Up until Easter weekend, we had never actually taken a vacation together. We had travelled together — visiting the East Coast to eat lobsters, drive the coast, and to visit museums and historic sites along the way; and we had visited France, travelling the beautiful country by train, touring the Riviera, walking for hours through the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay, all while absorbing every sight and sound. These, along with road trips throughout Canada and the United States, have been incredible experiences, but mostly they were anything but relaxing.
Last weekend we decided to stray from travelling and take a vacation — the kind of vacation that requires little more than a bathing suit, a case of beer, and a plane ticket. Our options for last-minute budget travel were limited because of the long weekend, but we managed to score a decent deal to Orlando, where we spent three days in the sun, lazing around the pool (with the exception of one 14-hour day at the Magic Kingdom).
Despite a stack of review copies and non-fiction selections from the library weighing down my coffee table, I decided on some smutty young adult fiction (a favourite genre!). I wanted something I could read not only beside the pool, but also in the pool, without feeling guilty for soaking the pages with sopping fingerprints and spilled beer. I settled on Kidnapped, which is #13 in Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series.
I was a huge fan of Sweet Valley Kids and Sweet Valley Twins as a child of the 1980s, but my tastes matured and my love for them dwindled before I ever graduated to Sweet Valley High. Though I likely lacked the vocabulary to express my thoughts back then, I knew there was something wrong with reducing young women to stereotypical gossipers who cared mostly about boys, shopping, and maintaining their “perfect size 6” (or is it 4?) figures.
Revisiting the lives of the Wakefield twins, Jessica and Elizabeth, was provoked by the recent release of Sweet Valley Confidential, which has piqued my curiosity. After all, I dedicated so many hours of my young life to the twins, how could I not want to see what became of them, especially now that they are my age — 27? I’m still number 19 on my library’s list of holds, and booking the trip took up all my book-buying budget for the next few weeks, so I decided to get reacquainted through Kidnapped, which I picked up for .50 at a used-book shop on College Street in Toronto.
Kidnapped begins with Jessica Wakefield’s excitement over a party, hosted at the home of a new (and of course cute and wealthy!) boy who she hopes to snag as her own. In the meantime, Elizabeth, who was supposed to tutor the school’s troubled musician after work, is kidnapped when leaving her job as a candy striper at the hospital. She wakes up tied to a chair at a deranged orderly’s home in the middle of nowhere — and a futile attempt proves there is no way to escape.
While Kidnapped was completely predictable and lacked any real elements of suspense, it was enjoyable poolside reading. It certainly didn’t live up to my feminist ideals, framing each twin negatively (and two dimensionally) — Elizabeth as a helpless victim and Jessica as boy crazy and self-absorbed — yet somehow, likely the nostalgia factor, it was perfect reading for a mind that was slightly clouded by banana daiquiris and excess exposure to sun.
While I’m not likely to read every single book in the series as this blogger did, I am looking forward to reading Sweet Valley Confidential, fully aware of the book’s negative reviews. Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield may be annoyingly cheerful, horrifyingly stereotypical, and, at times, just plain boring, yet somehow they are tied to my memory in the same way Uncle Jesse and hair scrunchies are, and I can’t help but want to catch up with them from time to time.