Secrets (Sweet Valley High #2) by Francine Pascal
Ah, Sweet Valley. Nothing takes me back to be preteen years faster than looking at this book series I was completely obsessed with. When I first became interested in them, they were out of print which just made me want them more!
As a kid I really liked the series and wanted to even live in their idyllic Californian world, and I thought the stories were fun and interesting. But as an adult I know these weren’t the best written books. Most of them are cheesy, silly, and sometimes don’t make sense; but these were the ’80s-’90s versions of Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill.
So the story follows twin sisters, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Both are juniors, blonde, 5’6, and size sixes. Elizabeth is the smart, responsible one who dreams of being a journalist or writer. Jessica is the fashionable, social butterfly, cheerleader that dreams of parties and popularity.
They live in Sweet Valley, near Los Angeles, and attend school with their friends. The first book focused on the two girls, but the later ones were divided into two stories: one about a friend or relative while the other is about the girls. The later series got a bit darker and was done in miniseries, two or three books that went together. The topics ranged from drugs, sex, school dances, serial killers, sports, werewolves, princes, vampires, kidnapping, stalkers, etc. You know normal teenage girl stuff. 😉
Yes, as the series progressed the writers changed, and while I didn’t like some of the alterations I still continued to read and collect (still do so today) the novels. What can I say? They are such a big part of my childhood they bring on a tsunami of nostalgia.
So what does that have to do with us? Well quite a few of the books in the series were mysteries, had supernatural elements, psycho characters, or other themes that fall in line with this blog. So we get to review them!
So the novel series is similar to the Nancy Drew Files where you have a little teaser at the end like a preview, and the book picks up from there. In the last book Double Love, the sisters competed for the same guy, Todd Wilkins. Todd really liked Elizabeth, but Jessica did all she could to stop the romance. A bunch of other stuff also happens with the football field being involved in a big tug-of-war between companies, Elizabeth and Jessica afraid their dad is having an affair, Elizabeth and Jessica’s brother dating a girl from the wrong side of town, Jessica pretending to be Elizabeth and damaging her reputation, dances/parties, etc.
This book picks up after Elizabeth played a trick on Jessica, getting her dunked fully clothed. So here is where our story begins…
It wasn’t fair, Jessica raged, tears streaming down her face. Enid was going to the fall dance with Ronnie, and she was sure to be named queen. Ronnie was so blind with love that he’d swing a million votes her way.
Jessica sighed. She just had to win. If she were queen, Bruce Patman would finally notice her. She’d never wanted anything so badly in her entire life. She’d do anything to make it happen.
Out of the corner of one wet eye, Jessica glimpsed a piece of paper sticking out from under the bed. It looked like a letter.
“Dear Enid,” she read with a sudden voracious interest. A smile crept slowly across her features as a plan shaped itself in her mind.
Jessica is mad that her sister got one over on her and had her dunked in front of everyone. But she doesn’t think on it too long as she has something more weighty on her mind. She has been in love with Bruce Patman for years but he never paid attention to her. She has watched him go through every A-list girl except herself! Her latest attempt to snag him is to win Fall Queen, as Bruce is nominated Fall King. If the two are crowned, they will have to go to the following dances and school activities together-and he will fall madly in love with her.
The dance is two weeks away and Jessica can’t wait!
Elizabeth has noticed that her best friend Enid Rollins has been so down lately. The decide to do a marathon baking session to cheer her up-but no dice. Finally Elizabeth just asks her and Enid unloads. Enid has a secret-a big secret. She has a police record.
When her parents divorced two years ago, she got involved in drinking and drugs. She and her boyfriend, George Warren, hit a boy while driving. The kid turned out to be okay-but the two were arrested, given 6 months probation, and put through drug counseling. Enid was changed by it and George was sent away to a private boarding school.
Enid is worried about her boyfriend Ronnie Edwards finding out. He said a lot of stuff in the last book that makes Enid certain that if he discovered her secret he’d dump her right away.
In my open she would be much better without him. He’s a rude, jerky, jealous, control freak, and abusive.
Enid has been writing to her friend George these past years and is afraid that Ronnie will see it as cheating on him. She shows the letters to Elizabeth, but it is nothing more than average friend encouragement and support. Elizabeth promises to keep the letters a complete secret.
Meanwhile, Jessica and her friends are talking about Ms. Dalton the French teacher. Jessica’s best friend Lila Fowler hates Ms. Dalton as not only is her father dating the 25-year-old teacher (really? 25), but her boyfriend, Ken Matthews, has a giant crush on her. She starts a rumor that Ms. Dalton and him are having an affair.
Jessica returns home later in a bad mood. She tried to charm Bruce Patman-but received nothing. She wants to hang out with her sister-but she’s gone again off with Enid. Enid who hates Jessica. She starts thinking of everything that is wrong and goes in her sister’s room-as her’s is painted an ugly brown (bad idea by Jessica) and too messy (she hates cleaning). As she sits there she spots a letter, and a terrible, awful idea is born.
Later Enid, Ronnie, Elizabeth, and Todd are double dating when Elizabeth and Todd notice something is off with Ronnie. The couples split ways with Enid and Ronnie heading to the classic make-out spot. Ronnie acts totally different and all over Enid-and then breaks their date to the dance.
When he tries to go farther than Enid wants, she manages to get loose-but then it all comes out. Ronnie knows all about George and her past.
“The letters. Liz must have told him about the letters.”
Jessica leaves for a party at Lila’s hoping to snag Bruce Patman there. Elizabeth calls up Enid, but she won’t have anything to do with her. Elizabeth stays home wallowing in confusion, while Jessica heads out.
Jessica is super disappointed to find out Bruce already has a date to the dance and puts her eyes on now dateless Ronnie.
Elizabeth confronts the question of how this could have happened, discussing it with her favorite teacher-Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins tells her to look for the key thing-motivation. Why would anyone want to do this? Break up Enid and Ronnie?
Like the Nancy Drew Files, one of the best things I love in this series are the clothes, the author always gives great detail to what the twins wear. I’ve decided to add a special section for this in these reviews too.
When Jessica goes to Lila’s party-but imagine in burgundy:
The dance: I see Jessica in this…
And Elizabeth in this:
Thoughts After Reading:
As a teen I loved it! From beginning to end. As an adult, I still enjoyed it-good pacing and the better writing than later books in the series.
The Next Book in the Series:
Another thing I loved about these mysteries is that they were designed like radio shows and TV episodes. They always made sure to leave you with a little preview of what will come next:
Just then Bruce sailed past, nearly colliding with her as she stumbled backward in an attempt to escape Winston’s murderous feet. He swept her with a long look that sent an electric shock tingling up her spine. There was a hint of invitation in his smile, and more than a spark of interest in his sexy blue eyes. Some of her misery faded. Could it be?…
Can Jessica play Bruce Patman’s game and win? Find out in SWEET VALLEY HIGH #3, Playing With Fire.
Of course we won’t because that isn’t a mystery. I don’t think I will be reviewing anything until book #13, Kidnapped. When I get there I’ll do a quick recap-and then continue.
For more young adult fiction, go to Christina’s Ghost
For more books were letters play a key role, go to This Pen for Hire