Sweet Valley, Ten Years Later [Spoiler Alert]

I'm sure the publishers of the new 10-years-later Sweet Valley High sequel are hoping buyers will recapture the feelings they had reading the original series in the 80's. In my case, this was true. Banned from reading the lurid books at home, I had to resort to hiding the covers under my jacket. And 20 years later, I found myself doing the same thing with Sweet Valley Confidential on the subway. Spoilers ahead!

So. It's ten years later. Elizabeth Wakefield is living in a squalid New York studio working for a small theatre magazine. Identically gorgeous twin Jessica, having stolen Elizabeth's fiance Todd, is still in Sweet Valley. Following The Betrayal, the twins have not spoken.

The book is told primarily from the twins' two perspectives, with occasional confusing flashback sequences and the rare glimpse into the consciousness of Todd Wilkins or Elizabeth's devoted friend Bruce Patman. When it's Jessica talking, the text is liberally larded with retro valley-girl speak.

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It's like unfair to have to compare yourself to someone so perfect and always come in second. Outside of twins that just doesn't happen. I so truly hate being in second place all the time.

(Elizabeth talks like a normal adult.)

Despite the rampant teen-speak, the 27-year-old residents of Sweet Valley have the lives of adults beyond their years. Most are married. Several are divorced. One is a "cancer survivor." Yet another, a "serious doctor."

Without wishing to give away the fates of too many of your favorites, I'll just reveal that, yes, there is sex. Someone cries after orgasms. There is a reference to Barnum. Someone comes out of the closet. And, naturally, someone else dies. It's rather lurid, of course — but also boring. And that's bittersweet, because if there's one thing Sweet Valley never was, it was dull. Reading it, you're left wondering about the intended audience: it's too racy for kids, but most fans returning to the book are likely to wonder whether they've just gotten jaded — or whether, just maybe, it's the Wakefields.