Photo Credit: St. Martin’s Press.

First, let’s get the nostalgia out of the way …


 

When I learned that Francine Pascal would be writing a follow up book to her Sweet Valley High series, one that would tell the story of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield 10 years later, grown-up and living separate lives, I knew that I needed to read that book.  I would have bought the book on March 29th, the day that it was released, except that by some twist of fate, I ended up winning a free copy.  Hurrah!  Full disclosure: I received a free copy of Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later from St. Martin’s Press, via a Goodreads giveaway.  The news of this upcoming sequel, combined with the news in September of 2009 that Diablo Cody had signed on with Universal to write and produce a big screen adaptation of the books  (she has since stated via Twitter that the script is finished) has filled me with a lot of nostalgia over the past couple years.

 

Buoyed by this nostalgia, when I visited my parents last summer, I went through my old boxes in storage and rescued my old Sweet Valley High books from dusty abandonment.  I had a lot, but I was sad to learn that I hadn’t held onto any of my Sweet Valley Twins books—the series that chronicled Jessica and Elizabeth’s lives during sixth grade.  I must have given them to the local thrift store when I was feeling particularly grown up and above it all—perhaps when I was packing to leave for my freshman year of college.  Stupid 17 year old Lucia!  Also contributing to my recent rash of Sweet Valley related nostalgia are a number of snarky blogs featuring hilarious recaps of the book series.  For anyone who grew up reading the original Sweet Valley High series, you absolutely must check out The Dairi Burger, The Sweet Valley Diaries, and Forever Young Adult.  As soon as I’m done writing this post, I will of course be visiting those sites for their respective takes on the new book.  (Yes, I do have thoughts on the new book, and I promise I will eventually get to those.)

 

Examining the world of Sweet Valley as an adult is very different experience from enjoying that world as a child, tween, or teen.  I am now 29 years old and having browsed through the blogs mentioned above, and having done some nostalgic re-reading of my own, it is clear that the Sweet Valley High books are pretty awful—full of superficial characters and very outdated views on gender, race, and class.  They are very much products of their times and include pretty much every cliché and stereotype about American teenagers that exists.  And yet … and yet, they are also still so much fun.  There is some special brand of craptacular that only accurately describes the Sweet Valley books.  I mean, as a kid I loved these books.  I worshipped them.  I had a bowl up on the mantle at home with the Virgin Mary, a glass of wine, and a dollar bill next to it.  (Okay, fine, that was Lorelai describing her love of pudding.)  I was addicted to them.  Is there such thing as book addiction?  I am pretty sure there is.

 

My poor parents.  Education was of prime importance in my family growing up, as both my parents had been teachers at one point, and both have multiple degrees.  They tolerated my love for Sweet Valley, but luckily they (and my teachers, of course) always encouraged me to read other books too.  During elementary school, I remember my mom consistently assigning me Newberry Award winning books, as I rolled my eyes and told her that I would rather read The Baby-sitters Club or Sweet Valley Twins.  I lost interest The Baby-sitters Club in a few years, but I held onto Sweet Valley for a lot longer.  Looking back, I’m so glad that I listened to mom and read “more serious books” like Number the Stars, and childhood classics like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I ended up cultivating pretty well-rounded tastes as a child, including a variety of genres and reading levels.  However, I’m also really glad that my dad used to visit library book sales every so often, and buy me a bag full of Sweet Valley books.  I look back at those memories so fondly.

 

When I uncovered that box full of Sweet Valley High books last summer, I also discovered my 11 year old diary.  In the summer of 1993, I started keeping a running list of all the books I read.  (Yes, I was that child.) Between June and December, I recorded reading 104 books.  (Yes, this was a numbered and dated list.)  Book Worm, Party of One.  Of course, you should not be too impressed.  62 of those books were Sweet Valley High or Sweet Valley Twins books—each probably took about an hour or so to read.  Additionally, a handful were magazines—Teen, Glamour, and Vogue.  (You guys, I was VERY SERIOUS about my fashion magazines at that age.  I used to check them out from the library, and I felt so grown-up and sophisticated.)  So, according to 11-year-old-me’s historical records, that was just 62 Sweet Valley books in 7 months.  And I probably read these things from about age of 7 to about 15.  Thus, I can’t even calculate how many of these books I must have read in my youth.  I mean, I guess I could just check the number of published Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books, including all the spin-off series and special editions, and go from there, but let’s just go with A LOT.

