Kara Skinner believes in changing the world through the power of books.
Something is really comforting in Sweet Valley High books. The characters never grow or change, high school lasts for sixteen years, and everyone is incredibly nice all the time unless the plot commands them otherwise. Despite all the serial killers, evil twins, werewolves, royal families, and other typical high school stuff, everything in Sweet Valley is stable, normal, and downright boring.
None of these books will ever be dubbed the Great American Novel, but they are so much fun to read.
Sweet Valley High is a series created by Francine Pascal, who led a team of ghostwriters to create the incredibly successful Sweet Valley universe, which includes nine spin-off series, a TV show, and a possible movie (production began in 2017).
For the sake of sanity, this list is about the original series, Sweet Valley High.
For anyone who didn't grow up in the 80's or stumble across these books in your mom's attic or at a yard sale, Sweet Valley High is about two identical twins, Elizabeth and Jessica, during their junior year of high school.
As every book will tell you, they are identical in every way, down to the dimple on their right cheeks. But their personalities are completely different. Elizabeth is serious and quiet. She wants to be a writer when she grows up and writes the gossip column at her high school's newspaper. Jessica, on the other hand, is all about having fun and enjoying life. She dates all the guys without settling down and loves hanging out with friends and shopping for clothes and makeup. But despite their differences, they always have their back. Well, unless Jessica has to spike Elizabeth's drink to become prom queen.
These books are so silly and poorly written, they are amazing. Here are the top five SVH books to read (believe me, you don't have to read them in order).
SVH #9 Racing Hearts
One of the earlier books in the series, Racing Hearts is about Roger Barret, who is destitute. When he's not in school, he's working as a janitor to help his single mother make ends meet. This means he has practically no social life, and definitely no chance of getting with his crush, Lila Fowler, a rich, beautiful snob.
But the odds are better in his favor when he's thrown into running a race called "The Bart", a competition Sweet Valley is desperate to win after a long-time losing streak. Winning the race might be what he needs to win Lila's affections. But little does he know, artsy rebel Olivia Davidson already has a major crush on him.
There's only one problem: he can't get time off from work to run the race.
Roger is one of my favorite characters. I've always had a bit of a crush on him. And it's really nice to see him as a central character in this book, and of course get the girl (is it really a spoiler when the books already follow a strict formula?)
#28 Alone in the Crowd
This book is like the original High School Musical. Except, you know. In book form.
Lynne Henry is painfully shy. Insecure about her looks, she keeps to herself and tries to blend in as much as possible at school. She only feels like herself when she's playing and writing music.
When the Droids, Sweet Valley High's most popular rock band, host a songwriting contest, Lynne enters it. Anonymously.
When the Droids hear her song, they know they have a winner. They are determined to track down their anonymous contestant, especially Guy Chesney, the lead singer, who feels drawn to her words and her voice.
This is one of my favorite Sweet Valley books. Probably because I was an insecure 13-year-old who loved High School Musical and Camp Rock when I first read it. It's an adorable love story and perfect for those not that invested in the series because it centers around side characters and not the twins.
#39 Secret Admirer
Quiet and serious Penny Ayala puts out a personals ad in the Sweet Valley High newspaper. Soon she's exchanging letters with a boy named Jamie, who's smart, nice, and shares her interests. Unfortunately, "Jamie" doesn't exist. The letters were a prank by a group of guys. One of the guys writing the letters actually likes Penny, though. But how can he tell her the truth without hurting her?
#42 Caught in the Middle
Sandra Bacon and Manuel Lopez are in love. Unfortunately, Sandra's parents are racist. They date in secret while Sandra tries and fails to work up the nerve to stand up to them.
But when Manuel is under suspicion of vandalism and manslaughter, only Sandra can clear his name. Will she stand up to her parents or let Manuel go to jail?
This is a typical forbidden love story and it's pretty amazing if you just want some good romance. I've read this one a few times because the formula was pretty well executed, better than a lot of Sweet Valley High stories.
#100 The Evil Twin
Of course, I have to have The Evil Twin in this list! It's the cheesiest thriller in all of history and it's fantastic! Honestly is any SVH best reads list complete without this book?
This book is about Margo, a very disturbed girl who looks almost exactly like Jessica and Elizabeth. All she has to do is dye her hair and put in colored contacts and bam, she's a clone.
Naturally, she does what everyone does when they find their doppelgangers. She plots to kill them and take over their lives. Namely, she tries to take over Jessica's life (because Elizabeth's life is pretty boring). Margo forces a boy to get close to Jessica and then report back to her about Jessica's life. Then she starts pretending to be both the twins, little by little, to get a feel for how to become Jessica. This will all end, of course, in a knife fight to the death during the night of a party.
It's so fantastic!
In case you were wondering, Margo also has an identical twin sister, who also tries to kill the Wakefields. Duh. If she didn't, it would be absurd.
What are your favorite Sweet Valley High books? Let me know in the comments.