I posted this review elsewhere back last year and meant to post it on my blog but never quite got around to it. But given my obsession with Sweet Valley High as a teen (I loved it so much back then that I have even contributed recently to the fund for this blogger to self-publish her own companion guide to Sweet Valley), I decided to finally put it up here. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the book, if you've read it yourself . . .
"Haven't you ever wondered what happened when Elizabeth and Jessica grew up?"
I feel like I grew up with Sweet Valley High. Well, technically the Wakefield twins were sixteen when I was barely born and were still sixteen when I MYSELF was sixteen (in that weird time loop they seemed to live in where they could be sixteen for 20 years and also ten, twelve AND eighteen years old concurrently - freaky!) but I feel like they were around for most of my teen years as I gobbled up novel after novel - usually in no particular order, as the local library and their current stock of books held the power.
Did I ever think a grown-up version of the books would come out? Well, no. It was one of those things I would vaguely think about while drunkenly searching online for books from my teenage years (what? Just me???) but I never actually thought it would come to fruition.
So when I started to hear buzz back in 2009 around the blogosphere that Sweet Valley Confidential would soon become a reality, I was pretty excited. Perhaps that was actually the problem - that I built it up in my head into something it wasn't. That it couldn't possibly live up to expectations.
Well, it couldn't. Because to be frank? It's just not very good.
Let's face it, probably I'm looking back at the original books through rose coloured glasses for as a teenager I thought the writing was the best ever. I even dreamed of writing my own high school series just like it. I guess the difference is now that the tinted glasses are gone and the writing is not that great here.
The story begins with us being introduced to Elizabeth as a twenty-something. Her life clearly isn't turning out the way she'd thought it would, she is on her own in New York City, and it's clear that something dramatic has happened to stop her speaking to her twin sister and soulmate Jessica.
And we find out very early on what that something dramatic was - Jessica has committed the ultimate betrayal and stolen the love of Elizabeth's life! Elizabeth, having fled Sweet Valley and everything that she holds dear as a result, is forced to take stock of her life and try and move on . . . but the betrayal continues to cast a shadow over her life and she eventually decides the only thing she can do to even attempt to make herself feel better is to exact revenge on the two people who have wronged her most.
And so the book basically focuses on this, barely touching on anything else as far as I can see. Flashbacks show just how far back the betrayal went, although in the scenes set in the present, Jessica (surprisingly) comes off as the more sympathetic character. Which is weird. But then EVERYTHING is topsy turvy in this book.
The majority of the other characters in this book are merely background, which makes it even more confusing that the original cast grown up are as far removed from their old characters as they could possibly be. Bruce Patman, snob extraordinaire back in the day, is now nice - AND Elizabeth's best friend! Wimpy Enid is now a snob. Former class clown Winston is now a rich, nasty jerk. The only person who seems to be pretty much the same is Lila Fowler, although she barely appears in the novel at all. The reasons for these changes in character are not examined in too much detail in most of these cases. There doesn't seem that much point, therefore, in them being there at all.
The flashbacks I mentioned previously are generally quite tedious, and are told from various different viewpoints in the first person, which makes the book's progression a bit clumsy. Despite the fact it was a fairly easy to read (albeit not well written) book, the constant jumping about from past to present and back, and from one person's view to another, made me tire of it quickly and a book that would normally only take me about two hours to read took me several days. And I didn't particularly care how it ended by the time it drew to a close anyway.
I'm really sad I didn't enjoy this book because, like I said, I had high hopes for it, and I don't think it would have been THAT difficult to make it a bit more compelling and interesting. I LIKED that there was a bit of a real-life edge compared to the original novels - the idea that the girls didn't ALWAYS have a perfect cookie cutter ending and weren't necessarily coasting along in life still was nice. But I think it would have been nice to have placed slightly less focus on the twins and maybe included the other characters in it more. I know the series was based around them and they were the centre of it, but as grown ups they weren't really interesting enough to carry the story on their own.
Overall verdict? If you were a SVH fan as a kid and fancy a trip down memory lane, by all means give it a go, but you'll probably be disappointed. If you were never a fan, then this won't convert you.
Buy the book online: Sweet Valley Confidential (Sweet Valley High)
Did you read Sweet Valley High as a kid? Did you read Sweet Valley Confidential? Feel free to share your thoughts?