 

But enough of this nostalgic babble.  I just wanted to give this review some context.  Now for my thoughts on Sweet Valley Confidential.  I’ll start with some general, non-spoilery thoughts, and then warn you before I get into plot details.

 

The general and non-spoilery version of my review …


The format of the book is one chapter of Elizabeth’s point of view, followed by one chapter of Jessica’s point of view, with occasional snippets from Todd, Bruce, and Steven’s points of view.  Basically, we go back and forth between the twins’ respective perspectives, and within each chapter there is a first-person flashback of sorts, filling in parts of the history of the last ten years (well, really the past 11 years if we’re counting from SVH, or the past 9 years if we’re counting from SVU … but let’s not get into the math).  While Francine Pascal created the Sweet Valley High series, and supposedly came up with most of the stories, Sweet Valley Confidential is the first book that we know was actually written by her.  Pascal’s style is a bit different than that of “Kate William,” the pseudonym for the cadre of authors who penned the SVH novels.  While there are old familiar tropes—the twins are still the prettiest people to ever live, Jessica still borrows Elizabeth’s brand-new clothes—the voices of the characters are different.  Pascal adopts a certain generational “girl-speak,” one that would be familiar to Angela Chase and her contemporaries.  Everything is “like” this, and “so” that, and “totally.”  I must admit that I like so totally talk that way (though I am trying to work on that), but that was never a feature of the Sweet Valley High books.  Reading Sweet Valley Confidential, it felt like Pascal was trying to make these voices authentic to California girls in their twenties, but it just came off as false—especially in Jessica’s case.

 

Additionally, there are pop culture references everywhere, but these references still manage to stick out like sore thumbs.  The old Sweet Valley High series kept things pretty generic, and while I noted earlier that they were “products of their time,” that didn’t really extend to pop culture.  The Wakefield twins stayed 16 years old for 20 years, so their world sort of just existed in a timeless bubble.  But not so with Sweet Valley Confidential.  There are references to Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Google, iPhones, Blackberrys, HBO, etc.  There seems to very much be an attempt to ground the girls in our modern world, in order to add to the relevance and realism.  That didn’t really work for me.  By putting them in “the real world,” it only heightened how badly drawn and stereotypical these characters are.

 

If you were just a moderate fan of the Sweet Valley High series, and are merely mildly curious as to what happened to these characters, you may want to skip the majority of Sweet Valley Confidential and just read the Epilogue.  Yes, there is an Epilogue, entitled “For Sweet Valley Fans of Old.”  This final chapter gives a sort of “Where are they now?” picture.  I thought that was the best part of the book, hands down.  Pascal really seems to adopt a tongue-in-cheek tone there, and I found myself laughing out loud along with her, rather than at her.  The epilogue embraces the wacky history of the books and does a fair job of imagining the futures of these characters.  For die-hard fans like me, who read the books for years and years, and maybe due to your love of the books you even watched that horrible Sweet Valley High television show that aired back in 1994-1997, you need to read this book.  I mean, there are just so many fun little details scattered throughout, and the irony of how Liz and Jess end up will not be lost on you.  And if you used to live and breathe these books, you know what to expect.  This is not War and Peace. (Although, spoiler alert: in the most unrealistic twist in THE ENTIRE SERIES, 27 year old Jessica is reading War and Peace.)  This is Sweet Valley High.  (Minus the high school.)  You know what you’re signing up for in reading Sweet Valley Confidential.  Elizabeth is still insufferable, Jessica is still a budding sociopath, Todd is still the most boring ever, etc.  Personally, I would put Sweet Valley Confidential in the so-bad-it’s-good category, and I must admit that I really enjoyed it.  However, I think a lot of that enjoyment was due to sentimentality.  I wouldn’t buy this book for your teenage niece who’s a Sweet-Valley-virgin.  This is a book for a certain audience and a certain generation, and I don’t think it really stands on its own as an independently enjoyable book.  But for those of you who had shelves full of Sweet Valley High books adorning your preteen walls, this book will be a special treat.  Now onto the spoilery details.  Seriously, stop reading now if you don’t want to know what happens.  

