Greetings From the Unicorner: A Random Sweet Valley Post

Sweet Valley High ... as a graphic novel? You bet.

In 2019 the first (and to date only,) Sweet Valley High graphic novel was released. A fun but sincere attempt to revive the brand, this one was released by graphic novel powerhouse Dynamite Comics, was written by Katy Rex who previously worked for Dynamite on a series of Charmed graphic novels and illustrated by Devaki Neogi who in addition to her work illustrating graphic novels works in fashion design, which is entirely appropriate, given Jessica Wakefield's extreme interest in fashion.

The single best element of this graphic novel lies in the fact that it's a reimagining of the original series, rather than a straight out. The stories is new, certain elements of the twins lives have be rearranged and the author and artist makes the most out of technology and social media--things that fit in perfectly with the lives of the Wakefield twins and their friends. I had more than a bit of a giggle when I discovered that Jessica's Instagram handle was @devilinabluejess (how appropriate,) and I breathed a sigh of relief when one of the most annoying elements of the original series--that the twins belonged to a sorority called Pi Beta--had been banished in favour of Jessica and her friends belonging to a slightly older version of the Unicorn Club. Meanwhile, the author amplifies the personalities of the twins. Instead of being relegated to the role of good twin, Elizabeth is comically, nauseatingly good, working as a lifeguard and volunteering for a host of charities, including one in which she reaches visually impaired children to ride horses.

The plot itself is typical Sweet Valley fare that never takes itself too seriously. It is the summer before the twins junior year. Jessica has been forced to take summer classes at the local university because she skipped too many of her classes during the academic year. It's an odd concept--someone who has missed basic high school English classes being sent to take a tertiary level class--but hey, it's a Sweet Valley novel. Logic rarely enters into the equation, especially not at the expense of a plot. At College, Jessica falls in love with her teacher and starts struggling to differentiate between the relationship she and Roy Marlow have in real life (ie teacher/student,) and the fantasy that she's been playing out in her head. Or to put it another way, she starts telling her friends that she's seeing Roy and manipulates pictures of Instagram to make it seem that way. Of course, the whole thing ends with Jessica getting her comeuppance, but in a way that ensures that her parents are still completely oblivious to what's been going on. Meanwhile, there's a side plot that involves Todd getting shitty because he thinks that Elizabeth isn't spending enough time with him. The pair break up, but that's fine because it turns out that Roy has a nephew who seems like a good match for Elizabeth. Will Elizabeth fall for Ben? There's a cliffhanger ending, but this may be a bit of a joke/tribute to the originals, as I can see absolutely no evidence of there being a second Sweet Valley High graphic novel in the works. (However, the back cover mentions that Sweet Valley High is currently in development as a major motion picture.)

Overall, this one is a bit of light and fluffy fun that works best when it isn't being taken terribly seriously. Although it isn't as well known as some of the previous attempts to revive the series--the 2008 rewrites, Sweet Valley Confidential--it is the best so far.

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