Review: Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal
Author: Francine Pascal
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.
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.