 

The Story: Sweet Valley DRAMA on two Coasts, and it’s about A STUPID BOY.  Again.


The book opens with Jessica and Elizabeth estranged from one another.  Over Todd Wilkins, OF ALL PEOPLE.  Wait, didn’t we already see that happen in Double Love, the FIRST EVER Sweet Valley High book?  Why, yes, dear readers.  Yes, we did.  I guess it just goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Of course, this time around, it turns out that Jessica is the one that Todd truly loves.  The big question, however, is how Jessica could love Todd, the most boring literary teenage boy to ever exist.  Sadly, we are never to understand that particular mystery of the universe.  Some things are just truly indecipherable.

 

Through a bunch of convoluted narration, we learn that back in college, Elizabeth and Todd got back together.  If you remember the Sweet Valley University books, Liz’s relationship with Todd imploded early on freshman year, and he even starting sleeping with Enid Rollins (who went by Alex back in those days).  Anyway, in the Sweet Valley Confidential universe, Liz and Todd got back to their usual boring couple ways soon after.  Then, one night when Elizabeth was sick, Jessica and Todd hooked up after a party, and ended up having sex.  Then they had “an affair” that involved NO SEX for a month after, until they finally broke things off due to guilt.  In the process, Todd’s friendship with Winston Egbert was destroyed, because Winston had the unfortunate bad luck of walking in on Todd and Jess doing the deed (that ONE time).  But it’s okay that Todd gave Winston the cold shoulder for no deserving reason, because Winston grew up to be an egotistical jerk, after a successful business venture with Bruce Patman.  In a strange twist of fate, however, egotistical jerk Bruce Patman grew up to be a sweet and caring guy, now best friend to Liz.  (I know, right?)  But more on that later.  Back to the Jessica-Todd-Elizabeth love triangle.

 

So, after “the affair”—which basically consisted of Jess and Todd meeting up periodically in a crappy diner—the two guilty parties stopped speaking to each other.  Liz and Todd got their connection or whatever back, and stayed together.  Liz was none the wiser.  Then, years later, Jessica got married to this rich “sophisticated” guy named Regan Wollman, and moved with her new husband to Europe.  Of course, in typical Jessica fashion, she quickly got bored with her new husband and wanted out.  After Regan started exhibiting the controlling and jealous signs of early abuse, she hopped a plane back to Sweet Valley and temporarily moved in with Liz and Todd.  Awkward.  There was all this tension between Jess and Todd, but Liz noticed nothing.  Finally though, the truth came out via Regan, who only had to be in Jessica and Todd’s presence for 30 seconds to realize what was going on.  Elizabeth then fled to New York, where she started writing for an online magazine, Show Survey: Off Broadway in New York.

 

Okay, Liz’s life in New York: let’s discuss.  She’s miserable and dreams of revenge, then subsequently feels guilty.  Typical Liz.  Also, she has been crying through her orgasms ever since she left Todd.  I just can’t even go into that.  She gets 8 months distance from Todd and Jessica, only to subsequently run into Todd’s doppelgänger in New York.  Worst luck ever.  However, this Will guy is far less boring than Todd, and the two end up dating.  Meanwhile, she also meets a hot Irish bartender, and even though he’s totally gorgeous, she feels nothing for him.  So very Elizabeth like.  Picking Todd’s doppelgänger over a hot Irish bartender.  Le sigh.  However, in a very un-Elizabeth move, she lives out one of her plots for revenge on Jessica and Todd, by convincing the hot Irish bartender to attend her grandmother’s birthday party with her, back in Sweet Valley.  Stay with me.  She pretends that it’s just so she doesn’t have to confront her betrayers alone, but deep down she hopes that Jess will fall for the hot Irish bartender.  (I mean, who wouldn’t?  Other than Liz, of course.)  Then Jess and Todd’s relationship would fall apart blah blah blah.  It’s actually a good evil plan.  The old Jessica would totally hatch a plan like that.

