Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential Review

First, let me say how truly disappointed I am with this book. I've been anticipating its arrival ever since I heard about it a few years ago.

However, the book - beautifully packaged with a delicious candy-pink cover, an emo Elizabeth on the front - failed to deliver. The Sweet Valley books have never been particularly well-written, the style purposely invisible to allow a series of endless ghostwriters to take over. But at least you got what you were looking for - you never left Sweet Valley without another 130-page convoluted plot, complete with hunky guys, cheerleaders, backstabbing and lust - plus the occasional murderous loon. And the writing, while not great, at least didn't interfere.

Sweet Valley Confidential is the first in the series Pascal penned herself. And it shows; oh, how it shows. I read with an imaginary pen, crossing out needless words galore, and even whole paragraphs that just restated things. I found Jessica's using "like" and "so" in every other sentence particularly irritating, as if Pascal had never met a real valley girl and was desperately trying to remind us that Jessica was one. And we didn't need flashbacks told and then re-told from another character's perspective. The book was unimaginative, unfunny, un-inventive, and just plain un-good.

This is disheartening, because I loved Pascal's writing in the Victoria trilogy, where she was witty and captured the voice of her adolescent protagonist. There are two things Pascal is good at: characterization, and churning out ideas one after another that never fail to be entertaining. Sweet Valley Confidential excelled at neither. Its plot was old and tired, a stodgy soap opera. If Sweet Valley High was the precursor to smart shows like Beverly Hills 90210, then this is ... season 9 on One Tree Hill.

Most importantly, the book failed to remind me of what I liked about the original series. It is not a book anyone would want to read for any other reason than finding out what happened to the characters. But even on that count - all it did was give a kind of depressing finality to Sweet Valley, a place where it seemed like literally anything could happen. I think it's clear from reading this that Pascal is tired of Sweet Valley. For all the fans out there who want a more mature taste of the old stuff, I'd give Sweet Valley Confidential a miss--and pick up My First Love & Other Disasters.