COMMENTARY | I recently read Francine Pascal’s “Sweet Valley Confidential,” the book that picks up where the original “Sweet Valley High” series left off only 10 years later. Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are in their late 20s. Elizabeth’s out in New York writing for an off-Broadway theater review magazine, and Jessica is back in Sweet Valley living with her fiancee, who — spoiler alert — just happens to be Elizabeth’s ex-boyfriend, Todd Wilkins.
Yes, you read correctly. “Sweet Valley Confidential” is to have us believe that Todd cheated on Elizabeth with Jessica and then the two fell in love and are deciding to get married. Elizabeth is understandably upset, but manages to forgive Jessica and Todd by the end of “Sweet Valley Confidential” and decide that she’s fallen for Bruce Patman. Oh, and Winston Egbert dies and the twins’ older brother Steven is gay.
I was really looking forward to reading “Sweet Valley Confidential.” I devoured the Sweet Valley series when I was in middle school, and I found the series to be engrossing, juicy, and completely addictive. Now, as a 30-year-old, I found the 10-year-later update to be contrived, unbelievable, and boring. Perhaps my taste in books has changed in the past 18 years. Or perhaps the kinds of stories that enthrall us as 12 just so happen to annoy us at 30. Either way, I did not enjoy my read, and when I finally turned that final page, I was left disappointed and uninspired.
And now I find out that there’s more to come.
According to The New York Times, St. Martin’s Press is planning to release a digital spin-off of Sweet Valley that will pick up a couple years after “Sweet Valley Confidential.” Each story will be about 20,000 words and available online or via phone apps. Will Jessica still be married? Will she have had children with her sister’s ex-sweetheart? Will Elizabeth and Bruce still be a hot item? What other characters will have died in that span of time? Oh, and what about Steven and his lover? What will be going on with that?
Will any of us care?
The one thing “Sweet Valley Confidential” had going for it was the nostalgia factor — what a fun idea to catch up with characters we loved and lived with during such vital times in our young, pre-teen lives! After actually reading the book, though, we see that nostalgia can only take us so far. As adults, we are more mature readers, and “Sweet Valley Confidential” is not more mature. The characters are vapid, and the story-line is unchallenging and predictable. That said, how many of us former “Sweet Valley High” fans will log-in and read the tentatively titled “The Sweet Life” to see what happens?
Most of us. But we probably won’t enjoy it.
Source: Julie Bosman, A New ‘Sweet Valley High’ Spin-off, Online, The New York Times.