If you’ve never heard of Sweet Valley, CA, and the names Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield mean nothing to you, then I recommend you stop reading right now.
I just finished the audio version of Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later, the (most recent) sequel to the Sweet Valley High series that was very popular in the late 80s. Now, I was never a Sweet Valley fanatic. I read maybe 10 or 15 of the books. I didn’t know all of the characters. I didn’t read the prequel series, nor the prequel to the prequel series, nor the first sequel series. I was a casual fan who read enough to know the main players and some of the outlandish storylines Pascal presented in her addictive, cliche-ridden, but totally enjoyable books.
When I was at BEA last May, I came across a display that featured the audio version of Pascal’s widely-panned recent release, Sweet Valley Confidential and I just couldn’t help asking if I could have it. I must have been the only person that day who expressed even recognition of what the book was, much less interest in it, and the guy at the display gladly handed it over to me. It sat in my “BEA box” for several months until recently, when I decided that I was in the mood for it and popped in the first disc.
Yes, it’s totally silly and overwrought. Yes, it’s full of cliches. Yes, the emotions felt by the characters are extreme and over-the-top and yet totally transient. BUT… I will say this: the book was very enjoyable. It was fun to check in on Elizabeth and Jessica as adults, and to learn that Jessica has stolen Elizabeth’s longterm boyfriend Todd, that the couple is now engaged, and that the inseparable identical twins are no longer on speaking terms. (The horror!). There are other scandalous twists and turns that have befallen Sweet Valley’s most memorable residents, and Pascal at least attempts to “keep things real” by making her some of her characters dotcom millionaires, giving them cancer, and having them come out of the closet.
I’ve read a few reviews of Sweet Valley Confidential that complain that there are inaccuracies throughout the book, as well as several names and plot points that directly contradict things that happened in the high school series. Whatever. I didn’t notice them, and they didn’t bother me. Other people complain that the book is dumb and unrealistic. Yeah, I can see that. But for the last few weeks, my commute has been unusually enjoyable. And for that, I thank the generous folks at Macmillan Audio. (Hi FTC!)
A word about the audio: it’s fine, except that whenever the narrator voices a male character, she makes him sound like a moron.
I just read on Amazon (where the book got a whopping 2 stars on average) that there is a Diablo Cody movie version of Sweet Valley High coming out. Really?
Next post, I promise to return to the kind of fare that I – and you -wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit to reading.