I know it’s a little out of order, and it’s been more than a year since its release date, but I was lucky enough to get a copy of Sweet Vally Confidential for review this week. This is the book that started the all-grown-up Sweet Valley High franchise that continues with The Sweet Life, the brand-new e-series that just started coming out this past weekend. I thought I would share my thoughts on the book to go along with my reviews of The Sweet Life.
The Wakefield twins are now 27 years old. Elizabeth lives in NYC and works as an Off-Broadway theater reviewer, and Jessica is back in Sweet Valley working for a “green” cosmetics PR firm. They aren’t speaking to one another anymore–or more accurately, Elizabeth isn’t speaking to Jessica. She ran off to NYC to deal with what she feels is an unforgivable betrayal, and she’s probably right. This time, Jessica’s selfishness has gone too far! But the situation is not as black and white as it initially seems.
I loved it! To be honest, I’d read a number of negative-okay reviews of the book online (but about as many positive reviews as well), so I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be similarly disappointed. I think what made me enjoy it was that I’ve actually forgotten a lot about Sweet Valley, other than the very basics. (It’s been so many years since I was into it!) Most of the complaints were about continuity errors or how characters acted differently than they used to. Since I didn’t remember enough to notice any errors (assuming they weren’t corrected for my edition anyway), and I didn’t notice characters acting “differently,” I was able to read it with a fresh pair of eyes for the most part.
Elizabeth and Jessica are certainly as I remember them–with a certain amount of changes (Elizabeth more aggressive and angry, Jessica more subdued and quiet) that I thought were only natural given the circumstances. I loved the personality changes given that their relationship has been torn asunder.
It took me a little while to get used to it, but I loved the narrative format. Rather than each chapter belonging exclusively to one character’s third-person POV, the narrative skipped from the present to the past and back again. The past scenes build up the context of Jessica’s big betrayal and are told in first person (from different characters’ POVs, depending on the scene), which I thought was a fun choice. The scenes are clearly delineated, so it’s easy to follow along. I do remember, though, that toward the end, during a party with many characters, the POV seems to shift between multiple characters (in the third person) every few paragraphs. This is the only time the POV gets a bit muddled, in my opinion.
I agree with some reviews that point out that Jessica’s Valley Girl-like use of “so” and “like” in her narratives and dialog gets distracting. I don’t think it was necessary to portray her as the more popular, shallow twin; she’s supposed to be almost as smart as Elizabeth, in a different way. This seemed to have been rectified for The Sweet Life. At least I didn’t notice it.
Some of what happens is a bit over the top–particularly the recap of what every character had been up to since their high school days (I don’t remember a lot of the characters…)–that appears at the end. But Sweet Valley has always been as zany as a soap opera to me, so this wasn’t too hard for me to swallow.
But as far as the plot of the book, SPOILER ALERT (if you’ve read my The Sweet Life review, you’ll know this spoiler, though), I really did not mind Jessica winding up with Todd, although I certainly agree with Elizabeth for getting angry about it. I don’t think I ever liked Todd that much, as explained in my last review. This reminds me of my thoughts on the Archie Comics love triangle. Betty (whose actual name is Elizabeth, what a coincidence, she’s the Elizabeth in my Sweet Valley comparison!) is sweet, beautiful, and selfless–and yes, she deserves happiness. Veronica (Jessica) is gorgeous, spoiled and moody, and she plays the field, although she has her moments in which she demonstrates a heart of gold and love for Betty. Archie (Todd) is supposedly this “great” guy, but he’s kind of a jerk, in my opinion. He’s quick to anger and moody, although he can be loyal to his friends. Frankly, Betty may deserve the man she wants, but Archie doesn’t deserve her! So don’t Archie and Veronica seem more like they deserve one another? Especially considering how Veronica is more likely to stand up for herself than Betty? Betty will be brokenhearted, but in time, she ought to find someone more deserving of her. (And if you’ve read the always fun but very bizarre Life with Archie series, you realize how appropriate it is that I could compare Bruce, SVH’s resident playboy, arrogant jerk, with Reggie, Riverdale High’s much the same. They become kinder, nicer men and they wind up with ladies who deserve someone who truly treasures them.)
Anyway, I apologize for the segue, but my longstanding view on the Archie triangle explains why I was totally fine with the events of SVC! If you love Sweet Valley, definitely catch up with Sweet Valley Confidential. I may not remember SVH completely, so that may affect my view on SVC, but this does give me the same fun, fast, frothy feeling, so I couldn’t ask for more!
And a side note, this isn’t the cover I have (I have the sexy modern cover above), but I found this (UK?) cover on Amazon that’s supposed to look retro, like the original covers. How cute!