I, like most girls my age, pretty much grew up with the Wakefield twins (just in an oddly parallel universe kinda way where they were 12 one moment and 16 the next but always, always, remaining perfect) When I heard that a new book, Sweet Valley Confidential was to be released in 2011, I was seriously excited. I downloaded the sample chapter in July last year, and while I wasn’t totally in love, I still placed my preorder for the paperback 5 months before the release date.
Thankfully, the Internet saved me from a long wait, and I managed to get the eBook version from an American store. I devoured the book in a few hours – I couldn’t put my iPad down (and didn’t – I was reading while washing up and making dinner! Hows that for multi tasking!)
Since the UK release is on the 14th April, I don’t want to be too spoilery with this sort of review, but there are some things that have to be mentioned. So, apologies in advance, but I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum! I’ll assume you’ve read the sample chapter anyway.
Elizabeth lives in New York now as a writer for a theatre review magazine, and doesn’t speak to Jessica. Jess is still back in Sweet Valley, and something has happened in their recent history for them not to speak. Thats…well, thats about it really.
I enjoyed the book for what it was, but there were quite a few things that just stuck out badly, especially if you were a massive fan of the originals (and who wasn’t?)
The book is definitely being aimed at the girls who used to read Sweet Valley High back in the day, theres no recaps in the beginning of the book, but because we’re missing a gap of 10 years (apparently Francine forgot about that whole SVU series?), there are flashbacks sprinkled throughout. First problem. The book fluctuates between third person present day, Elizabeths point of view of the past and Jessicas point of view of the past, but doesn’t really show a difference when jumping about. Remember how in the Babysitters Club, there was a page of someones “handwriting” and you knew instantly who was talking? Nothing so helpful here. You just have to puzzle that out yourself. Fun! (Or not.)
The original books were set in the vague late 80’s, but because they didn’t mention real bands or brands, it could have been happening at any time. I think this was one of the things that I enjoyed about the books, I could imagine it was all happening right now. Sadly, Sweet Valley Confidential has gone the route of Gossip Girl, and has brands, products and social media mentions everywhere. Elizabeth wont even be Jessicas friend on Facebook you guyzzzz! Really? It just felt a bit contrived, like someones gone “Hey, how can we show this is happening in 2011? FACEBOOK! IPHONES! STARBUCKS!”
There are certain events throughout the book that felt like Francine was checking off a list of things to include. “OK, theres got to be a death, someones going to cheat on their partner, lets chuck a bit of homosexuality and some sex in there as well” (By the way, sex scenes with characters you’ve “known” since you were 9? Disturbing to say the least). There was also a lot of pairing off the original characters with each other – suspicious readers might think the writer couldn’t be bothered to think of many new people.
Finally, it might have been because I was such a huge fan (I think at the last count, I had about 300 books, mostly SVH and SVT), but there were some serious continuity errors. Jessica “never liked” Aaron Dallas? Yeah, thats why she was so crazy over him in middle school. SVC couldn’t even get Lila’s dads name right!
For a book that I’ve been seriously excited about for the past year or so, it was a bit of a letdown to be honest. That said, it was interesting to see where the residents of Sweet Valley had all ended up since leaving them all those years ago. Its definitely not a book for someone who’s never heard of the Wakefield twins, only fans will really enjoy it. I think I’d rather go back to book one and read about Jessica tricking Elizabeth out of a date with Todd.
If after this review you’re still interested in buying the book, heres the link on Amazon*