Sweet Valley High goes on a diet

The fluffy 1980s teen fiction series updates itself -- by making its heroines even skinnier.

By Sarah Hepola
Published March 28, 2008 4:20PM (EDT)

I never read Sweet Valley High books. And I'm not being snobby here; I wish I had. I feel as though I missed out on a cultural moment of the 1980s, as if I were in the bathroom when Michael Jackson first did the moonwalk. The lightweight, juicy paperbacks about twins Jessica and Elizabeth may have had the nutritive value of frosting on fudge, but they were the guilty pleasure of nearly every 1980s middle-school girl. Back then, we didn't have "The Hills" and "Gossip Girl." We had to walk a mile in a row of card catalogs just to find a cheap, tawdry sex scene.

Not surprisingly, given the success of "Gossip Girl" (remember, before it was a TV show, it was a hugely profitable young-adult book series), Random House is rereleasing Sweet Valley High for the 21st century tween. To drum up publicity, it sent out a notice highlighting a few changes, which Gawker has reprinted on its site. Instead of a red Fiat, the twins are driving a Jeep Wrangler. There will, of course, be a gossip blog, on which much catty drama will ensue. But here's the part that's just disgusting and why we're offering this whole nostalgia blast in the first place: In 1983, the twins wore a "perfect size 6." In 2008, the twins are now a "perfect size 4." Because nothing completes the outfit of today's fashionable young girl like an eating disorder! It's frustrating, not to mention gross, that Random House actually touted this change in its P.R. material, as if it were some sign of progress. And I guess it is a sign of some kind of progress -- that no matter how unrealistic the blond, plastic heroines of my childhood were, the bodies of today's heroines are just that much harder to attain.

Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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