Like any diehard bookworm, I spent most of my childhood summer vacations at the local library. And there was nothing better on those sweltering days than getting lost in the completely unrealistic and ludicrous lives of the Wakefield twins at Sweet Valley High. As a pre-teen, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield held high court in my heart. Looking back on them now, however, is a different story. Because as entertaining as it was, the Sweet Valley High series completely failed feminism.
Even though the Wakefield twins were more of a trainwreck than a beacon of guidance for a young and impressionable reader such as myself, I don’t regret reading them. Sure, they weren’t the best feminist role models, but I look back on those books fondly. Revisiting the series as an adult, I’m not really sure what about the series captivated me, other than the fact that they were written about two teenage girls, who went to parties, got into fights, almost died once every ten books, and seemingly had little adult supervision. (OK, that does sound like something my 11-year-old self would be seriously into reading.)
Opening the cover of a Sweet Valley High book is a lot like opening a can of worms, which I found out the hard way. Gone were my illusions of Francine Pascal's perfect twins, and in came the startling reality that these books were really questionable at best, with serious plot holes, a lack of direction, and questionable character arcs. And even worse, the realization that the Wakefield twins are not a feminist’s best friend, but something far from it.