Heads up, sorority members, teenage bullies, and fans of blondeness everywhere: the CW is apparently developing a TV adaptation of the Sweet Valley High books with Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the team behind Gossip Girl and The O.C.
According to the logline, as per TVLine.com:
‘Sweet Valley is the town everyone dreams of growing up in. And there’s no better example of that promise than Elizabeth Wakefield. But when her missing twin sister Jessica miraculously returns, it reignites a lifelong rivalry. It falls to new girl Enid Ruiz to discover that someone (or something) is pulling all the strings, but can she convince the twins that putting their personal war aside is the only way to drag Sweet Valley’s dark roots into the California sunshine?’
Let’s start with the most shocking part, obviously. Enid Ruiz, star detective and twin saviour? Those familiar with the books – and those who have listened to Anna Carey and Karyn Moynihan’s fantastically funny recap podcast, Double Love – will quickly crack the code and recognise this character as Enid Rollins, best friend and willing sidekick to the perfect Elizabeth. It’s hard to imagine the dull and drippy book-Enid convincing the twins of anything, unless she’s persuading Elizabeth of her own saintliness (never an uphill journey.)
Apparently they’re changing more than the character’s name – and the name change itself suggests a more diverse cast, which can only be a good thing, considering the overwhelmingly white stars of the source material, and its occasional dicey attempts to tackle the issue of racism.
It’s only one of several departures, though. The ‘lifelong rivalry’ alluded to is a great move away from the books’ sibling relationship, where Jessica’s behaviour ranges from the mischievous to the sociopathic, and the long-suffering Elizabeth endlessly comes to the rescue. What’s hinted at here is a much more interesting antipathy, with Elizabeth embodying Sweet Valley’s sunny perfection and Jessica as the id that won’t stay buried. Obviously it’ll be even more interesting if the metaphor holds and we get some real insight into the town’s ‘dark roots.’
The books show unflinching loyalty to a heavily idealised Sweet Valley, with characters constantly extolling its virtues despite a pretty steep crime-to-page ratio. There are occasional allusions to the ‘bad parts’ of town, but these never really go further than providing temporary jeopardy – or backstory for supporting characters, who generally get a one-book arc before fading into the background. Honestly, if they want to give Sweet Valley the Riverdale treatment, I say go for it. Just as Elizabeth is only ever interesting by association with Jessica, the books truly shine when they lean into the wilder storylines – cults, kidnappings, and murder (oh my).
Speaking of the wilder storylines – readers will be wondering if the person ‘pulling all the strings’ is a character we recognise from the books. Maybe even Margo, star of the books’ most infamously bonkers Evil Twin storyline? Margo, unrelated yet inexplicably born with identical features to the twins’, wreaked havoc in Sweet Valley when she infiltrated the town and impersonated Elizabeth, trying to take over her life. The violently unhinged Margo gave the series a chance to push creepy doppelgänger themes further than it was ever really willing to with the wholesome Wakefield twins. I don’t know, though. If this logline is anything to go by – and maybe it isn’t – the call could be coming from inside the house.