If you’re lucky enough to live where the mercury never falls below 50, you can totally still sneak in some beach reading in these early days of Autumn. And what’s beachier than a nostalgic romp through Sweet Valley, California? Better yet — a lovingly satirical romp, in graphic novel form!
Katy Rex, et al. Sweet Valley High: Academic All-Star? Mt. Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2019.
Rating: 5 out of 5 charities Elizabeth is knitting scarves for while saving wetlands and rehabilitating circus horses.
Recommended if you like: loving parodies, skillfully updated characters, stories set in the present day that still somehow feel nostalgic.
Dynamite Entertainment just released the first installment of — I hope! — a new series of Sweet Valley graphic novels set in the age of social media. Like, instead of slam books, you have Snapchat and Instagram…the comedic possibilities are endless!
And let me assure you, the 21st-century updates do not feel like obnoxious gimmicks at all (*side-eyes Sweet Valley Confidential*). This isn’t one of those We’re-pretending-the-characters-went-through-a-30-year-time-warp-without-realizing-or-acknowledging-it things. Nope! For the purposes of this series, the Twins and Friends were born in the early 2000s, and all the slang and technology they use feels organic.
Also! The Twins themselves feel more three-dimensional and complex, even when they’re being caricatured. Elizabeth isn’t just some sickeningly saintly butt-in-ski in Victorian schoolmarm outfits. She’s a relatably over-ambitious Super Volunteer who just can’t understand why she’s having trouble balancing her civic duty with her social life. And sometimes she wears midriffs! And rompers! And shredded shorts! (Of course there’s an outfit montage)
And Jessica isn’t just some airheaded Mean Girl cheerleader who can’t tell Shakespeare from a milkshake (*raises an eyebrow at the SVH TV show*). She can throw down pretentious academic discourse about gender binaries and layers of personhood with the best of them!
And, though they’re each relatably clueless about their own hang-ups, they’re awesome at pointing out each other’s pitfalls — in a way that’s delightfully satirizing the dodgy aspects of the original book series.
Liz explains why a romance between a sixteen-year-old and her adult T.A. is totes problematic.
Jess suggests that maybe Liz and Todd are acting too much like a married couple…and not in a sweet way.
Some of their conversations even gave me lovely Frozen flashbacks.
Just one little nitpick — I do not believe Bruce Patman would choose such a wholesomely tame euphemism like “sleeping with” to taunt Jessica about her T.A. crush on Instagram. Even if Dynamite wanted to keep this book PG-13, they could’ve blurred out a more salacious word, or conveniently placed a thumb over part of it, or something.
I can’t wait for the Double Love podcast to delve into this one. I just know Anna and Karyn are going to LOL over Todd’s multiple melodramatic exits from French bistros (that was my alternate rating), or how he can only tell the Twins apart when it’s dramatically inconvenient for him to do so.
Happy Fall, y’all! It’s almost Halloween Month!
Leaf pile clip art from giphy