It’s been over a month since I read Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley Confidential, and all this time this post has been sitting in my drafts folder, because I’ve been thinking about what to write in it.
Like most of my friends from grade school and high school, I grew up reading Sweet Valley books. Before I read them, my older sisters were already reading them and I was often the dummy player when the two of them played their Sweet Valley High board game, without understanding what it was all about (I was in pre-school — I just threw the dice and moved the token along the board!).
I started reading Sweet Valley Kids in first grade, I remember my mom bought me my first one, SVK #6: Lila’s Secret and I remember it very well because it was the first time I lent a book to someone (a classmate) and it was not returned to me (hmf!). I eventually moved on to Sweet Valley Twins by third grade, and by this time I was getting enough allowance to save up so I could buy a couple of books a month. I read Sweet Valley Twins (and all its spinoffs: Unicorn Club, Team Sweet Valley, Sweet Valley Junior High) all the way up to senior year high school when the last ones came out. Occasionally, I also read the Sweet Valley High books left over from my sisters’ collection, and of course, all the Sweet Valley sagas (the best!).
In sixth grade, the Sweet Valley High show was broadcast on local TV (I even had Sweet Valley socks that year!), and I remember my best friend Mika, our friend Kat, and I trooped to National Book Store (in Megamall, I think), very early one Saturday morning because the SVH stars Cynthia and Brittany Daniels were in the Philippines! We had a meet and greet and a book signing (alas my signed copies are lost — probably with a cousin somewhere!), and if I remember right, we were even seen on the local news that covered the event!
When my friends and I found out about Sweet Valley Confidential when it was announced a year before it was released, we were so excited and started reminiscing about our favorite books and characters in the series. We couldn’t wait to read it!
I’ve been wondering how to put this summary, because I can’t say much without anything becoming a major spoiler. So here are the bare bones: the Wakefield twins are now 27. Elizabeth is a struggling writer in New York, estranged from Jessica and her family in Sweet Valley. And that’s all I’m going to say.
I was saving the book for the FFP 24-Hour Readathon so it was about one week after the release that I got to read it, but it so happened I had dinner with my high school friends that week, and one of my friends had already read it. When the rest of us asked her how she found the book, she couldn’t give a straight answer, so I was highly intrigued.
By the time I read the book a few days later, I could totally understand her reaction. I think this book was responsible for keeping me awake all night at the readathon, and I know I kept some people awake, too, because of my outraged reactions towards what I was reading.
I think I threw a hissy fit at page 92. I was so miserable because it was the middle of the night and I didn’t know anyone who had read the book who was still awake… although that didn’t stop me from texting several people (you know who you are!).
Of course, those of us who read it, did because Sweet Valley was a huge part of our lives — we could recite the requisite paragraphs describing Jess and Liz Wakefield’s identical features and personalities by heart, trace the Wakefield family tree to several generations, name all of the twins’ friends and corresponding sidestories from Kids to High (and even University, for some), and perhaps even map out a chronology (although given the series’ inconsistency, not a very logical one) of the twins’ lives.
The one book that Francine Pascal writes all by herself (after dozens of Sweet Valley books written by ghostwriters!), and she manages to make a train wreck out of it! There are so many things I abhorred in this book, and none I can voice out without spoiling anything (and I still refuse to accept the stuff printed on page 92, hmf!). Sadly, that seems to be the general reaction to this book. I think it’s safe to say Sweet Valley Confidential was nothing like any of the fans expected, and given a chance, several hundred people who’ve read the book (myself included) would probably volunteer to write their own version, and any one of us could have come up with a better story.
This is probably the worst comeback ever, and a major candidate for the worst book I’ve ever read (EVER!!!).
I really wish Francine Pascal left good old Sweet Valley alone.
Sweet Valley Confidential, 1/5 stars
Book #50 for 2011