 

Elizabeth thus returns to Sweet Valley for the party, hot Irish bartender in tow.  Her subconscious plan sort of works, in that the hot Irish bartender falls for Jess and starts flirting with her big time.  Jessica, meanwhile, feels nothing, proving that her love for Todd is real.  (Remember: love is a mystery.)  However, Todd gets super jealous, so he and Jessica fight.  Later that night, Jessica, after realizing how much she misses her twin, decides that this is the perfect opportunity to leave Todd and reunite with her sister.  She flies to New York and is waiting outside of Elizabeth’s apartment when Elizabeth returns home.  The two FINALLY reunite, and Elizabeth, being Elizabeth, helps Jessica to realize that she still loves Todd.  Liz ends up being okay with her twin and her ex-boyfriend being together, and Jessica and Todd’s wedding is back on.  (Yes, the two cheaters got ENGAGED during the 8 months that they were together.)

 

In the end, Elizabeth returns to Sweet Valley for her sister’s wedding and serves as Maid of Honor.  The night before the wedding, Bruce Patman, her BEST FRIEND, declares his love for her.  She reciprocates, and the two become “lovers,” as Pascal describes, repeatedly.  They even have a sex scene, though it’s incredibly tame.  The first sex scene in Sweet Valley history.  (Well, maybe there were sex scenes in Sweet Valley University, but I can’t remember.)  My 11 year old self would never have predicted this.  Jessica marries Todd Wilkins, and Elizabeth falls in love with Bruce Patman?  Are you serious?   I mean, remember how Jessica (and all the readers) thought Todd was the most boring ever?  And how Bruce tried to date-rape Elizabeth when she was drunk, after she woke up from her coma in Dear Sister?  This ending is the opposite of what you would ever expect.  Which, of course, makes it the only high school reunion ending more clichéd than “every character ends up exactly as he or she hoped.”  And yet, it amuses me.  Methinks that Francine Pascal may have a devilish sense of humor buried underneath somewhere.

 

 

The new and surprising


 

As I’ve already mentioned, there are pop culture references galore: HBO, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Google, Blackberries, iPhones, and even Facebook.  Actually, the Facebook reference is my favorite.  Looking back at how blind Elizabeth was about Jessica and Todd’s feeling for each other, Pascal narrates: “All she could remember now was how much they had hated each other, Jessicca and Todd.  They hardly spoke.  They weren’t even Facebook friends.”[1] They weren’t even Facebook friends?  Really, Elizabeth?  Really?  Hee.

 

Also new to the Sweet Valley world are multiple references to orgasms, pricks, shits, and a**holes.  And all of this comes from Elizabeth, too.  She even uses f**k a few times.  I wouldn’t have even suspected that 16 year old Elizabeth Wakefield knew such language, let alone used it.  Shocked!  Shocked, I tell you.  It is all very amusing.  Even more so was how both Elizabeth and Jessica used this type of language to describe their brother Steven.  In the old books, he was always the one-dimensional perfect older brother, training to be a lawyer so that he could grow up to be just like Papa Wakefield.

 

Well, Steven did end up becoming a lawyer.  He even married his girlfriend Cara Walker.  However, he also ended up cheating on her repeatedly and it was the talk of the town.  And then, he came out as gay.  I’m pretty sure that Steven Wakefield is the first gay character in Sweet Valley history—though, again, I’m not as familiar with the Sweet Valley University series.  Of all the characters to be revealed as gay, I would never have imagined that Pascal would go there with a Wakefield.  At first, I was impressed.  However, this new development then proceeded to demonstrate how horrible these characters are.  When Jessica discovers her brother and Aaron Dallas making out on the beach, she makes it all about a Jess vs. Liz thing.  This is her internal monologue: “He’s always very partial to Elizabeth, but I’m the one he should be confiding in now.  I’m the one who really understands that world.  Like I lived with this gay guy for practically my whole sophomore year and we got on great.  We were really close.  Elizabeth barely knew Neil.”[2] “That world”?  Really, Jessica?  Really?  Also, she makes sure to tell Steven repeatedly that Aaron Dallas is not attractive.  Way to be supportive.  And clearly Jessica forgets crushing on him for over 100 books, during 6th grade?!?!  (Yes, Aaron was Jess’s love interest in the Sweet Valley Twins.  I remember this stuff.)  I mean, commenting on how weird is it that her older brother is now dating her sixth grade crush would have been a better reaction than “I totally know more gay people than Elizabeth, so my brother should be happy I found out first!”  Another less than impressive aspect of the “Steven is gay” storyline was Steven’s internal monologue.  We don’t get very much from his point of view, but we do get the following: “Sometimes Steven was struck by how heterosexual his homosexuality was.”[3] Really, Steven?  What does that even mean?

