When I was younger, I devoured the Sweet Valley books—Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley Twins, Unicorn Club, Senior Year, and even (in second grade) Swe...moreWhen I was younger, I devoured the Sweet Valley books—Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley Twins, Unicorn Club, Senior Year, and even (in second grade) Sweet Valley Kids. (Spoiler alert: One of the twins’ friends wets her sleeping bag!) But I never read the very first ones in SVH. I found a crapload of them for 25¢ each at the used bookstore and of course I bought them all, and after two days lost in the complex, sex-crazed world of the Sweet Life e-serial, I found myself yearning to return to a simpler time in Sweet Valley, California. A time without cliffhangers. A time with continuity. A time in which (view spoiler)[Winston wasn’t dead (hide spoiler)].
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you . . . Double Love.
Anyone who’s ever read a Sweet Valley book knows the drill: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are twins, identical from their sun-kissed blond hair, blue-green eyes (the color of the Caribbean!), and dimples in their left cheeks to their matching gold lavalieres. The only differences between the girls? Elizabeth wears a watch and has a mole on her shoulder. Other than that, they are completely indistinguishable, except for their wildly different personalities which no one ever seems to be able to differentiate between when it really matters.
Oh, and also they are really, really freaking pretty. In the first two pages Jessica is described as having “perfectly shaped bronze leg[s],” “a stunning figure without an extra ounce visible anywhere,” etc.
Jessica is commonly referred to as a sociopath in SVH reviews, but in Double Love we really get to see the myriad of personality disorders she has. Sister has INSANE mood-swings, doesn’t like Lizzie hanging out with anyone but her, and is willing to sabotage her twin’s reputation and accuse a guy of forcing himself on her in order to save her own adorable, heart-shaped face. (A face which is suddenly oval in the next book in the series. So much for continuity.)
We also really get a taste of what a pushover Elizabeth is. After Jessica (view spoiler)[lets everyone in school think Liz is the one who nearly got arrested after a bar brawl, steals the boy she likes (though to be fair Liz never said she liked him) and tries to sabotage Liz’s chances with him once Jessica realizes he likes Liz and not her, and takes the car and makes Liz walk home (hide spoiler)], Elizabeth is all, “It’s okay! I could never stay mad at you!” She plays Jessica so she ends up being (view spoiler)[mistaken for Liz and thrown in a pool (hide spoiler)], but that seems like a pretty lame punishment. Even Angry Todd (who makes his first angry, punchy appearance near the end!) just pooh-poohs it. Oh, it’s cool that your sister is completely self-absorbed and possibly bipolar with borderline personality tendencies. I forgive her for accusing me of sexual assault. Let’s kiss! Whatever, Wilkins.
Double Love also gives us our first taste of Winston Egbert, Creepy Mr. Collins, Chrome Dome, Ken Matthews (knowing what happens to him in SVC-land I kept shaking my head every time he was mentioned, poor bastard), Lila Fowler, Enid Rollins (aka Dammit, Enid!) Bruce Patman, and of course, 1BRUCE1.
It’s really, really weird to reread these books as an adult. Even when I was reading them for the first time it was about 14 years after the initial publication date, but wow do these books ever seem dated now. Elizabeth has a typewriter! And a tuxedo shirt with a little tie! And she irons her jeans! It’s just great.
I hear they are editing the re-releases to have cell phones, laptops, etc. If you want to read the SVH series, please do yourself a favor and hunt down the 1980s/90s originals. It’s all so much more fun with big hair and off-white cords and heather-colored sweaters. Also, I shudder to think what state Liz's jeans are in in the updated versions.(less)
Our tale opens on Super-Sleuth Elizabeth continuing her investigation of Robin Platt’s origins by checking out a rehab clinic in Lexington, Kentucky....moreOur tale opens on Super-Sleuth Elizabeth continuing her investigation of Robin Platt’s origins by checking out a rehab clinic in Lexington, Kentucky. Aaron has been found out by Nola and he’s got to do some quick thinking (and reminding us all that he’s married to Steven Wakefield, a successful and respected lawyer) to get out of that predicament. Annie is still trying to get Bruce back to Sweet Valley (is anyone else concerned that she hightailed it to Cannes and we have no idea where her kid is?) and fighting her feelings for him, while Bruce is trying to reconcile his burgeoning attraction to Annie with his Wakefield-induced broken heart. Jessica is lonely and confused. Throat Punch Todd is . . . somewhere. Ken is still a big, dumb softy, and Lila is still a mess.
But don’t worry! The mystery is unraveled, various truths come out, and everything ends happily-ever-after. Except, oh wait, it doesn’t. No, there is a crappy, predictable cliffhanger, which Elizabeth kind of deserves because she’s being such a weenie, but which also made me a little bit sad because I like new, sensitive Bruce and think he should end up with the person he belongs with (even if she is a weenie).
Perhaps the most exciting part of this book is that Throat Punch Todd beats the ever-loving crap out of someone. Yes! He just wails on this guy, who ends up “trying to defend himself against the dozens of blows Todd rained down on his head.” Earth to Sweet Valley! Todd has been senselessly violent since 1984. Why hasn’t anyone staged an intervention and urged him to attend anger management classes yet?
Now I have to wait probably another year to find out what happens next and that makes me cranky.(less)
Welcome to volume four of Francine Pascal's Sweet Life e-serial, Secrets and Seductions, or: Revenge Sex is the Solution to Every Problem Ever.
Angry T...moreWelcome to volume four of Francine Pascal's Sweet Life e-serial, Secrets and Seductions, or: Revenge Sex is the Solution to Every Problem Ever.
