Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are both interested in the same guy – Todd Wilkins, the captain and star of the Sweet Valley High basketball team. While the twins may look exactly the same, the similarity doesn’t stretch to their personalities, and soon Jessica manages to wangle a date with Todd (courtesy of as lot of flirting and a little harmless deception), while Elizabeth watches sadly from the sidelines. Will the incorrigible Jessica manage to snag her man, or are Liz and Todd the couple who are truly MFEO? And why is their older brother Stephen being so secretive?
Ah, the book that started it all. Many lines and hundreds of individual books later, it’s fun to revisit the original novel that began the obsession that would eventually take up far too much shelf space in my home. And, as a beginning, it’s a great one. We have Jessica at her most scheming, showing off the interesting brand of ethics that she was to become famous for, and Elizabeth at her most martyred. We have an innocent (if excruciatingly dull) boy caught in the middle, and a brotherly sub-plot to keep us guessing. And, of course, we have that famous by-line, “created by Francine Pascal”. It took another twenty-seven years for Pascal to actually pen her first Sweet Valley novel.
Double Love lets you know from the beginning that it won’t be treating its (largely female) readers to plots that empower women and celebrate diversity. The reader is introduced to Betsy Martin, who – gasp! – “sleeps around” (and this from Elizabeth, who is supposed to be the empathetic and tolerant twin) and we learn very quickly that Liz and Jess are wonderful because they’re beautiful and have perfect bodies.
Do I make it sound as though I don’t like the book? Probably. But actually, the exact reverse is true. Double Love exemplifies so many of the things I love about the series, along with the things that I don’t. Jessica is her usual, fantastic self. The ensemble cast is already looming in the background. And it’s fun.