There was a three year period during my adolescence when Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the heart-stealing twins of Francine Pascal's "Sweet Valley High" series, were, like, my best friends and biggest idols. I'd curl up in the library and speed through their adventures with boys and boobs. They were everything I wanted to be: pretty, popular and fun, with beach-bum boyfriends who all had names like Todd. To this day, those books are still a nostalgia bomb for most girls (sorry, women) my age. So when I heard they were being rereleased this month— updated to reflect modern teen tastes—I was giddy. As series editor Beverly Horowitz puts it, "School dramas, sister issues and California beaches never go out of style."
Actually, they do—at least for this former fan. The series updates are pretty minor (Liz writes a gossip blog on top of her duties at the school paper; the girls ditch their Fiat for a Jeep), but the characters I once loved now remind me more of the ice queens from "Gossip Girl" than figures from my own childhood. "Double Love," the first of the updated series, begins with Jessica whining about how fat and disgusting her "perfect size 4" body is. (Note: in the old books, Jessica was a "perfect size 6.") Later, she invents a sexual assault to drive a wedge between her sister and her crush. She's pathological and knifing—a "mean girl" to the core. Yet to everyone around her, she's still so utterly cool. I hope young fans see through her—but I sure didn't. Now? With my grade-school infatuation long gone, the girls read to me the way they really are: just a couple of bimbos from the Valley.