Review: Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal

Title: Sweet Valley Confidential: 10 Years Later

Author: Francine Pascal

Genre/Pages: Fiction/304

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: March 29, 2011

Rating: 1 Bookmark

Source: Get Read PR

Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis:  The reunion with my favorite sun-kissed, “perfect size six”, twins from Sweet Valley was an indulgent and ultimately bitter trip down memory lane for this old SVH fan.

Growing up, the Sweet Valley High books were one of the purest form of escapism for me.  With the turn of a page, I was whisked away from New Jersey into the golden sunshine of California and life with twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield.  Though this series wasn’t a literary one for the ages, it had merit because it broached serious topics while grabbing the interest of a notoriously difficult crowd of readers: teenagers.

The start of it all: Double Love. (9/1984)

With Sweet Valley Confidential, I was looking to recapture a bit of the fun of my youth.  I was eager for a bit of after-school-special drama, a side of SVH gossip, and a sprinkle of  ‘cheese’, but what I got was a tawdry tale of wretched characters connected to their former selves by names alone.

Only a few pages into Sweet Valley Confidential, my hopes for a sharp and witty jaunt down memory lane were dashed when formerly bookish and sweet Elizabeth considers sleeping with her boss just to divert his attention.  Behaving like a petulant child (or her sister Jessica!), Elizabeth spends the next many chapters plotting revenge on her twin and ex-boyfriend Todd.

Peppered with curses, casual hook-ups, and references to social media and contemporary celebrities, SVC brought to mind a young girl trying to appear older by cursing, smoking, and dressing like a tart.  It doesn’t work for either the girl or this book.  SVC felt a bit desperate, as if Francine Pascal was trying too hard, resorting to cheap gimmicks in an effort to seem hip or trendy.  Exploiting sexual preference as a “shocking twist” story line is just one of the transgressions.

For most of the book, I thought Pascal was waging a reign of terror on her characters.  With a few blithe strokes of the keys, she destroyed marriages and families , killed off classic characters, and generally seemed to show nothing but ill-will to her creations–many of whom are only in their mid-20s.  Washed up and/or divorced by 27 seems a bit severe for some characters who seemed to have it all together 10 years ago.

While the old Sweet Valley High books were also heavy on the drama, they usually offered a redemptive lesson in the final pages.  I found no such salvation upon turning the last few pages of this book.

I was really looking forward to Sweet Valley Confidential and wish it would have turned out differently for the characters and for the fans.  There is talk of a movie (to be directed by Diablo Cody) in the works, and I would be interested in seeing it so long as it was set back in the 80s and stayed true to the original stories.

16 Comments

  • At 2011.04.05 07:41, Chrisbookarama said:

    Thanks for reviewing this. I don’t think I’ll taint my memories of the old series but reading it. Maybe a re-read of the old series is in order!
    Chrisbookarama´s last blog post ..Challenge Roundup for March 2011

    • At 2011.04.05 08:21, Natalie said:

      Chris,
      Revisiting a few of the classics sounds like a good plan! It made me feel awful to write this review but if I don’t keep it honest here, what’s the point of reviewing at all? 🙂 Thanks for offering up a good alternative.

    • At 2011.04.05 08:32, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      I’ll probably skip this one since I’ve never read any of this series. Sorry it didn’t work for you.

      • At 2011.04.05 11:42, Coffee and a Book Chick said:

        Oh, noooo…what a shame! I loved Sweet Valley High as well when I was younger! And I know you were looking forward to this one, too! 🙁
        Coffee and a Book Chick´s last blog post ..Skipping a Beat- by Sarah Pekkanen

        • At 2011.04.05 14:45, Dishy said:

          WAHHHHHHHHHH!!!

          Nat, I am so sorry. I know what a devoted SVH fan you are and this review must have been difficult on so many levels. I too was a big reader of the twins as a teen. Thanks for this review. I will skip the older drama and savor the untainted memories. Hopefully if they do go forward w/ a movie version they’ll resurrect the younger Elizabeth & Jessica. Please?
          Dishy´s last blog post ..Best Homemade Granola Yet

          • At 2011.04.05 14:47, Dishy said:

            PS: The link above to Francine Pascal links to Sarah Pekkanen (just an FYI). XO
            Dishy´s last blog post ..Best Homemade Granola Yet

            • At 2011.04.05 19:14, Natalie said:

              Yikes! That’s what I get for uploading a review at 1am. Thanks, Dish!

            • At 2011.04.05 14:50, Alita said:

              Thanks for your honesty! Being a big fan of all things Sweet Valley when I was a kid, I had been curious about this book. But now I feel okay with skipping it.
              Alita´s last blog post ..Monday Round Up 040411

              • At 2011.04.05 15:05, Kathleen said:

                Sorry to hear that the book was disappointing for you. It sounds like it tried to be salacious instead of following a natural arc for the characters. I guess they figured they might sell more books that way? In any case, appreciate the honest review.
                Kathleen´s last blog post ..Review- Separate Kingdoms by Valerie Laken

                • At 2011.04.05 19:59, Jenners said:

                  Well, like you said, you don’t expect a LOT from these books but this sounds like an author turning on her own creations.
                  Jenners´s last blog post ..Current Giveaway

                  • At 2011.04.05 23:18, stacybuckeye said:

                    Definitely looks like this would tarnish my happy memoires of the series!
                    stacybuckeye´s last blog post ..Ode to a Quiz

                    • At 2011.04.06 15:09, Meg said:

                      What a bummer! I loved these books growing up, too, and was excited to hear about this one. But I’m sure I would share your thoughts and don’t think I’ll waste my time.
                      Meg´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday- Cherry blossom fever

                      • At 2011.04.06 22:52, Ann said:

                        Thanks for the review.
                        Ann

                        • At 2011.04.07 19:49, Renee said:

                          I loved reading the originals – total brain candy. It’s too bad they’ve turned out to be tawdry and terrible.

                          I think I will also give this one a miss.

                          • At 2011.04.09 08:19, Natalie said:

                            hey rambler! i miss you so much. thanks for dropping by my book blog. i know it’s not quite the same as the curly wurly days but i just couldn’t find enough hours in the day for everything. life isn’t as much fun without your doodles and friendship. i’m off to stop by your blog and see what’s going on!
                            xoxo cwg

                          • At 2011.04.07 20:18, toothybooks said:

                            Oh noo!! I was so excited when I first heard about this book. I loved the SVH series as well as SVU and even the earlier series when the twins were only in middle school. I’m definitely disappointed to hear about how their lives have turned out ten years later. Thanks for the review though, now I know I can skip this one and turn my attention to another book.

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