Review: ‘Sweet Valley Confidential’ by Francine Pascal

Review: ‘Sweet Valley Confidential’ by Francine PascalSweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal
Published by Macmillan on 2011-03-29
Pages: 304
Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

Now with this striking new adult novel from author and creator Francine Pascal, millions of devoted fans can finally return to the idyllic Sweet Valley, home of the phenomenally successful book series and franchise. Iconic and beloved identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back and all grown up, dealing with the complicated adult world of love, careers, betrayal, and sisterhood.  WANT MORE SWEET VALLEY RIGHT NOW??  Become a fan of Sweet Valley Confidential on Facebook or Twitter. 

I had such high hopes for “Sweet Valley Confidential”. I was a huge fan of all the books when I was a kid and I remember wondering what would happen when they were older. Somehow, this isn’t what I expected.

Though I appreciate Francine Pascal’s unabashed tenacity in making it clear that this is an adult book, I do feel that she shocked us just to shock us. You know, like how Howard Stern’s radio program is shocking and controversial just to be shocking and controversial.

I found the main story pretty interesting even though it deviates from the Sweet Valley canon A LOT. Pascal explained Todd and Jessica’s back story enough that it felt like a genuine, horrible, complicated relationship. Steve’s story truly shocked me, only in a good way. He spent his whole life with women only to find out that he’s gay. That’s the kind of realistic adult revelation that I was expecting in “Sweet Valley Confidential”. Pascal handled it well.

What I didn’t buy was the minor character back stories. It really seemed like they all either died from cancer or committed suicide. Shock for shock’s sake.

This brings me to Elizabeth. I’m not sure where to start. On one hand, I thought her feelings were realistic and on point with how I might feel if that ever happened to me. On the other hand, I’m not sure why her personality flipped between canon Jessica, canon Elizabeth, and new Elizabeth. Let me explain. Canon Jessica is the personality Jessica exhibited in the original books. She was cunning, manipulative, and used to getting her way. I saw a lot of this in Elizabeth, especially while in New York. Canon Elizabeth is the standard do-everything-perfect Elizabeth from the original books. Everyone in the book still thinks of her this way. It was rather annoying because it limited her character growth. By the end of the novel she was back to good ol’ Liz. New Elizabeth was fascinating. She was angry, hurt, vindictive, and had all the real feelings of a complex human being. It’s unfortunate that Pascal didn’t keep her around. Instead, Elizabeth rolls over and forgives her sister with no expectations in return. The only way new Elizabeth does stick around is by starting a relationship with Bruce Patman, which I would have loved to see more of except that it happened at the end of the book.

Overall, die-hard Sweet Valley fans are probably going to hate this book. I’m not sure I even liked it. I can’t give it three stars nor can I give it two. Therefore, my verdict is this:

two-half-stars

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