Wednesday, June 8, 2011

High school is over, but Sweet Valley is forever...

This book review most likely belongs in my Very Bad Book Blog, but it was so over the top that I decided to share it here, where more might appreciate this sort of trash.

Spoiler Alert! LIKE this book was SO lame!
I read this but merely for nostalgic/guilty pleasure reasons, which is what I assume is the same reason anyone else would read it and ideally the audience Francine should’ve been writing for. I already admitted that I was not a big SVH fan, but I left out that in college my roommate and I would play the SVH board game with a level of determination and strategizing rarely seen outside of playing Risk (we were often completely tanked, which helped a lot). And I do have a small collection of SVH books that I’ve gathered from thrift shops and donations here at the library. They are full of the silliest teen “drama” and I could usually read one in about an hour or so.

It wasn’t like everyday I was walking around thinking, “I wonder what those perfect, amazing, blue eyed, silky, golden haired girls, aka the Wakefield twins, are up to? Did they get married? Who are their friends and enemies now? And is it possible that one of Margo’s relatives returned with a similar taste for Wakefield blood?” Alright, sometimes maybe I was, but I wasn’t the only one and fans took to the interweb to discuss. Francine must have heard about this and turned to a new legion of ghostwriters to help her craft a rather dull book with a storyline so predictable that even a temporarily blinded Ken Matthews could see coming. A half-baked mix of flashbacks, "unforgivable betrayals," two scoops of romantic confessions, a handful of bitchiness, and completely saturated with inconsistencies, then slathered across 291 pages and served in a hardback shell for $21.99.

With the frequent inaccuracies and continuity problems it is obvious that former ghostwriters didn’t want to be in a ten-mile radius of this lard coated, flaming piece of caca. Francine gives credit to the assistants who helped her remember details of the very same series she created and yet, aside from the giant plot holes, all of the characters appear to suffer from personality disorders and amnesia (including a speech impediment for Jessica). This suggests that not only had these assistants not cracked the spine of a SVH in years, but that no one associated with this book had bothered to read the series.

That Sweet Valley Confidential is bad is an understatement and yet simultaneously it is not bad enough. Fans of the series loved it for the cheese (I did at least), not because it was an accurate portrayal of teen life in any decade. Over the years Sweet Valley went from being a teen drama, to a teen soap opera, and then something else that was possibly written as a dare or after an LSD hallucination. Originally I thought Sweet Valley Confidential could be updated, written as lighthearted chick-lit with a far-fetched murder mystery, not the as a faux shocking, recycled tripe that was published, and without the cheese it’s not even a fun guilty read.

The update is perhaps a little too updated with all the social media namedropping and pop culture references that will mean nothing a year from now. The Wakefield twins have grown up and aren’t clean teens anymore complete with f-bombs and disturbing discussion of Elizabeth’s weepy orgasms and taut nipples. *shudder* The girls wax poetic about how much the town they live in has changed since the 80’s (which is noted as being before the twins were old enough to care), with all its chain stores and a Starbucks on every corner changing the landscape. Nothing is said of Sweet Valley being more dangerous than Detroit, populated by more devious characters than a Mexican telenovela, and with a higher WTF?! per capita rate than any other made up town in young adult literature.

The completely obvious plot-line has the girls on the outs with each other again, but this time it’s personal! The twins have never been faced with a betrayal so outrageous in all of Francine’s sieve-like memory. Unless you count that time Jessica spiked Elizabeth’s drink (over the very important title of Jungle Prom Queen), leading to a car accident, the death of Jessica’s boyfriend, and Liz getting charged with manslaughter. Or those times Liz cheated on Todd. Or every single book when Jessica’s jealousy has her pulling some sort of underhanded scheme against her perfect sister.

However, the absolute worst part of the book and biggest insult to fans (other than Jessica’s sudden outbreak of valley girl brogue) is the relationship between Elizabeth and Bruce Patman. They are BFFs because Elizabeth has completely forgotten about that time he tried to date rape her. Elizabeth casually alludes to this incident as the time when Bruce kissed her “when she was passed out” and leaves out the overly friendly part about his twisting her arms to try to make her give in. While there is absolutely no chemistry between Elizabeth and Bruce during the entire book (except perhaps in his mind), when he finally confesses his feelings she decides she loves him too (heck, why not?!) because he’s such a super guy she doesn’t want him to be with anyone else. Yes, these are some pretty screwed up bitches, but then again, wouldn’t you be if you had gone through all of this:

The Evil Twin – Twins doppelganger and all around crazy girl, Margo, plans to kill Elizabeth and take over her life. Though Alice Wakefield mistakes Margo for one of her own daughters, the jig is up when Liz catches Margo dressed as her and also wielding a large knife. Jessica loses yet another boyfriend to sweet mistress death.

Beware the Wolfman -- Liz falls for a dark, handsome English stranger named Luke, who is naturally a psychotic werewolf. Jessica’s boyfriend dresses as a homeless man to watch over her.

A Kiss Before Dying
-- The feud between Palisades and SVH reaches a deadly conclusion when Jessica’s boyfriend Christian is killed, but as a bonus she wins the surfing contest.

To Catch a Thief –- As Au Pairs in France, Liz falls for a prince, Jessica falls for a jewel thief and the girls end up getting locked in the dungeon.

Tall, Dark, and Deadly
– Liz hates goth newbie Jonathan, but Jessica and Enid fall madly in love with him. A cat is the only witness to a murder committed by a vampire who is obviously…wait for it…Jonathan.

"R" for Revenge -- Elizabeth must eventually save Jessica and the cheerleading squad when they are kidnapped and held hostage by their new adviser.

The book ends with an American Graffiti-esque epilogue where readers get updated on a random assembly of characters. The important thing to know is that everyone is either dead or miserable. That and there’s going to be another spin-off, but maybe Francine will get it right this time.

On a scale of squeaky clean teen fun, Sweet Valley Confidential is neither squeaky clean, nor teen, nor fun really. It reads like a horrible made for TV movie, but a made for TV movie on a cable station so it has swearing and sexy parts. At the birthday party for grandma, Alice Wakefield shouts, “Bring out the f---ing cake!”
Not recommended for: nostalgic adults who don't want to think about Liz's nips.

1 comment:

  1. All I can say is W.O.W. Thank you for reviewing this book so thoroughly so I don't feel the need to read it!