 

The same day that Jessica finds out, she tells Steven’s wife, Cara.  When Jessica goes to tell Cara, OF COURSE she makes it all about her.  Again.  Her inner monologue: “I feel my words cutting into the sweetness and turning the kitchen sour, then rancid with the bitterness of unasked-for-truth, but a hero doesn’t stop just because it’s uncomfortable.”[4] Yes, Jessica, you are SUCH A HERO.

 

Seriously, this book made me dislike Jessica more than I ever did.  And in the last few Sweet Valley High books I read, Jessica spiked Elizabeth’s punch at the school dance, leading to a car crash and the death of her boyfriend Sam.  Jessica, OF COURSE, refused to take any blame, and while Elizabeth stood on trial for manslaughter, Jess plotted to steal Todd from her sister in retaliation.  (Of course, Jessica was totes my favorite back in the day, and I would still pick her over self-righteous, constantly-suffering, no-personality Elizabeth.  But let’s admit it: we would not be surprised if Jess grew up to be a serial killer.  Her moral compass is that non-existent.)  With all the stuff Jessica has pulled over the years, it was nice that Elizabeth got to say, “She is a heartless bitch, and I hate her!”  Of course, this was not out loud.  Luckily at the end of the book Elizabeth did get to break the cycle in her own small way, as Pascal narrates, “Turned out that along with Jessica, Elizabeth had changed, too.  Enough that she was also able to take her suede jacket right off the new Jessica’s back.”[5] You guys, this is the most progress Elizabeth has ever made, and will ever make, in standing up for herself against Jessica.  In her entire life.  (And more on Jessica STILL borrowing Elizabeth’s brand new clothes below.)

 

Also new to the Sweet Valley High series was Pascal’s vocabulary.  I actually had to look up two words, which has never happened in the span of my years reading these books.  (And I started reading these things when I was 7!)  1) Coupes de foudre.  Apparently this is a French term meaning “a thunderbolt” or “love at first sight.”[6] This sounds like a term Blair Waldorf would use.  Apparently Elizabeth felt this way when she first met Todd in kindergarten.  Whatever.  2) Solipsistic.  Meaning “overly concerned with one’s own desires, needs, or interests.”[7] If I were in charge of illustrating dictionaries, a picture of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield would be prominently displayed next to this definition.

 

Oh, and this was an actual line in the book, uttered by Alice Wakefield of all people: “Ned!” she shouted.  “Bring out the fucking cake.”[8] I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

 

The old and familiar


 

Never fear, old school readers, as there was also a lot of the old and familiar to be found in Sweet Valley Confidential.  On pages 9-10 we got the requisite description of the twins’ appearances, and it featured even more hyperbole than usual:

“And what faces they were.  Gorgeous.  Absolutely amazing.  The kind you couldn’t stop looking at.  Their eyes were a shade 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.  Twice.”

Really, Francine?  Still?  Yes, the twins are the most perfect creations of feminine beauty EVER.  I got it.  Compare this with the first description of the twins in Double Love, the first ever Sweet Valley High book:

“Both girls had the same shoulder-length, sun-streaked blond hair, the same sparkling blue-green eyes, the same perfect skin. […]  Both girls were five feet six on the button and generously blessed with spectacular all-American good looks.”[9]

As the drinking game on Forever Young Adult notes, a similar description can be found within the first 10 pages of (almost) every Sweet Valley High book.  Yay for continuity?  At least Francine really outdid herself this time with the “shards of precious stones” description and the “billions of possibilities” thing.  Oh, and don’t worry.  Alice still looks “like an older version of the twins.”

