Sweet Valley Confidential – Francine Pascal (aka – Bitter Canyon of Disappointment)

A ten years later look at the Wakefield twins and company? Yes, please! When I first heard this book was coming out (a few years ago), I was stoked. The Sweet Valley books were a huge part of my childhood. From the twins to the high to the university, I followed these girls and their friends for over a decade. I even gave that awful tv show the old college try. That’s a whole bunch of my young life spent reading some pretty awful books – and I loved every one of them. Regina dying from a single line of cocaine broke my ten-year-old heart. She could have turned Bruce into a good guy, if only they’d had more time!

Awful books exist, people. This is their queen.

I waited for months to get this from the library. It was going to be my summer fluff read. If I wasn’t so invested in the history of this series, I would have stopped reading before the pages hit the double digits. I wasn’t expecting a lot. I realize the first paragraph may contradict this statement but I really wasn’t. I was expecting something delightfully awsful (so awful it’s entertaining). I was expecting, at the very least, that an editor would have taken even the briefest of looks at the book before it was released into the wild. I was expecting that the original cannon would have been respected. Sadly, this is not what happened. The book’s flow is horrible. The writing is purple – oh so very purple. The character depth (such as it isn’t) and development is non-existent. It felt like I was reading really bad fan fic written by someone with only the most passing understanding of what the series was about. The original books were not good, but they were entertaining.

Elizabeth’s character is trying so hard not to be a goody-goody, and is so coloured by “the betrayal” that she’s a shadow of a character. Having run away from Sweet Valley and taken refuge in New York City, Elizabeth is on the prowl to heal her broken heart. She gets a job writing theatre reviews and starts screwing around with the director (I think that’s who he was, I no longer have the book in front of me and don’t care to look it up again). The only time Elizabeth feels like a real character is when she starts having meaningless, friends-with-benefits sex and that only lasts for a chapter. Everything else she does feels accidentally purposeless. When she finally decides to go home and hooks up with Bruce (yes – that Bruce), there’s an inkling that something might be going right. It doesn’t last.

Jessica is shallow and silly, and in a different way than she ever was in the original books. She was confident and cocky, and that’s why you liked her. In this book, she keeps telling the reader that she’s amazing and awesome and perfect, but there’s no conviction behind her words – and like what awful words they are, totally. Her relationship with Todd feels completely unrealistic (and not because I loved the Elizabeth/Todd pairing – they’re both simpering fools who, let’s be clear here, broke up for good in the SVU). I don’t believe they love each other. Maybe if they’d been intimate with each other in some way shape or form for even a second, I would have, but as sad as they would have been about Liz, after eight months, they would have started moving on with their lives.

I’m not even going to discuss the fact that half of this novel is disjointed flashbacks. I’m just not.

My first problem major problem relates directly to this whole betrayal storyline. This novel completely disregards the entire SVU cannon. Jessica has been married before – and not in the situation described in the flashback. Todd and Elizabeth ended things. Todd and Enid were a serious couple. Enid and Elizabeth weren’t friends. These events would have influenced the lives of these characters in a dramatic way. I’m really not sure Pascal wrote this book. Or maybe she doesn’t like her novels. Or maybe she just hates her fans.

The second big problem is the ‘where are they now’ round up at the end that goes on for pages and pages and pages. It sums up the entire book and makes forcing your way through the preceding clunky, uninspired sentences feel like punishment. Including the central characters in a where are they now after you’ve just taken the reader through 200+ pages with them … this is crazy making. I know where those characters are, you just told me – in long, descriptive, ridiculous prose!

I’m going to go read some of the old books and pretend this one never happened. Better idea – maybe I’ll re-write the story myself the way I wanted to read it.

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One thought on “Sweet Valley Confidential – Francine Pascal (aka – Bitter Canyon of Disappointment)

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday – Grow Up Already | hellphie's fiendish fiction

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