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Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal

April 25, 2011 - Amy Phelps
I spent a summer during my middle school years reading all of the Sweet Valley High books. At the time I thought they were fabulous - Elizabeth and Todd were the perfect couple, Enid was her solid best friend, while Jessica was Elizabeth's crazy twin always getting into some scheme with a hot boy and a great outfit, Bruce Patman was the rich bad boy that was destined for her and her best frienemy, Lila, was the mean girl. Years later, when I happened to visit a blog in which people were going back and re-reading the books and writing tongue-in-cheek reviews about them, I realized something - the books were horrible! But they were horrible in a fun way - crazy soap opera-like plots, Elizabeth was too perfect, as was Todd, Jessica was the bad twin to the point of being sociopathic and Bruce Patman wasn't a charming bad boy but an all-around jerk. And apparently the books only got even more wonderfully crazy after I grew up and quit reading - to the point of evil twins, natural disasters, murders and what have you.

So it was with a giddy thrill that I picked up "Sweet Valley Confidential" by Francine Pascal, the woman who created Sweet Valley High, and promised to revisit the twins and their friends 10 years later. And this book was everything I was hoping for and more - welcoming me back to the crazy world of Sweet Valley and all the drama that entails. And once I got over the fact that Elizabeth swears now (the characters are no longer held back to a PG standard) I was hooked.

When we meet the twins again, it is revealed in the very first chapter that things have gone bad in epic proportions for them. Jessica (who's already twice divorced) has betrayed Elizabeth in the worst way possible - by having an affair with and stealing Todd! Everyone who has ever read the books probably needs to sit down now and digest this information because it's that crazy, even for the world of Sweet Valley. It's not that I can't believe Jessica would do that, it's more that I can't believe she would want Todd, and even more inexplicable, that he would want her! What would they ever talk about? The mind boggles. And to complete the insanity, she and Todd are now getting married! Elizabeth, understandably, is beyond mad and leaves town for New York, working for a small Zagat's-like magazine about off-Broadway plays. There she has a run-in with a handsome playwright and an even more handsome bartender. The only contact Elizabeth still has with her hometown is talks with her best friend. No, not Enid, who is now a bitter alcoholic gynecologist who is having an affair with bad boy A.J. Morgan. Of course. No, Elizabeth's new best friend is the extremely likeable and in no way a jerk Bruce Patman! The mind continues to boggle. But Elizabeth's parents want her to forgive Jessica, come to the wedding(wow that's a crazy request even for that town) and come to her Grandmother's birthday party. Elizabeth's still bitter and wants her revenge. Meanwhile, Jessica and Todd are eaten up with guilt. Will the twins ever be friends again? Will Jessica and Todd stay together or remember they find each other boring and/or vapid? Will Elizabeth ever be able to forgive either of them?

There are some other shocks along the way and plenty of updates about the characters. Some of them ended up pretty much how I figured, others' lives changed as dramatically as Elizabeth and Jessica. But this book was still the crazy, out-there soap opera drama that I loved before. It stays true to its roots and still brings the same amount of fun as it did all those years ago for me that one summer.

"Sweet Valley Confidential" is published by St. Martin's Press. It is $21.99 and is 293 pages long.


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