If you were a teenager in the 80s or 90s, there’s a good chance you spent large chunks of your time holed up in your poster-clad bedroom, engrossed in the adventures of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. The blond, tanned, teenage twins of the hugely popular Sweet Valley High series were like BFFs to us. We couldn't get enough of the books’ glitzy Californian setting, the crazy fashion choices, the impossibly beautiful characters and the ridiculous (yet equally compelling) storylines. Best of all, we loved getting our hands on the next book in the series and guessing what glamorous drama lurked beneath the cover.
We’ve already brought you part one of the most dramatic Sweet Valley High covers. It’s about time for part two, right? Like, totally.
‘Has Elizabeth found new love?’ read the tagline. This cover had us seriously questioning Liz’s sanity. Sure, she’d just been kidnapped by orderly Carl in the previous book and may have been emotionally unstable as a result, but that was no excuse for contemplating dating anyone other than brown-haired, brown-eyed, basketball-playing dreamboat boyfriend Todd. Was it? When down-to-earth Nicholas Morrow approached Liz at a party, he claimed he’d fallen in love with her at first sight. While we probably should’ve questioned how this worked when he’d already met Jessica just moments before (err, they’re twins, Nick), we were aghast when Liz actually decided to go out on a date with him. Girl, you were just kidnapped by a guy who was obsessed with you and now you’re going out with ‘I loved you the moment I saw you’ Morrow? Check yo self. Admittedly, he was rich and nice to his deaf sister, but still …
How we longed to comfort Todd in his hour of need though. Like, a lot.
This cover told us that Jessica had had enough. ‘But of what?’ we cried clutching the reserved library book and skimming the pages before we’d even checked it out. ‘Where is she going? With whom? Will she ever come back? And where did she get that really nice, oversized grey travelling sweater?’ To San Francisco, apparently, with sensitive bad boy Nicky Shephard, whose parents seemed to care more about his car’s well being than his own. Our hearts ached for him and Jessica. We got it. There were times we felt like running away, too. Though, we didn’t have a jeep nor a neverending carousel closet of dreams. That’s stuff you’d totally stick around for.
3. Bitter Rivals
One of the things we loved about Francine Pascal was her ability to write about deep, serious issues that we could not only relate to, but draw advice from. Take Bitter Rivals, for example. We often found ourselves in the middle of two feuding friends. Cue margin note making.
4. The New Jessica
Jessica decides to change her whole appearance and become more "sophisticated". She colours her hair a deep black, begins acting very different, and tries to pursue a modeling career. Liz is very hurt and scared that she is going to lose her best friend.
Liz looks bemused, shocked and downright tired of Jessica’s antics on this cover, but we were delighted. When Jessica decided she needed to be more sophisticated to become a model, things got serious (you know this because she wore a beret, guys). Best of all, she dyed her hair black and started speaking with a British accent. Finally! We were like a Wakefield twin!
5. Two-Boy Weekend
The title alone had us turning the pages so fast, we were bandaging papercuts for weeks. Well played, Francine Pascal. Well played.
6. Lost At Sea
Now this is the kind of cover drama we’re talking about. Jessica, washed up on a deserted island looking pensive and disheveled – if sexy, tousled beach waves and a full face of perfect makeup can be classed as disheveled, and a suitably dramatic tagline. Yep. We cancelled all weekend plans for this one. It was interesting to see how Jessica’s character adapted to being stranded in the open-air wilderness. Hunting, gathering, building shelter … oh no, wait, that was fellow strandee Winston. Yeah. Jessica sunbathed and hoped to get trim and tanned to better impress Ken Matthews upon her rescue. She did too.
“Jessica stopped a few feet away so that Ken could get an optimal view of her body posed against the seductive backdrop of the sea, sand, and palm trees.”
7. Trouble At Home
Through all the kidnappings, cult-joining, amatuer crime-solving and nights spent stranded on deserted islands, Elizabeth and Jessica’s home life was always pretty steady. We marvelled at the normalcy of the quintessentially American Wakefield family. An interior designer for a mother (often mistaken as the twins’ older sister) and a lawyer father, who met in college and remained happily married for 20 years (despite aforementioned kidnappings and cult-joining, which would have driven our parents to hire a 24 hour watchman). We were gutted when there were whispers of separation on the jacket of Trouble At Home. Look at how heartbroken the kids are! Steven can’t even look the illustrator in the eye. Sad times.
8. Who’s To Blame?
The book before this one ended with a strained family weekend in Tahoe after weeks of parental fighting. Alice announced she had to return to Sweet Valley for a work crisis, Ned flipped, they fought and he threatened divorce if she left. She left anyway. Way to leave it on a cliffhanger, Fran. In this book, after a scathing blame session from Jessica, it was Elizabeth’s turn to run away. We didn’t like her running away outfit as much as we liked Jessica’s in Runaway, but were gripped by the reality of the situation. Was this it for the Wakefield family?
9. Love Letters for Sale
We always knew Jessica secretly wanted Todd for herself and it seemed she was about to get him. Secret love letters, sisterly schemes and one giant blue turtleneck jumper (Jess, you live in California not Yakutsk), this book seriously brought the drama.
10. Elizabeth Betrayed
As budding teenage writers, we loved reading about Elizabeth’s editorship at The Oracle. It always seemed so exciting and high-pressure, but could the gossipy school newspaper actually lead to Elizabeth’s downfall at Sweet Valley High? If the scowls on the front cover are anything to go by – yes, yes it could.
Is your most loved Sweet Valley High book here? Which was your favourite? Have we missed one of the most dramatic covers? Let us know in the comments.