 

Also old and familiar?  There is a bit of a recap of the events of Double Love, but retold in first-person diary form.  Yeah, like I said before, history repeats.  As Elizabeth succinctly puts it: “Jessica and Todd.  The nightmare of my life.”[10] There’s also a reference to the events of Dear Sister, the coma book, as I alluded to earlier: “Then he kissed her.  Bruce Patman kissed her!  That had never happened before.  Not while she was conscious anyway, but that’s a long story.”[11] And this is the man who Elizabeth falls in love with.

 

One of my favorite nods to the Wakefield twins of old was Jessica borrowing Elizabeth’s clothes.  How many times over the series run did Jessica borrow some brand new item of clothing BEFORE ELIZABETH HAD A CHANCE TO WEAR IT?  It really makes me wonder.  How is it that Elizabeth always has cute brand-new clothes that she had never worn yet hanging in her closet?  Doesn’t Elizabeth have terrible fashion sense?  When does she even shop?  Why would Jessica ever be raiding her boring closet?  And yet this was one of my favorite nods to the old series.  It’s just so … Jessica and Elizabeth.  Of course, after 8 months of estrangement during Sweet Valley Confidential, when the twins are finally reunited, the first thing Jessica does the next morning is borrow Elizabeth’s new suede jacket.  For her reunion with Todd.  Seriously.

 

And here was my favorite nod to the original books, in the description of Jessica on her wedding day: “Happily, still Jessica, the one without the watch who always says that nothing starts until she gets there, is absolutely right today.  The entire wedding party waited an extra fifteen minutes for the bride to appear.  She was well worth the wait.”[12] I will neither confirm nor deny that the reason I don’t wear a watch is Jessica Wakefield.

 

And we all know that it’s not a Sweet Valley book without a mention of Robin Wilson’s weight.  I think Pascal manages to make at least 4 references to it in this book.  Nice.  (Except really, the opposite of nice.)  You see, Robin is now working as a successful food caterer and restaurant critic and is married to a lawyer named Dan Kane.  Of course all Elizabeth can think about is how this is a “a courageous choice for someone who fought their weight in high school.”[13] And luckily, she’s dating a guy who likes to eat.  Seriously.  This is all in the book.  Sigh.

 

Similarly, Annie Whitman is still referred to as “Easy Annie.”  Her high school boyfriend, now husband, Charlie Markus, “a truly nice guy,” is still given full credit for “sav[ing]” her by “teaching her to have self-respect.”[14] Really, Francine?  Really?  And get this: Markus just finished a novel with a protagonist modeled after Annie and he wants to call it Easy Annie.  Wow.

 

Also, there were plenty of references to the dead.  For example, Tricia Martin, Steven’s former true love, who died of Leukemia.  And Suzanne Devlin, who falsely accused Mr. Collins of sexual assault, but was later redeemed when she changed her ways after learning that she had a serious illness.  There was even a mention of MY FAVORITE, Regina Morrow, who died after trying cocaine JUST ONCE.  She is one of the reasons that I never did drugs, people.  Not even lying.

 

Rants


In addition to the fact that I generally can’t stand any of the characters in this book, I have some more specific “Wha-what?” reactions.

 

  • The absolutely most disappointing part of Sweet Valley Confidential was the treatment of Lila Fowler.  She was always my favorite, as she was the only one who didn’t think that the world revolved around the Wakefield twins.  She had some independence and personality.  Plus, she had the best clothes, threw the best pool parties, and drove a lime green Triumph.  And she did all this AS A BRUNETTE.  I’m shocked that a brunette was allowed so much fabulousness in Sweet Valley.  And yet, what does Francine do to my beloved Lila in Sweet Valley Confidential?  And I quote: “Lila had never really changed, never grown, and now all she had left was her cheerleader uniform.”[15] OMG.  Lila never cared about stupid cheerleading.  She was on the team, but she always kind of rolled her eyes at it.  And she doesn’t get to change or grow?  After all the changing and growing she did over the series?  Like when John Pfeiffer tried to rape her?  Or when her mother returned from Europe?  MAJOR FAIL.

