SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL: TEN YEARS LATER
By Francine Pascal | Harpercollins
I know I’m not the only girl out there who owned the entire Sweet Valley High collection (crowded onto my teenage bookshelf along with everything from Judy Bloom and all the Adrian Mole diaries). I downright loved the Sweet Valley High books as a confused adolescent. I ate them up. And then, thank God, I realised that all dodgy literary love affairs must come to an end. This was possibly around about the time I became too embarrassed to read SVH books in public. Or maybe I just became too incensed that Elizabeth never gave Jessica the karate chop she deserved for being possibly the worst twin sister on the face of the earth. Whatever.
So, I can only put my decision to review Francine Pascal’s latest SV offering down to a weird case of teenage nostalgia. A follow-up for the fans? How lovely, I initially thought. But then I opened the book. Pascal has never been about quality writing – even as a pre-teen I knew I should be shamed to my sneakers for lapping up the books so readily – and while I’d like to say the author has improved, she’s worse, if anything. How could that verbose, clunky opening sentence get through her copy-editors? Your guess is as good as mine. Ditto the million inconsistencies in the actual plot. But, I persevered. Because despite everything, I wanted to see what Jessica did next myself, dammit. The naughty beeyatch.
Somehow, I got to the last page of Confidential – furtively, under the covers, and cringing the whole way. So, what of the twins? They’re practically ancient now – 27. And very jaded. I think I missed the college years because they drink wine! They have sex! Jess is still a nasty piece of work! However, if you add up all her past transgressions, none come even close to the Dark Twin’s latest. It’s baaaad. In fact, The Event has actually sent Elizabeth scurrying from the Sweet Valley home she’s always known to New York, where she wants to make her mark, in between having revenge fantasies about Jessica – and the odd bit of casual sex. (Liz and casual sex?! Like I said, I have clearly missed some key books in the SV saga.)
To go further would be to ruin it for you old-school fans, but I will say this: expect tears, a bucketload of guilt, a key character coming out of the closet, an update on old characters AND a big fat wedding. Or not so fat, because you know that everyone in Sweet Valley needs to be able to fit into a bikini, or they’re run out of town immediately.
RC Verdict: I’d like to say it was worth it, but… don’t bother. Unless you want to help Pascal make a quick buck.