Ten years after graduating from Sweet Valley High, the Wakefield twins have had a falling-out of epic proportions. When Jessica commits a complete and utter betrayal, Elizabeth flees to New York to escape the pain and immerse herself in her lifelong dream of becoming a journalist.
Jessica remains in California, dealing with the fallout of her heart-wrenching choices. She has a career she loves and lots of old friends, but misses her sister, her oldest friend. With Jessica as her enemy, Sweet Valley is no longer the idyllic town of their youth.
Jessica longs for forgiveness, but Elizabeth can’t forget her twin’s duplicity. She decides the only way to heal her broken heart is to get revenge. Always the “good” twin, Elizabeth is now about to turn the tables…. (From Goodreads.com)
To say I was excited when I heard that Francine Pascal was writing Sweet Valley Confidential is an understatement. The Sweet Valley Twins and High series were the staple of my reading diet between the ages of 11 and 15. I devoured book after book of this series and lapped up everything that happened in the lives of beautiful Californian twins, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, as well as their equally beautiful friends. I often looked back at these books with fondness, and immediately wanted to know what happened when the twins grew up as soon as I knew this book would be published.
Sometimes though going back to an old favourite with the wisdom of age banishes the rose tinted memories once held, and in a way this is the case with Sweet Valley Confidential. Years ago the implications that only the beautiful succeed, only the rich, handsome jocks were worth dating and being a few pounds overweight was on par with criminal activity didn’t register and flew right over my head. This time round I found it more than a little annoying and it truly made me question my previous devotion. Not enough to completely banish my fondness for the series or to spoil any enjoyment at all in this latest catch up book, I’m still able to see it as fun, meaningless but enjoyable fluff, yet enough to make me wonder why I hadn’t been bothered about these things before. One thing I’m sure of, there’s no way those books would stand up in today’s market.
Sweet Valley Confidential begins with shocking melodrama and carries on for the rest of the book. It’s like the worst kind of soap, which you feel somewhere deep down you shouldn’t like but can’t help wanting more. It’s real guilty pleasure reading and engrossing throughout. At age 27 we find the tables have been turned for Elizabeth and Jessica. While former party girl Jess is settled down and planning her wedding, it’s Liz who’s living in NYC and seemingly getting it on with anyone who offers. The reason? Because Jessica has committed the ultimate betrayal and her husband to be is long term boyfriend of her twin, Todd Wilkins…yes…who’d have thought? Well I guess anyone who knew Jessica wouldn’t be surprised she saw her sister’s true love as fair game, but I was a little shocked at Todd himself. Kind, lovely (and all round martyr) Elizabeth is now bitter and twisted, filled with thoughts of revenge. She was always a little too good for me, so I loved seeing her dark side!
We find out the full story of poor Elizabeth’s betrayal from flashbacks, some from the past series and some from the time between and with this we learn other shocking truths about the regular characters who make up the world of Sweet Valley. Lila Fowler, Bruce Patman, Caroline Pearce, Enid Rollins, Winston Egbert, Steven Wakefield and Arran Dallas all get a mention and while some turn out pretty much as you’d expect (Lila is still rich, beautiful but pointless) others will leave your mouth hanging open. One notable absence for me was Amy Sutton though; who isn’t mentioned at all yet from what I remember played a huge part in both the Twins and High series. However I did outgrow the series in the mid 90’s while the books were still being published and never read the Sweet Valley University series, so maybe I missed something there. The biggest change though is definitely between the twins and how their relationship and personalities have been developed. I’m glad Pascal didn’t just leave them the same people but 10 years later and really felt the weight of the past decade on both characters.
It’s a well known fact Francine Pascal didn’t write the original books herself and was only the ‘creator’ so I was surprised to learn she had actually penned this one. While too many years have passed for me to compare the writing styles I did notice quite a few inconsistencies. The writing itself isn’t fantastic but is enough to keep you reading, although the over use of ‘like’ and ‘so’ from Jessica really bugged me.
Overall my trip back to Sweet Valley was mixed. I enjoyed it, but felt in a small way I probably shouldn’t have. This is definitely a book for fans of the originals, if you’ve never read them or didn’t like them in the first place then give this a big miss. You’ll hate it. If like me though you grew up with Elizabeth and Jessica I’d say this is a must read, despite the fact I didn’t love it as much as I hoped. Sweet Valley will always hold a place in my heart, even if now it isn’t as bright as it once was. I loved the chance to see what characters that are almost like old friends are now up to (despite 10 years being more like 20 and by rights they should now be in their late thirties!) Despite the faults I’m glad it exists and I read it, the iconic cover was enough to make it worthwhile. If there’s ever a Sweet Valley…30 years later will I read it? Probably Yes!
Published by Arrow April 2011 in the UK
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.