Tag Archives: Sweet Valley High

Review: Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal

Sweet Valley Confidential UK cover

(Disclaimer: If you weren’t a fan of Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High, then this review might not be for you…)

Sweet Valley Confidential sat on my bookshelf for a while, patiently waiting for me to have the courage to open it up and start reading. I’ve spoken about how I grew up on Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High in the My Quarter-Life in Books post, and I really devoured a lot of the books when I was younger. Now that I’m a “grown-up”, this book seemed like the ultimate in guilty pleasures – I gave in to temptation and jumped headfirst back into the world of Sweet Valley.

The book dishes the dirt on what the twins have been up to after graduating from college and fits in perfectly with all of its predecessors; Jessica has really outdone herself this time in her betrayal of Elizabeth and is trying her best to gain forgiveness (again!). This time, it may just be unforgivable – Jessica has stolen Todd Wilkins, Elizabeth’s boyfriend of I-can’t-remember-how-many-years-but-oh-my-gosh-it-seems-like-an-eternity. And what’s more, they’re planning to get married! Elizabeth has run away to New York and is feeling lonely despite being followed about by men who find her super hot. She is of course, oblivious, and more concerned about the fact that Jessica has gone too far this time. Elizabeth wants Revenge.

I’m afraid the writing in this novel is pretty horrendous, and it’s quite obvious why Francine Pascal remained merely the ‘creator’ of the Sweet Valley series all those years, the books actually being written by ghostwriters, such as Suzanne Jamie and Kate William. Francine Pascal hasn’t done the best of jobs. In real time, Jessica and Elizabeth would be in their mid-thirties by now, if not older. Pascal puts them in the present, at the age of twenty seven, and they are all over twitter, google, facebook, Blackberrys and iPhones. It all feels a bit forced, like Pascal is trying so hard to be down with kids and the lingo of the street but she just ends up falling flat on her face.

Jessica has descended into some kind of parody of Summer Roberts from The O.C. who feels like so awful at messing up Elizabeth’s life for like the millionth time ever. (It’s having detrimental effects on my writing style just having read the book!) And, oh my freakin’ gosh – the twins swear now! Cos’ they’re like so grown up, dropping the F-word and the sh-word, and of course, they’re having sex now too. It was pretty obvious that Jessica and her fellow cheerleaders weren’t angels (all short skirts and dates with super hot older college guys…), and even Elizabeth, the supposedly wholesome twin, was not averse to steamy make-out sessions with the Toddster. However, to fit in with the twins’ wholesome image and the books’ teen-reader market, it could never really be stated. In Sweet Valley Confidential however, it’s so obvious it’s excruciating.

There are some shocking, and I mean SHOCKING revelations in the book but I won’t spoil all of the fun for you SVH fans. While it’s not really surprising that Lila Fowler would get a boob job and cheat on her husband, and that Winston Egbert would still be a loser, there are other soap opera turns that are a little more surprising.

Yes, the writing is pretty horrible and the story isn’t really that interesting, but I thought the book was fabulous. The dirty revelations about the Sweet Valley characters had me cackling away to myself (there’s a little epilogue at the back “For all you true Sweet Valley High fans” to bring you up to speed on what everyone has been getting up to which is particularly entertaining) and it felt easy to slip back into the twins’ ridiculous but lucky lives. It felt like having a good gossip with old friends who haven’t changed much. If you were a fan, I’d recommend the book for a long-awaited catch up and some nostalgic giggles.

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My Quarter-Life in Books

Anne Robinson on the My Life in Books couch

Recently I have been confined to my house for health reasons and have been mainly watching My Life in Books, a BBC series presented by Anne Robinson which features various famous faces talking about books which have influenced them in their lives. It has been entertaining for several reasons. Firstly, it satisfies the need in me to talk about literature and discover new books to read. Since watching this programme I have been on a feverish quest to make a list of every book I want to read EVER. It is growing daily; one book will lead to another which leads to another. It will take me years to read them all, and there are some of them that will probably never even make it onto my bookshelf.

Another reason it has been interesting is learning about the lives of famous faces. I’m not talking about your average celebs, I’m talking about authors such as P.D James (or to give her full title, Baroness James of Holland Park) and Jeanette Winterson, the Duchess of Devonshire (Debo, youngest of the infamous Mitford sisters), the editor of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman (who it turns out had quite a bohemian start in life before adopting her now tee-total lifestyle), the two people who were on with their rich heritage (actress and what’s his face who had connections running back), and actresses Natascha McElhone and Anna Chancellor. There are male guests too of course, Keith Allen, Richard Bacon, Dan and Peter Snow, Sir Trevor McDonald and Nicky Haslam, so all in all quite a varied selection that makes it interesting watching, even if books aren’t quite your thing.

I also find it fun to play a little game whilst watching the programme. The rules are simple: count the number of times that Anne Robinson utters the word ‘meanwhile’ during the show. I counted six in one particular episode! I thought it would make a great literary drinking game but as I am off the devil’s drink at the moment I had to make do with swallies of tea instead… Fun nevertheless. Coincidentally, ‘nevertheless’ is an example of a different linking word Anne could have used to shake things up a little. “At the same time” or “Elsewhere in the country/world…” would also have been excellent alternatives. Maybe I should take up scriptwriting…

Anyway! The point of this post is that the programme got me thinking about which books have influenced my life so far. I’m only 23 though so I’d like to hope that I still have three quarters of my life to go… So shall we say, My Quarter-Life in Books? I think that would do as a starting place.

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