile, Jessica attempts to make some fast cash by selling Tofu-Glo cosmetics, which becomes a complete disaster.
We loved the covers that depicted fights on the precipice of kicking off. Like this one as Elizabeth gets in the middle of boyfriend Jeffrey and his best friend Aaron. Just don’t touch the hair.
4. Playing with Fire
Jessica finally gets what she has wanted: Bruce Patman. Liz is concerned that Bruce is too fast and is worried that Jessica will get hurt as she is changing her whole personality and life to fit in with what Bruce wants.
Oh, Jessica. He’s no good for you. Between the sleazy eyes, the cashmere casually wrapped around his shoulders and the fact that the title of this book was Playing with Fire, we just knew Bruce was going to be trouble. Besides which, he drove a porsche. In the land of Francine Pascal, what 17 year old kid drives a porsche and turns out to be a good egg with charitable tendencies and a penchant for jigsaw puzzles? No kid, that’s who. Nevertheless, we were gripped as we watched Jessica change her clothing, neglect her friends and ditch cheerleading practice to please Bruce the douche. This book taught us some important lessons like ... don’t change yourself for a man and, y’know, never trust a 17 year old kid who drives a porsche. Seriously.
5. Dangerous Love
Todd gets a motorcycle and Liz is forbidden by her parents to ride on it with Todd, due to the death of her cousin on a motorcycle. However, she disobeys her parents with disastrous consequences.
Quelle surprise, Jessica’s at it again. This time on the back of a motorcycle with … wait … hold up … Elizabeth? Is that you? Apparently it was opposite day at Sweet Valley High HQ and, for once, Jessica was the voice of reason as Elizabeth paid no heed and hopped on the back of Todd’s forbidden motorcycle. Lots of drama ensued, naturally.
6. Dear Sister
Liz wakes up from a coma following her accident and has turned into ... Jessica. She dumps Todd and starts flirting with the other boys like nobody's business. Jessica is not happy - she wants her old twin back.
Given the book before this one ended with a motorcycle crash and Liz in a coma, we took one look at this cover – and its tagline – and presumed the worst. The blurb on the back of the book didn’t do much to alleviate our fears, so when Elizabeth woke up on page 12, we felt a little cheated. Nevermind, the drama deficit was paid in full when we realised the crash had turned Liz into a more reckless and ruthless version of Jessica.
7. The Stolen Diary
Elizabeth goes on a date with a new guy named Kris, who, when she later rejects him, gets his hands on her journal and spreads a lot of rumors about her, but thanks to Jessica, who is infuriated by what happened, Liz's good reputation is restored.
As teenagers, the title alone was enough to strike fear into our hearts. We could practically feel the wave of nausea and stone-cold fear in Elizabeth’s eyes. That said, we dove straight into this book keen to discover her dirty diary secrets along with the rest of Sweet Valley High.
Liz is helping out at the hospital when she is kidnapped by Carl, a disturbed orderly. Confusion enters the situation when Max Dellon, a member of the band, The Droids, is arrested for the kidnapping.
No sooner than Elizabeth’s out of her coma, she’s kidnapped by an orderly she works with at the hospital. In this vein, while the tagline reads ‘Elizabeth’s nightmare is about to begin ...’, it should probably read ‘Elizabeth’s second nightmare is about to begin ...’ Because being in a motorcycle crash induced coma is pretty nightmarish, isn’t it? Anyway, we digress. Orderly Carl (that’s his hand there on the cover) claims to be deeply in love with Liz and plans to hide her away in a remote cabin in the woods, where nobody will ever find her. Just as the jacket promised, it was pretty gripping stuff.
9. Crash Landing
Enid and her boyfriend are involved in a plane accident. Enid becomes paralyzed from the waist down, which makes it difficult for George to break up with her, which he was going to do on the day they crashed.
This cover was a little deceptive. Elizabeth wasn’t actually there when secondary character George crashed a plane on his first solo flight with girlfriend Enid. Nor was Enid unconscious. She was actually struggling through the debris to save George’s life, injuring her back and becoming paralyzed in the process. But a plane crash is a plane crash. Drama city! This was only intensified by the problems poor George faced in the aftermath. How can he break up with Enid when her life has effectively been ruined by saving his? Urgh. He has the worst luck.
10. Kidnapped by the Cult!
Jessica is grounded for her poor math grades, and she feels that nobody cares about her plight. She gets taken in by a group of people called The Good Friends, but by the time she realizes what they really are it might be too late.
Grounded by your parents for persistently performing poorly in school? Join a cult! That’s pretty much what happens in this particularly dramatic offering when Jessica starts hanging around with a cultish group led by gorgeous older man Adam Marvel. You’d think she would be a little more wary what with Elizabeth having already been kidnapped just a few books ago. Nope. Though, we kind of got it. The cult boys on the cover were pretty cute. Especially the one with the leather jacket.
What was your favourite Sweet Valley High book? And were you more of an Elizabeth or a Jessica?