Name of Book: Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later
By: Francine Pascal
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Copyright Date: March 2011
Number of Pages: 304
Format: Fiction, romance
Reason for Reading: Like many other women my age, I grew up reading Sweet Valley High. The temptation to briefly return to my childhood was irresistible.
Let’s get this out of the way now, so we’re all on the same page. While youthful me thought Sweet Valley High was like so, so awesome, grown-up me recognizes that it’s trash. Pure, unadulterated, non-filtered, cotton-candy with absolutely no nutritional value and a sneaking ability to actually cause a decrease in one’s intelligence quotient. For proof, allow me to offer the standard cheesetastic description of the twins’ purefection that appears somewhere within the first 10 pages of every single book.
“Gorgeous. Absolutely amazing. The kind you couldn’t stop looking at. Their eyes were shades of aqua that danced in the light like shards of precious stones, oval and fringed with thick, light brown lashes long enough to cast a shadow on their cheeks. Their silky blond hair, the cascading kind, fell just below their shoulders. And to complete the perfection, their rosy lips looked as if they were penciled on. There wasn’t a thing wrong with their figures, either. It was as if billions of possibilities all fell together perfectly. Twice”
So, yeah, not Pulitzer quality writing. I could spend multitudes of Internet space writing dissertations as to just why Sweet Valley High is the most god-awful its own trope. Ridiculous situations. Lack of diversity. Over the top soap-operatic storylines. Over the hundreds of books written, the series, already a cliché, turned into a cliché of itself. And yet. I loved it. I wanted to be a Wakefield, ultra pretty and super-duper popular where good fortune positively fell into my lap like manna from heaven. It was escapist reading for a childhood that had a fair share of darker moments and for that, I thought I would always love Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Unfortunately it turns out that ten years later they are positively whiny obnoxious self-absorbed jerks. If we met, we’d loathe one another at first sight and not in the Wicked kind of way where we’d eventually become bestest friends and do makeovers.
Though ostensibly Elizabeth and Jessica have grown up, Pascal’s writing style has not. It is, at best, sophomoric. If you’ve watched one episode of Days of Our Lives or One Life to Live, you’ll have a general idea of the plot’s complexity. Jessica has perpetrated a foul betrayal upon her twin sister/other half/the part that makes her whole, blah, bliddy blah. Elizabeth, against her general nature, is so grossly offended and hurt she travels across the country and sets herself up in a NYC apartment as a journalist/theatre critic, which we all know is an easy career to break into. Naturally, she can afford to live by herself in NYC in a fairly safe neighborhood in an apartment building with a door-man even though her job is an unpaid/underpaid position because this is a Sweet Valley book where reality is unwelcome. Jessica, meanwhile, is beside herself alternating justification of her actions with unrelenting guilt. The end result is that both characters bear little resemblance to the two young girls introduced in Double Love. That’s right. The first SVH book ever was better than this one. If you’ve read the first book, then please take a silent moment to appreciate the awfulness. Pascal alternates current events with flashbacks and I’m hard-pressed to decide which contrivance annoyed me the most. The conclusion was utterly predictable and the only joy I found was a line from Alice Wakefield, which I will not share here owing to its profane nature.
Bottom Line: All but the most devout SVH readers should avoid like the plague. The devout ones will read it anyway and then write reviews lamenting how bad it is. (e.g. certainly not me)