About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

#101: Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

And speaking of not being ashamed of who you are ...

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later, by Francine Pascal (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011)

"Anyone who grew up reading the Sweet Valley High series (that would be basically every girl born in the late 70s/early 80s) has been waiting for this -- Sweet Valley Confidential: 10 Years Later came out on Friday.

Make any mention of SVH to a 20 or 30-something woman and you’re likely to be bombarded with stories of childhood obsession, followed by a ranking of said woman’s favorite characters–for some reason most people liked goody-two-shoes Elizabeth, which is mystifying; c’mon, without saucy Jessica there never would have been any action! So really it’s no surprise that people have been eagerly waiting for this book. But how does it stack up to the originals?

Well, let’s just say this book wasn’t written to attract new fans. Even before the book was released it was apparent that it wasn’t meant for young readers the way the series was, but was instead written for fans of the original books. Readers who are now, like Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, adults. Readers who are thrilled by the fact that Sweet Valley-ites now drink! And use Facebook! And have sex!

Which is lucky, because honestly, without the emotional attachment to the characters (I’m emotionally attached to the Wakefields–that doesn’t sound weird, right? Right?) there isn’t much draw to Sweet Valley Confidential.

The story reads like a bad romance novel (and not the so-bad-it’s-good kind), starting with the plot: Jessica, who now works in public relations, has broken the cardinal rule of friendship and shattered her relationship with her beloved twin sister, who is now a writer in New York. The book centers on what Jessica’s offense was (I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s quite obvious) and whether or not Elizabeth will forgive her (I won’t spoil that one either). Then there’s the dialogue and first person narration, which is pretty laughable–especially Jessica’s habit of adding “so” and “like” to every sentence. In fact, even the third-person narration (the book swings between both) is questionable at times, as it’s occasionally peppered with profanity that comes out of nowhere.

The thing is, it doesn’t really matter how bad the book is. If you were a fan back then, you’re going to appreciate it. How can you not? It’s Sweet Valley! It’s the Wakefields and Lila Fowler and Bruce Patman and Caroline Pierce all grown up! It’s almost like going to your own high school reunion and being able to judge everyone’s life choices (Seriously, girl? You married that guy?) without having to worry about anyone questioning your own decisions.

Maybe that’s a stretch, but still — this book is a good time, as long as you can tap into your girlhood fandom." -Megan Gibson, from Time Magazine

Opening Line:

"Elizabeth had turned the key in the Fox lock, releasing a heavy metal bar that scraped across the inside of the front door with an impressive prison-gate sound, and was about to attack the Segal lock when the phone in the apartment started to ring."

My Take:

Yes, it was as dopey as you'd expect. Next.

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