A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this revamped series from the '80s says it's for teens, but, just like in the '80s, the simplicity and candy-coated quality of the stories will mainly interest tweens, especially those who like High School Musical. The iffiest thing that new readers of the series will find in the first book is a bad-boy drunken car chase with unwilling passengers, an almost-forced kiss, a fistfight, and some serious lying and conniving behavior from Jessica against her own sister -- with barely any consequences. To modernize the series, new brands are peppered throughout, especially cars. Alarmingly, the twins have also gotten skinnier in this iteration: size 6 in the '80s, size 4 today.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
Twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield (Jess and Liz) share the same California-girl good looks, Jeep Wrangler, and, for one book at least, the same taste in boys. When Sweet Valley High football team captain Todd Wilkins calls for Liz one morning before school, Jess answers and decides he's interested in her. When she finds out he really likes Liz, Jess does everything to get Todd to forget Liz and vice versa, including lying about just who was really out with bad-boy Rick, letting her twin's reputation suffer instead. Will good-girl Liz really get the guy in the end?
Is it any good?
The light-and-fluffy series every girl read in the '80s -- and way before high school -- is back with a 2008 makeover. The Sweet Valley kids now have cell phones and blogs, a school Web site instead of newspaper, a Jeep Wrangler instead of a red Fiat Spider, and occasional mentions of Botox and MTV. But modern junk does not a modern teen-dream fantasy make. The dialog is still corny (The "Infamous Rick Andover [is]... Trouble with a capital 'T.'"), the parent pep-talks are still very Brady Bunch, and the stories are too simplistic to intrigue fans of Meg Cabot -- and not nearly scandalous enough for the Gossip Girl crowd.
The most likely audience is tween fans of High School Musical. But while the idealized view of high school is the same, the tone isn't. Jessica acts like the over-the-top catty, conniving girls they cast on reality shows -- she's both annoying and fake. And bad-boy drunk sideshow driver Rick seems like he's straight out of the rival gang from Grease. Liz and her innocent romance get lost in the bizarre melodrama. Tweens, teens, and even nostalgic adults can find much better light reads.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes a book feel contemporary. Is it modern references about things like blogging and cell phones, or is it the way the characters behave? What still seems old fashioned about this book? Why do you think they made the twins skinnier in 2008 than they were when the books were first written in the '80s? Are teen girls skinnier than they were back then? Or do you think there's more pressure to be thin?
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