If you were a young girl growing up in the ’90s, chances are you’ve read at least one “Sweet Valley Twins” book in your lifetime.
It’s probably been 10 years since most Sweet Valley fans sat down and relived the adventures of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, so it’s only fitting for Francine Pascal to update us on the twins’ adult lives in the newest volume in the series, “Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later.” But while Sweet Valley fans might have grown up, the characters are still definitely stuck in high school.
“Sweet Valley Confidential” is the very definition of a trashy, guilty pleasure read. While the original books in the series were by no means masterpieces of Young Adult literature, “Sweet Valley Confidential” is poorly written, plotted and characterized.
There are awkward point-of-view shifts, more flashbacks in any book I’ve read in the last year, and plenty of, “Look, I know how to stay in touch with my hip and young readers!” pop culture references to go around.
In “Sweet Valley Confidential,” Elizabeth and Jessica are living on separate coasts after a horrible falling out eight months earlier. They’re not even Facebook friends, you guys!
In a series of flashbacks — approximately two or more every chapter — we learn that Elizabeth’s long-time boyfriend Todd Wilkins cheated on her with Jessica five years prior to the start of the book.
Confused? You haven’t even gotten to the bits with Jessica’s second ex-husband, Bruce Patman’s revelation that he’s in love with Elizabeth, and the Wakefield that comes out of the closet yet. Never lose your entirely ridiculous nature, Sweet Valley.
Jessica and Todd are now engaged and while Elizabeth rages away in New York about the horrible betrayal, Jessica spends most of her time bawling her eyes out because her twin won’t come to the wedding and probably hates her forever. Gee, I wonder why, Jess.
If this were a classic Sweet Valley book, it’d be easy for the reader to sympathize with Elizabeth. After all, she’s just learned what all of us long-time readers have always known: her twin is a pretty terrible and selfish person.
But Elizabeth is entirely unlikeable as the bitter, scheming twin – mostly because all of her revenge plans are terribly laughable and juvenile in scope.
And the juvenile nature is the entire problem with “Sweet Valley Confidential.” Pascal had a chance to mature her characters gracefully, but totally blew it.
Even though the characters are almost 30 years old, they still act like they’re walking the halls of Sweet Valley High. Jessica’s narration frequently uses the word “like,” for instance, and there isn’t a single character that has moved beyond their high school days. Elizabeth is probably the only person who makes friends outside of Sweet Valley, and that’s only because she’s in New York.
This was most likely deliberate on Pascal’s part. After all, who’d want to read a Sweet Valley book without at least five potshots about Lila Fowler or Enid Rollins, or without reminiscing about the glory days? But she could have tried just a bit harder to give the Wakefields a future readers would have truly enjoyed, rather than pumping out 304 pages to make a quick buck.
Take “Sweet Valley Confidentail” with a grain of salt. If you’re not reading it to enjoy the humor of a delightfully bad book, you’re probably going to end up putting it down halfway through, with all your fond memories of the Wakefields and Sweet Valley utterly destroyed.