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Saturday, April 30, 2011


I learned about Sweet Valley by accident. I was in fifth grade, still living in the province and had just started reading Archie comics borrowed from classmates. I was instantly hooked with the colorful characters and their adventures (and misadventures), that when my father had a scheduled official business trip to Manila coming up, I asked him to buy me Archie comics of my own. A week later, he came back, not empty handed, but with the wrong book.

I was handed this thin, square like paperback with a simple title, Jessica’s Mermaid. I was disappointed for not getting the comic that I wanted, but I didn’t want the book to go to waste. When I saw it was part of a series, #49 of Sweet Valley Kids, I figured I wouldn’t be able to complete it anyway, so I decided to read it first with the intention of giving it away after. I ended up liking it.

I enjoyed Jessica’s Mermaid so much that on his next trip, I asked Pa to buy me more books, and he did. He bought #s 44 to 51. Needless to say, Sweet Valley books quickly filled up my bookshelves over the years.

Pages: 293
Release Date: March 29th 2011
Published by: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Bought
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

Summary (from author's website):

Ten years after graduating from Sweet Valley High, the Wakefield twins have had a falling-out of epic proportions. When Jessica commits a complete and utter betrayal, Elizabeth flees to New York to escape the pain and immerse herself in her lifelong dream of becoming a journalist.

Jessica remains in California, dealing with the fallout of her heart-wrenching choices. She has a career she loves and lots of old friends, but misses her sister, her oldest friend. With Jessica as her enemy, Sweet Valley is no longer the idyllic town of their youth.

Jessica longs for forgiveness, but Elizabeth can't forget her twin's duplicity. She decides the only way to heal her broken heart is to get revenge. Always the "good" twin, Elizabeth is now about to turn the tables....
With that little backgrounder out of the way, I guess you will now understand why I desperately wanted to read this latest book by Francine Pascal. Desperate because, soon as I found out that it won’t be until May that Sweet Valley Confidential will be released in the country, I asked a friend, who was then going to the States for two weeks, to buy the book for me. Isn’t it obvious? I am that excited to read about Elizabeth and Jessica again.

The book has teased about the twins’ lives eleven years after high school. It’s a story about love, careers, betrayal, friendship, and family.

I’m sure, everyone’s just as curious as I am. What has the entire gang been up to after all these years. Wish I could say that the excitement lasted until I finished the book, but I’m sorry to disappoint, I was losing interest fast, that finishing the book was taxing.

The book starts out pretty strongly. The focal point of the book presents itself early on that from the get-go, we are immediately curious about the supposed hurt and betrayal Elizabeth feels from Jessica. But then, the story begins to drag, that even before the root of betrayal is revealed, we have already guessed it.

Elizabeth used to be my favorite twin between the two, and since middle school, I have been rooting for her and Todd to eventually end up together. But in this book, I find it hard to be sympathetic with her. She became too hard, not only to her sister, but also on herself. There were several instances in the book that I wanted to sit her down, look her in the eye, and tell her to snap out of it.

What really got to me was the switching of several pairings. It was like I’m reading the actual book version of TV’s Gossip Girl (coz I know the TV version has strayed away from the original book version’s major plot points. But then again, I digress.)

One thing I also noticed, is it illegal to be happy in Sweet Valley? Almost everyone ran into some bad luck. We all know life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies and roses, but they are all still young, yet, almost everyone has gone through one or more life-changing trials it’s almost unbelievable.

Spoilers: Lila and Ken are married, but going through a divorce. Caroline battled cancer. Steven is married but having trouble with his sexuality. Bruce’s parents are dead. Winston became egotistical once he had money, and then he died. Seriously? Is living in Sweet Valley such a curse?

You would think that after eleven years, most of the characters could have at least matured way beyond their teenage selves. But surprisingly, it was just as if high school was three years ago. Let’s take Lila for example. Growing up rich, it was almost given that she’ll be very enviable. I sort of expected her to somehow change her ways. We know she’ll always be a snob, but eleven years later, couldn’t she have been more a sophisticated snob, and not an annoying little spoiled princess. If Bruce made a total 180 degree, she could at least have made a 45 or a 90.

Now, on to the technical points.

The flashbacks and the sudden change in point of views are quite confusing, though they are relatively helpful. We get a glimpse of the in-between of the past and the present. It’s just that everyone has the opportunity to re-tell his side of the story, dragging the story more.

Minor details tend to be overly described, while feelings and emotions are give a two-paragraph treatment. Even conversations sound forced, as if trying to speak real but is bordering on unbelievable.

Also, adding the words ‘so’ and ‘like’ in every other sentence doesn’t necessarily mean you automatically sound young. Sometimes, it may also translate that a character is dumb and superficial.

This entire write up may sound more like a major complain-fest rather than a review (coz it’s hard to contain myself without giving away too much spoilers), but it’s just that, maybe I had a higher than high expectation from this book, it being my favorite series growing up, that I feel like Lila throwing a tantrum. I didn’t get what I want.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later is not that bad though. There are redeeming factors here and there. It is a relatively good, easy read. Change “Sweet Valley” and the character names, remove the “twin” factor, and of course, the expectations, you have yourself a chick-lit novel you’ll enjoy reading at the beach.

You’ll also find yourself smiling at the obvious attempt to be hip and cool by mentioning Facebook and Twitter. From what I remember, everything was a fictional brand name, fictional malls, fictional everything.

The last few pages of the book was dedicated to giving us readers an idea of what happened with the rest of the gang. Their lives may not be what we expected them to be, but at least, we’re updated. It’s like a high-school reunion epilogue. That was a nice touch.

And let’s talk about the book cover. Isn’t that creative? It certainly adds mystery that you’d really want to pick up the book and read it.

To say that Francine Pascal failed to deliver a book that would live up to everyone’s expectation would be unfair. In her defense, she had a point, as evidenced in this interview. We can’t expect the Sweet Valley gang to remain the same. I guess we were just not prepared for the radical changes they made. There are inconsistencies, but they’re forgivable coz from the start, we are all aware that majority of the Sweet Valley books have been written by ghost writers.

Francine Pascal tried her best to remain current and make Elizabeth and Jessica still relevant, but somehow fell short in creating a more compelling story that would make us want more.

Initially, I wanted to give Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later a 2 out of f stars, but out of sentimental reasons and fierce loyalty, I’m giving it 3 out of 5 instead.

My rating

Content (plot, story flow, character):

Okay: Liked, but The Goddess demands more!

Book Cover:

Yes - The Goddess Approves!


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