Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guilty not-so-pleasure

Not long ago, I checked Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later out of the library. It was… not good. Now obviously I didn’t expect it to be good. I wasn’t expecting Shakespeare, but I did think I would enjoy it in a guilty-pleasure way. Sadly, no. Not so much. I have since put some thought into why this was the case, and have compiled them into a list for handy reference. 

Top Ten Reasons Sweet Valley Confidential was far less enjoyable than I anticipated:

Warning: Contains spoilers. But don’t worry about it, as you should never read this book.

1. The writing is really really bad.

2. It turns out that I don’t remember any of the characters or plots from any of the Sweet Valley books I read in my past except for the one Sweet Valley Twins where Elizabeth and Jessica decide to pretend they are triplets for the new girl in school that no one likes but then Elizabeth gets to know her better when she is acting as the fictional third Wakefield girl and feels bad so they throw her a birthday party and Jessica tries to order a chocolate cake but Elizabeth heard the new girl complain about how she always has to have chocolate cake on her birthday because people think everyone likes chocolate cake but she hates chocolate cake. I assume there’s some kind of fallout at the actual birthday party regarding the fact that the entire middle school conned this girl into thinking there were Wakefield triplets, but I mostly only remember the thing about the chocolate cake, as it’s clearly the most critical plot point of the book.

At any rate, I can’t remember any of the characters’ names except for the twins and Lila, the snobby rich girl. Possibly the new girl in the above story ended up being a major secondary character, but I have no idea. So when the characters were reintroduced in Sweet Valley Confidential, I had no frame of reference and therefore didn’t care about them. For example, I did not remember that the twins have a brother a year older than they are. (Turns out, he’s gay. And Jessica outed him to his wife. But I don’t care.)

3. This isn’t technically a reason I didn’t like the book, but I’d like to note that twenty-five years can really change a person’s perspective on things. Back when I was reading the original books, for example, I did not spend time wondering how poor Mrs. Wakefield managed when she had a one-year-old and a set of newborn twins. 

4. I kept getting hung up on the fact that Sweet Valley is supposed to be a small town, but it has more than one law firm in it. And a PR firm. And an architectural firm. And a university. And 80% of the graduates  of SVH stay and live in Sweet Valley for the rest of their lives.

5. Inasmuch as I can remember what any of the characters were like in the original series, many of them did not change or grow at all in ten years, and most of the characters are rigid archetypes; something that escaped my notice when I was 10.

6. The book starts out with Elizabeth and Jessica estranged because Elizabeth hates Jessica for a mysterious reason that turns out to be – shocker – Jessica stole Elizabeth’s boyfriend. (Former SVH fans: Yes, Todd. Jessica and Todd get married. Elizabeth ends up with Bruce Patterson.) But then Elizabeth turns back into a doormat just like she always was.

7. Jessica has a powerful and high-paying job at the famous Sweet Valley PR firm despite the fact that she still, like, talks like this, even in, like, her thoughts.

8. You guys, the writing.

9-10. At the end, I was forced to read a description of Elizabeth Wakefield’s naked body. This one counts twice.


Mama Bub said...

Haaa. I couldn't remember any of the characters either, except that there was one time when Elizabeth was pretending to be Jessica and Bruce tried to make out with her? Or something? That was my entire frame of reference for reading this book. Still, I couldn't stop myself from finishing the book.

Swistle said...

Favorite parts:

1. "most of the characters are rigid archetypes; something that escaped my notice when I was 10"

2. "Back when I was reading the original books, for example, I did not spend time wondering how poor Mrs. Wakefield managed when she had a one-year-old and a set of newborn twins."

3. That #s 1 and 8 are the same.

4. That one thing is #s 9-10.

Jeanne said...

As much as you've warned us, I now still feel like I NEED to read this book. Maybe I'll get it for my sister for Christmas, she was a big fan of the series when we were kids. Didn't Elizabeth have a BFF named Enid?

Jessica said...

I read a lot of Sweet Valley Twins books when I was in middle school, but now they're all mixed up with Saved By the Bell in my head. I'm pretty sure its because Elizabeth Berkley played Jessie and so now if I see the names Elizabeth and Jessica together, she's the picture I get. In my head, she plays both twins. And Sweet Valley High = Bayside.

Erica said...

HA. I can see why you thought you might want to read this book. I can also see why it was totally crap. You can't go back. Hilarious.

Dr. Maureen said...

@Jeanne: Yes. Enid is now a nerdy obstetrician, but she and Elizabeth aren't close anymore. (Was Enid the new girl from the SVT when they pretended to be triplets? I think she might have been.)

Another problem, actually, is that a lot of writing is wasted on NEW characters. Who cares about new characters?

Jeanne said...

What would be the point point of introducing new characters? It's not like they're going to start the series up again now that they're adults (please tell me they're not!!!), so why throw in a bunch of new characters? The only people who read this book will be those who were at one time invested in the original characters. It's kind of how I view Facebook. I really only want to know what my friends from high school are up to, I don't need to "friend" a bunch of people I don't care about.

Kelsey said...

Yes to everything! I read this too, got it from the library thank goodness, and it was TERRIBLE. I mean it was so terrible it was not even really enjoyable.

Do you remember that there was, briefly, as television show?