Saturday, November 26, 2011
Review: Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later
Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I won this book in Goodreads' First Reads.
I honestly can't remember the style of the original Sweet Valley High books, or if they were well-written. I remember reading them when most of my classmates were just starting chapter books, which isn't a zing on them so much as a comment on how having older sisters can influence one's reading habits.
That said, this matches up well with what I recall of Sweet Valley High, and that's not a compliment. None of the characters struck me as growing up into an adult; with one exception, they seemed like they were high school students playing dress-up. The one exception, of course, was Elizabeth Wakefield, who was always the most mature of any of the high school kids.
The book begins with Jessica having stolen Todd, who Elizabeth has been dating for the last decade. Elizabeth was so pissed off by this betrayal that she took off for New York, where she has a burgeoning career as a journalist. It's been eight months, and she is, understandably, still mad. Then there's a contrived reunion at the grandmother's birthday party (because that's not going to be awkward or anything), things blow up, Elizabeth goes back to New York pissed off all over again, and Jessica chases after her to cry at her about how unfair it is there are consequences for lying and sneaking around.
The characters are beyond shallow. Jessica is commended, in the book, for rubbing cancer survival in a woman's face when she asks if she's heard from her sister. Perhaps Caroline's motives were less than kind, but there's no indication she's hounding her or saying anything inappropriate, and Jessica's tantrum struck me as childish and petty. But everyone pats her on the back and tells her, "Good job," with no indication that there was anything wrong with what she'd said.
The moral of the book, that you should forgive your shallow, vapid, selfish sister because she felt kinda bad about betraying you, made my teeth hurt. There's also a nice slap in the face to anyone who's ever been cheated on, because Jessica says, without any kind of challenge to her assertion, that she only flirted with every guy on the planet because she hadn't found the right one yet. And the description of her second husband as cute and rich foremost over his supposedly awful temper and possessiveness (which Todd, himself, displays readily within the text) left me tasting bile.
I can't recommend this book to others who grew up reading the series, because I assume you've outgrown the books as much as I have. Maybe some high school readers might enjoy it, though I should warn you there's some sex and strong language, if you're a parent looking into picking this up for your teenager. It seems the book tried to substitute actual maturity for elements that were too adult for the original series.
Overall, this was a disappointment. Even the epilogue that outlined what became of the entire cast made me roll my eyes.
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