Goodreads: Sweet Valley Twins: Best Friends
Series: Sweet Valley Twins Graphic Novels #1
Age Category: Middle Grade
Jessica and Elizabeth have always been inseparable twins, but starting middle school means a chance for new beginnings! Elizabeth is excited to organize a school newspaper, but Jessica is more interested in joining the exclusive Unicorn Club. What will happen when the twins realize they might not be as alike as they thought?
Middle school is hard enough, but with these twins each dealing with becoming their own person–will they be able to stay friends at the same time?
The graphic novel adaptation of the Sweet Valley Twins series seems obviously meant to capitalize on the popularity of the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel adaptations. And, really, I see no reason why this series should disappoint fans of the BSC comics. It features many of the same scenarios–changing friendships, middle school cliques, and family relationships–and has some fun (if more muted) artwork. I don’t know how fans of the originals will feel about this new take, but I do think tween readers will fall in love with the Wakefield twins and their drama.
What really fascinated me, as an older reader, about this book is how it does not in any way teach a Good Message. I only read a few Sweet Valley books in the day, but the general idea seems to be the same. Jessica is an absolute monster whose desperation to be popular causes her to be a stuck up bully. Elizabeth is the “goody two shoes,” and the one who is smart, organized, and reliable–but she has her moments of pettiness, too. Does anyone learn a lesson here? Does Jessica realize that the Unicorn Club is just a bunch of Mean Girls and quit to find better friends? Do her parents or Elizabeth intervene when they see Jessica becoming a Mean Girl? Does the school care that the Unicorn Club spreads gossip and makes new members perform dangerous/mean pledges? Nope! Elizabeth actually wants to join the Mean Girls, too, and their mother is very supportive of Jessica being her own person who, um, I guess now spends her days mocking the other girls in her class. Not only that, but the big finale is Elizabeth pulling a Mean Girl-esque prank on the Unicorn Club–and readers are supposed to cheer! It might have been wrong for the Unicorn Club to be bullies, but, in this book, if the bullies are bullied it’s called Justice. This is not a book that could have been written today.
But, hey! I enjoyed it! I don’t need this book to have a Lesson. I am perfectly capable of realizing that Jessica is a terrible person all on my own. And the drama kept me reading. This is the same drama, I imagine, that captured readers back in the day. Will the Unicorns accept Jessica? Is that cute boy a future love interest? What lucky girl will get the lead in the ballet performance? I need to know. Where is book two?
The main critiques I have both have to do with the art. Personally, I thought the color palette was a bit too muted; I would have liked to see something more along the lines of the Baby-Sitters Club books. More pressing, however, is the problem that Jessica and Elizabeth often look exactly the same in many of the panels, and I often had no idea who was talking, even after rereading a few times. I thought sometimes, for example, that the person on the left should have been one twin, based on their physical positions in prior panels, but they would be saying something that seemed like the other twin was talking. It is very confusing, and if the girls had just been drawn with a different necklace or a different color scrunchie or something, it would have been helpful for reading comprehension. And, finally, the friends are not properly introduced, and I had difficulty keeping track of who is who.
On the whole, however, this series seems perfectly positioned, to me, to appeal to tween readers of the Baby-Sitters Club books and I don’t see any reasons it shouldn’t sell well! The series will likely have a nostalgia factor for older readers, as well.