Monday, 18 April 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential

Hands up then? How many of you read Sweet Valley books in your earlier years? And how many of you had to do it surreptitiously?! I used to borrow them all of the time from the library, but only when my Mum wasn't looking. My favourite series was the Sweet Valley Twins, closely followed by the original Sweet Valley High series, although I was first introduced to them through Sweet Valley Kids (which I borrowed from a friend aged about 5). I never really enjoyed Sweet Valley University so much although I did read them all. But there's an interesting wikipedia article about it all here, including the team of ghost writers behind it which I found fascinating to read and remind me of the summer days, lying in the garden and reading about twins growing up in California. Oh how I wanted to be blonde, and a twin, rather than mousy brunette, and an only child.

I digress. A sequel has just been published- Sweet Valley Confidential, exploring what happened to the girls 10 years after they left Sweet Valley High. *spoilers follow so please skip if you want to read the book from scratch*

I'm afraid it disappointed me. The story is based around the twins having fallen out in a major way: Jessica is now planning her wedding to Todd in Sweet Valley, whilst Elizabeth is in New York, having estranged herself from her sister. Anything else aside, that just felt wrong - the books are centred around the twins relationship, which has its moments, but is never as bad as this. And Todd Wilkins as the man who has sent them apart?!

The story is told in non-linear fashion, which meant that it wasn't as straightforward a read as the originals - I actually found myself having to concentrate to follow what was going on, which I wasn't anticipating from something I assumed to be a guilty pleasure. The narrative darts around between the present and filling in what has happened over the intervening years, and uses first person storytelling from various characters alongside the third person.

Aside from the storyline, it was clunky and full of cultural references to Facebook, Twitter, iphones and Blackberries which will date the book faster than it can be read (you have to admit that there was a certain timelessness about the original series). And, judging by reviews that I've read, there are plenty of continuity errors with the series (I'm afraid I'm not enough of a Sweet Valley geek to have spotted any of those). There's also swearing, which grates, particularly when it comes out of the mouth of Alice Wakefield, and far more sex and alcohol than the original. Yes, the characters are now adults, but part of the charm of the original series was their innocence really.

Other reviewers on Amazon suggest that the story is a bit contrived, questioning how often people stay around the area where they grew up and marry the people that they went to school with. Well, it does happen, but maybe not on the scale that it does in this book. But then the original series were all rather contrived too, so that didn't bother me too much.

I think I will conclude by echoing the thought of someone else that I read here on "From now on, I will just remember the original SVH books as being so much better than this and in my head I think I will leave Jess and Liz back in the good old days, where they belong. "

Anyway, discussions about this book on facebook revealed quite a few closet fans, and I have agreed to pass this book onto a couple of well known bloggers, on condition that they write about it on their blogs by the end of August. And the final excitement is that I hear that there is a MOVIE coming out next year!


  1. It's a hands down from me I'm afraid, Verity. Sweet Valley books never came my way, so I've not read any of them.

  2. I was too old for the Kids but devoured the Twins, High and the first few University books, by which time I was too old. Hm, I don't recall SVH or SVU ever being what you would call innocent but then I was an impressionable tween! I grew up on them and loved Jessica and Elizabeth dearly; like any good universal series, aspects of each of the twins' personalities were indentifable although I empathised more with Elizabeth while harbouring dreams of being Jessica (either way: I wanted to live in Sweet Valley!)

  3. Ah yes, I remember them. It was a different world, and made me long to go to America.

  4. I used to love the Sweet Valley books (Twins, High and University) but I'm not sure I want to read this new book. I think I agree with the Amazon reviewer you quoted and would prefer not to have my happy memories spoiled!

  5. If Paperback Reader was too old, then I definitely was ancient when they books came out. These books went completely under my radar. I am sorry you didn't like it.

  6. It was all about SVU for me I'm afraid, although I did watch the tv series of SVH. I seem to remember my favourite being set on a cruise ship excursion...Shame the book isn't better, as it could ahve been a good guilty pleasure read.

  7. Hand up for me. I only read a few of them because I these weren't the sorts of books my parents bought for us - I borrowed them from friends when available. I only read the line of the review where you said you were disappointed... too bad! I'm still in line for it at the library though!

  8. Gosh! I remember the Sweet Valley days. I read Twins & Friends, and some of the Highs, but that's it. I liked Twins more, to be honest, as it was a lot more innocent and feel-good, whereas, High... I don't know... it just didn't do it for me.

    However, Jessica marrying Todd Wilkins - that just sounds wrong!! As does Alice Wakefield swearing. I read about this book sometime back, and thought it was just a commercial exercise - make a quick buck on the back of the old fame. Just wrong...

    I could relate more to Elizabeth... .

  9. Oh that's such a disappointment. I was too old for the Sweet Valley Kids books (although I did enjoy the photograph serialisation of these stories in Girl Talk magazine), but loved Sweet Valley Twins. I read only a handful (I think) of the Sweet Valley High books, and even less of the Uni ones. The TV show was a lot of fun too.


Do leave a comment - I love to hear from people who read my blog.