Vampires and post-apocalyptic gladiators are the new teenagers of young adult fiction. But in the '70s and '80s the original heroes were just regular kids with hormonal drama. Weren't we all?
Twilight fans screen newest trailer
We survived childhood and pubescence, with a little help from writers like Francine Pascal, Judy Blume and Lois Duncan. So how would their characters fare as adults?
The Sweet Life, a grown-up version of life for Sweet Valley High twins Elizabeth and Jessica, answered a lot of our questions. The "e-serial" released episodically each Sunday from July 15 through August 12, follows the Wakefield sisters as adults with the same teen drama.
"They are 30 now, they look different and their experiences have been broadened but inside their heads there's still those 16 year old girls," Francine Pascal, creator and author of the Sweet Valley High franchise, tells Yahoo! Shine.
Pascal spent a year envisioning the twins' adult lives and shared her thoughts on their progress not unlike a proud mom. She also got us wondering where some of our other favorite young adult characters would be in the new millennium. To find out, we went straight to the sources.
Sweet Valley High's Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield
Then: When the series began in the '80s, Jessica was a high school queen bee with great style and coterie of mean girl followers (Lila Fowler, Cara Walker). She was president of her high school sorority and a serial dater whose romantic relationships sometimes ended dramatically. Remember when she dumped pizza on Bruce Patman after he cheated on her? It was totally not the way her sister would have handled it.
Catch up on your Sweet Valley High history here
Identical twin Elizabeth was the Brandon Walsh to Jessica's Brenda. She had a steady boyfriend, the dreamy Todd Wilkins, and passion for journalism that blossomed as a reporter for her high school paper The Oracle. Unlike her sister who sought out wealthier friends like Bruce and Lila, Liz surrounded herself good-natured wallflowers (and the occasional kidnapper.)
Now: In The Sweet Life, Jessica is the vice president of a marketing and promotion company, incidentally owned by Lila Fowler's father. Dubbed the "Queen of Green" she's famous for creative approaches to eco-friendly beauty campaigns. "She's discovered her true talent and a confidence in herself," says Pascal like a proud mom. "Nothing ever challenged her in high school but now as a married woman with a baby and a lot of talent, things are different for her."
Can you believe Jessica has a 2-year-old son named Jake? "She's got a lot to learn as every mother of a two year old does but I think she's capable," says Pascal.
Her biggest hurdle is in her marriage to (gasp!) sister Elizabeth's long-time boyfriend Todd Wilkins (if you read Sweet Valley Confidential this is old news for you). They argue over child-rearing, her career success and her residual guilt over betraying her sister by marrying Liz's ex.
Good thing Elizabeth has moved on from Todd. Remember Bruce Patman, that spoiled rich guy who dated Jess spilled pizza on? He's now Liz's live-in love and the living is easy. They have a Beverly Hills penthouse and a mansion in Sweet Valley Hills thanks to Bruce's tech and real estate investments. All that work on The Oracle paid off for Liz who is now a lifestyle reporter and blogger for a major newspaper, the same paper where Todd works as a sports writer. Awkward.
Both women are "not quite totally settled," something Pascal finds true of a many women in their early 30's today. "You're allowed to be unsettled now, but in my years you'd have already found your life at 30 and that's that."
Bonus: Steven Wakefield, the girls' older brother, has had a few extra years to settle down. He now lives with his partner Aaron Dallas, raising a baby they conceived through a paid surrogate.
For those missing the Wakefield's glory days of high school, Pascal confirmed a musical movie based on the twins in the works, penned by Diablo Cody. ("She's excellent!") The project, which began two years ago, doesn't have a release date yet, but Pascal hopes the final product stays true to her original characters, in particular the era in which they were conceived. "When they decided to do the movie I felt it important to set it in the 80s, like a period piece," she says. For now she focused on the sisters' navigation of 2012, blogs, kids, betrayal and all.
Killing Mr. Griffin's teen criminals
Then: It was the late '70s when author Lois Duncan first introduced this gang of unlikely co-conspirators, who kidnapped their teacher and covered up his death. When the spoiled head cheerleader Betsy, the class president David, the dumb jock Jeff, and the awkward A-student Susan got caught up in troubled rebel Mark's demented plan to scare tough love teacher Mr. Griffin, their revenge backfires. The scare turns deadly and the kids are forced to cover up their crime. When truth comes out everyone but Susan (who agrees to testify against Mark) faces serious jail time.