Angry Todd and Jessica have a big misunderstanding. Jessica decides to pursue someone else (presumably she has sex with him by the next installment) to really show herself--and Angry Todd--that she doesn't need AT in her life to be happy. Angry Todd is heartbroken by the big misunderstanding and mourns for all of two seconds before being all, "Well, I am a man, right? And I haven't had sex for, like, months, right? I'm pretty sure my junk will fall off if I wait too much longer." (Which makes absolutely zero sense when you think about how he went through decades of middle school, high school, and college without ever having sex. A few months of abstinence should be a bloody cakewalk compared to that.) So he makes the beast with two backs with (view spoiler)[Sarah, who, it turns out, is in cahoots with Caroline Pearce to ruin Jessica Wakefield's life. (hide spoiler)] Is being 30 really this much like high school? Because if it is, I'm not sure I want to be 30.
Also? I'm really not convinced he and Jessica really love each other. The pairing hasn't made sense since SVC. And how much can you really love someone if you're willing to jump in bed with the first person who wants you? Plus, Angry Todd describes it as "making love" rather than having sex, because she's been such a good friend by listening to him whinge about Jessica for months that they have this powerful emotional connection. Gag.
Bruce and Elizabeth are still on the outs and his life is still falling apart, so he runs away to France (clearly a great move when you're in the throes of proving your innocence in a maybe-rape case). Annie follows him and convinces him to channel the Badass Bruce of Yore. And then he's like, "Hey, I was pretty awesome in high school! And I think the best way to get my mojo back and prove to myself that I'm still a Man with a Capital M is to have sex, right now!" So he (view spoiler)[decides to have sex with his lawyer, who isn't sure she wants to do it, because on the one hand she really wants to get laid right now and Bruce is so charming and sexy, but on the other hand Liz is her best friend and also it's always a bad idea to schtup your clients. (hide spoiler)] We are left hanging with this particular plotline (which also happens to be possibly the sexiest sex scene in the history of Sweet Valley--not that that's saying much since there have only been about four of them, but whatever).
Lila predictably screwed herself over and now she's paying the price. There's really nothing good that can come of (view spoiler)[faking a pregnancy on reality TV to get your husband back after he leaves you for being a manipulative shrew (hide spoiler)], and since this is the Sweet Valleyverse of course it turns out that after (view spoiler)[Ken leaves her for good, Lila discovers she's actually pregnant. (hide spoiler)] Refreshingly, though, Lila does not have sex to solve the problem--at least not in this installment.
Elizabeth still thinks she's a hardcore investigative journalist, so she gets Aaron involved in her scheme to prove Bruce's innocence. (Speaking of Aaron, the Steven/Aaron pairing still makes no damn sense. I will never not be fixated on the fact that Aaron was described in SVC as never liking Jessica, when they dated in Sweet Valley Twins. And now, even though neither he nor Steven ever seemed stereotypically fluttery and fashion-conscious, they live in some house with all designer everything and Aaron can recognize a Missoni scarf at 100 paces. WHERE IS THE CONTINUITY??)
This installment was pretty lackluster. I actually facepalmed at all the revenge sex. I just don't understand why sex is the solution to everything in Sweet Valley these days. Maybe it's because none of them seemed to realize they had genitals for twenty years of high school and now they're excited about using them? Anyway, on to the next one!(less)
The ghostwriter is back! And with it, the continuity! And the relatively believable dialogue!
It has most of the makings of a good Sweet Valley book:
An...moreThe ghostwriter is back! And with it, the continuity! And the relatively believable dialogue!
It has most of the makings of a good Sweet Valley book:
Angry Todd is angry? Check. Meddling Liz is meddling? Check. Despicable Lila is despicable? Check. Sociopathic Jessica is sociopathic? Check. Everyone is lying, manipulating, and acting like they are in high school? Motherflipping check, yo!
The only things missing are Bruce's Porsche and anything that makes Lila likable.
It's hard to decide who is the dumbest person in this series. Elizabeth for (view spoiler)[befriending her boyfriend's maybe rape victim (hide spoiler)] and not telling him? Jessica for (view spoiler)[quitting her job to get Angry Todd back because apparently he lives in the 1950s and expects his woman to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen (hide spoiler)]? Angry Todd for being a complete Neanderthal about having (view spoiler)[a fulfilled wife who juggles work and motherhood (hide spoiler)]? Bruce for (view spoiler)[drunkenly attempting to break into his maybe rape victim's house in the middle of the night (hide spoiler)]? Lila for (view spoiler)[driving Ken away by being a raging bitch and then luring him back by pretending to be pregnant (hide spoiler)]? Or maybe Missy LeGrange for (view spoiler)[being named Missy LeGrange (hide spoiler)]? (That last one wasn't really a spoiler; I just got carried away.)
I think the most upsetting thing about this installment is that Lila is a completely miserable shrew. She has done nothing with her life and the big crowning accomplishment of her adulthood is being on True Housewives of Sweet Valley and apparently everyone is supposed to be proud of her for this. I always had such high hopes for her.
I read Sweet Valley Confidential a while back and it was pretty terrible. And then I found out about the Sweet Life e-serial and for some reason I decided to pay Francine Pascal for her efforts to rape and pillage my childhood memories.
My biggest concern is that Francine Pascal thinks people actually talk like this, in conversations peppered with "like" and "so totally" and, worst of all, "like so totally." I'd be afraid to have a conversation with her, honestly, lest I kick her in the teeth.
Anyway, The Sweet Life is really more of the same as in SVC, with a completely lack of continuity and the sinking feeling that Pascal never actually read a single Sweet Valley book. So "it was ok" is the best I can give this book, but I am like so totally going to read the rest of them because this one was the very definition of brain candy and I like that, sometimes.(less)