 

  • Elizabeth has a Prada knockoff purse?  Really?  Having a designer brand purse would be unlikely enough, but buying a fake one as a fake status symbol is pretty much against Elizabeth’s religion.

 

  • I’ve referenced this already, but it bears repeating.  Jessica is reading War and Peace?  By Tolstoy?  Seriously?  Does.  Not.  Compute.

 

  • Todd describing Elizabeth when he first dated her: “She was beautiful; everything about her was soft and fragile and perfect.  Her hand in his was silky, and he remembered holding it as gently as one would a small bird.”[16] Really, Todd?  She was a healthy and athletically built 5’6” teenager, NOT A FRAGILE BIRD.

 

  • Actual Jessica logic: “Elizabeth is like those people who never have to study for a test—they just know it all—whereas things don’t come as easily to me.  I have to work at anything I want.  And yeah, I want a lot, which is why I can never rely on things coming naturally.”[17] Yes, Jessica, if you mean THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYTHING YOU JUST SAID.  Elizabeth would stay up late studying for a test, while Jess would go out on a date, and then get Lizzie to cover for her.  Rinse and repeat.

 

  • Actual Elizabeth logic: “She would die being judged like that.  It was bad enough having all those rejection slips from The New Yorker for her short stories, but at least that wasn’t face-to-face and not because she wasn’t pretty enough or young enough or thin enough or whatever.  It was just that she wasn’t talented enough.  Oh, my God!”[18] Yes, because being told that you’re not TALENTED enough is nothing compared to not being PRETTY enough.  Seriously, how is this girl a writer?

 

  • At the end of the book, we get “changed” Elizabeth logic: “In some ways she would always be the same Elizabeth, but in a bow to her new persona, she’d had her little black dress made littler.”[19] Wow, she has really grown as a person … by making her dress smaller.  I can’t even.

 

  • At one point near the end of the book, Jessica and Todd walk into a literal sunset.  Yes, they literally walk into the sunset.  That is all.

 

  • Jessica’s wedding dress was SEQUINED.  Seriously.  Tragical.

 

Where are they now?

 

  • As I mentioned above, Lila “has never really changed,” but she did get blond highlights, green contacts, and a boob job.  And she married Ken Matthews, who is now a pro-football player.  Lila and Ken are currently separated and working on a divorce.  Clearly Francine Pascal looked into the deepest recesses of my mind and picked a future for Lila that would hurt me most.  Thanks.

 

  • Bruce Patman’s parents died in a car accident soon after high school, and because of this tragedy, he magically became a kind person.  When Elizabeth came to visit him at the hospital, he fell in love with her.  He and Elizabeth became best friends, but he kept his love a secret for 10 years, until the night before Jessica and Todd’s wedding.  Now Liz and Bruce are “lovers.”

 

  • For Robin and Annie, see above.

 

  • The highlight of the epilogue for me: surfer Bill Chase lost his right leg in a shark attack.  For real.

 

  • Roger Collins, aka Mr. Collins, aka Robert Redford:  he quit teaching after the incident with Suzanne Devlin accusing him of sexual assault because “he felt too uncomfortable being a teacher.”[20] And yet, he has now been with a woman for 8 years, whom he first met when she was a senior at Sweet Valley High.  Seriously, Mr. Collins?

 

  • Aaron Dallas and Steven Wakefield are now happily together.  Even though Aaron has two different colored eyes.

 

  • Betsey Martin, Tricia Martin’s older sister, switched from drugs to alcohol and is still sleeping around.  Sad.

 

  • My suspicion that Francine Pascal hates Enid Rollins is confirmed.  She is now a gynecologist and she is having an affair with A.J. Morgan, “sneaker salesman supreme.”  Pascal writes: “One would think her background might have made her more understanding of vulnerability, but unfortunately, it hasn’t.  In fact, Enid has turned arrogant and extremely right-wing.  She is totally enthralled with her own accomplishments and has great plans for herself.”[21] I guess that’s better than being constantly described as a drip?