Now: More than three decades later the gang would be pushing 50. We asked Lois Duncan where she'd envision the motley crew to be in 2012. Susan got off without jail time at the end of the book, so has she moved on? "She is a sensitive girl and will carry her guilt with her for the rest of her life," Duncan tells Shine. "Her parents will see to it she has therapy...but she will suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which will give her continual nightmares." A good student, Duncan believes she'll go to college.
"I'd like to think that she will become a writer, even without Mr. Griffin's guidance. I am certain she will never again have anything to do with her co-conspirators, even David (her crush). She will try as hard as she can to put this all behind her, but won't ever be able to do so."
And the others? "What happens to the others will depend upon how good their attorneys are and whether they are willing to plea bargain. We can be sure that Betsy's parents will hire a powerhouse of an attorney, and perhaps she will get probation," says Duncan. "She will feel no guilt. Her parents will see to that; after all, their little darling can do no wrong."
"David's mother has no money, so he will end up with a public defender. I'm guessing both he and Jeff will be sentenced to a juvenile detention facility until they are of age," says Duncan. "David's dreams of college are down the tubes."
Mark, the mastermind, is revealed as a psychopath at the end of the book. Would he walk free today? "He will be tried as an adult," Duncan says without hesitation. "His best bet would be a plea of insanity, but he may be too cocky to take that route. Psychopaths assume they're so clever they can get away with anything. What I would like to see happen would be lifetime confinement in an institution for the criminally insane. But all kinds of strange things happen in courtrooms. Innocent people get convicted; guilty people get off with a slap on the wrist. I can't begin to guess what will happen there."
I Know What You Did Last Summer's Julie, Ray and Bud
Then: Lois Duncan's 1973 book, which spawned the '90s film franchise, followed an attractive teenager named Julie whose perfect high school life turns dark after a hit and run accident that claims the life of a young boy. Julie, her then boyfriend Ray and their two friends in the car crash, agree to a cover up but are later stalked by a creepy stranger who won't let them forget their crime. The fact that Ray is in love with Julie who's now dating this guy named, Bud, further complicates things. Spoiler alert: In the end, Bud is outed as the deranged stalker, and Ray saves Julie from his murderous clutches.
Now: "I think Julie and Ray will remain together," says Duncan. As for Bud, he's got bigger problems than being single. "Bud will be tried for attempted murder, but I would think any competent attorney would bring in expert witnesses who are specialists in post traumatic stress disorder for veterans--maybe the military will provide Bud with such resources--who will make a good case for temporary insanity," claims Duncan, who is sympathetic to his torment. "Hopefully Bud will get the psychiatric help he needs.
Though several of Duncan's bestsellers were written in the '70s, they've remained favored introductions to suspense for young readers. But recent editions of her novels have required high-tech updates. "[My rewrites] included inserting computers and cell phones, which was a challenge, since many of my plots centered upon characters who were in danger and could not call out for help," she explains. "Readers today would respond, 'Why didn't they take out their cell phones and dial 911? Why didn't they text their friends?' So I had to do some rewriting to get around those issues."
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and SuperFudge's Fudge
Then: We first met Judy Blume's Fudge as a toddler with an over-active imagination, an over-protective mom and an overly frustrated older brother in her 1972 book Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. By Superfudge, published in 1980, 4-year old Fudge has moved on from swallowing turtles to practicing being a bird.
Now: Blume has admitted her character Fudge was based entirely on her son Larry (though he never consumed a turtle.) So instead of imagining Fudge's adult life, we dug up some intel on Larry, now a 49-year old filmmaker. These days it's his mom whose providing inspiration for his own creative endeavors. Before directing the critically acclaimed feature-length comedy Martin & Orloff in 2002, he adapted his mom's book Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great for the small screen. Recently he teamed up with his mom to co-write and direct the scree n adaptation of her book Tiger Eyes. As for working with her former muse, Judy Blume called it "thrilling." "Co-writing is difficult," she said in a recent PBS interview, "but being on the set every day, oh, that was the thrill of a lifetime. I loved it. I loved it."
Sweet Valley High: the movie?
5 YA classics you should read again
4 classic YA authors to follow on Twitter
Heartbreaking kids books