 

  • Roger Barrett Patman is now a movie producer and dating a singer.

 

  • Caroline Pearce: still a gossip.

 

  • Steven’s ex-wife, Cara Walker, is now working on a math degree and dating an accountant.  Plus, she bakes.  A lot.  Poor thing.

 

  • Winston Egbert got rich, became a jerk, and then died.  Depressing.

 

Thoughts?  Reactions?  Alternate futures you wish had been considered for your beloved characters?  Comment below.


[1] Francine Pascal, Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2011), 44.

[2] Pascal, 147.

[3] Pascal, 177.

[4] Pascal, 157.

[5] Pascal, 271.

[8] Pascal, 231.

[9] Kate William, Double Love. (New York: Bantam Books, 1983), 3.

[10] Pascal, 15.

[11] Pascal, 278.

[12] Pascal, 293.

[13] Pascal, 172.

[14] Pascal, 285.

[15] Pascal, 29.

[16] Pascal, 20.

[17] Pascal, 26.

[18] Pascal, 42.

[19] Pascal, 262.

[20] Pascal, 283.

[21] Pascal, 288.

12 Responses to SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL: “Would she ever truly be free of Sweet Valley?”

  1. Vee says:

    Lucia! I, too, never have tried cocaine ONCE because of Regina Morrow! That incident burned itself into my brain!

    Also, this review is fabulous. I must read the trainwreckery for myself, methinks. Congrats on the new blog!

  2. Like you, I read a ton of SVH books, and I used to keep a diary of all the books I would read. The summer that I was 10, I recall that I read over 120 books – and I think about 60 of them were SVH!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, and congrats on the new blog … can’t wait for your next post!

  3. Lucia says:

    Thanks, Vee and Melissa, for being the first commenters on my inaugural post! I’m so glad we all survived our teen years without dying from cocaine, and that I’m not the only one who kept a book diary.

  4. […] ideas over the past year–I just need to find the time to write them.  My first post discusses Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later, a sequel to the Sweet Valley High series, in which we learn what has become of the Wakefield […]

  5. Amy says:

    I wasn’t quite as addicted as I was more on the Babysitter’s side than Sweet Valley, still this is a fun read. Looking forward to more articles and hoping people like Allan Eckert, Robin McKinley, and George Selden will make the cut.

  6. Anne Wintermute says:

    Wow, this brought back memories! I can’t believe that’s what they decided to do with the twins. I mean seriously Elizabeth and BRUCE? And Jessica reading? LOL I don’t think I’ll read the book but it was fun reading your review just to see the where are they now part. I’ll definitely keep an eye on your book blog as well as HeroineTV, I’ve loved all of your TV suggestions there so I can’t wait to see which books you review :)

  7. Maria says:

    Lucia, I came on here just to read a little about Sweet Valley Confidential before I read the whole book. However, I could not stop myself from reading into the spoilers. Your overview of the book and characters was by far one of the funniest things I have read. You make fantastic points and critiques about the characters, some that I never would have realized myself! Thank you for this, I honestly can say it was very well written, thorough, and hilarious. I am going to go ahead and read Sweet Valley Confidential so I can bring some closure to my childhood that was spent devouring Francine Pascal’s books. I can guarantee you that this review will not be far from my mind while reading the book and I will be laughing like my best friend and I just remembered an inside joke from our younger years when I think of this page. Thank you and keep on writing! It was hilariously wonderful!

  8. Elle says:

    I almost died laughing when I read this quote: “Ned!” she shouted. “Bring out the fucking cake!” (Alice Wakefield)

  9. natalie says:

    So many things wrong. Roger Collins did not stop teaching after deviln episode, Roger Barrett patman DIED before senior year,Patmans parents were still alive in University series,Betsy martin cleanes up her act in book 15… gah!!

  10. liz says:

    Wow.Not sure If I want to read the actual book after this. Seems like poor writing (and a lot of wrong facts) for Pascal.

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