April 8th, 2011 / 2:00 pm

Oh, Sweet Valley Confidential!

I have an intense attachment to the books I loved as a child and teenager. I think we all do. As you might imagine, when I learned there would be a new addition go the Sweet Valley High canon, I clutched my pearls and lost my shit. I started reading Sweet Valley Confidential when it downloaded to my Kindle at 2:30 in the morning on the day it was released. Ten years have passed since we last encountered our heroines, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Everything has changed and yet, truly, nothing has changed in Sweet Valley, California.  Almost every woman I know who is my age or thereabouts is reading this book right now and it has little to do with the book itself (terribly, terribly written) or the plot (horribly contrived and outlandish). It’s about remembering how much we loved the original series, and following the lives of The Twins, who were perfect, All-American girls we either loved or loved to hate.  I have every reason in the world to hate everything about these books but I don’t. I love them, unabashedly and I will admit that I love this reboot, too. The drama! The scandal! Knowing where they are now!

In the original series, nearly every book began with a breathless description of The Twins and their blonde perfection. It did my heart good to see that SVC has not strayed too far from the path:

Like the twins of that poem, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield appeared interchangeable, if you considered only their faces.

And what faces they were.

Gorgeous. Absolutely amazing. The kind you couldn’t stop looking at. Their eyes were shades of aqua that danced in the light like shards of precious stones, oval and fringed with thick, light brown lashes long enough to cast a shadow on their cheeks. Their silky blond hair, the cascading kind, fell just below their shoulders. And to complete the perfection, their rosy lips looked as if they were penciled on. There wasn’t a thing wrong with their figures, either. It was as if billions of possibilities all fell together perfectly.


Who else is reading this? Fess up!

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  1. erica barmash

      do they still wear their lavalieres?

      I can’t decide if I want to read it. I hated them as much as I loved them as a kid–I’ve always had a low tolerance for conflict that could be resolved in five minutes if the characters just had a conversation. But I can’t deny how much they affected me. How many women in their late 20s/early 30s didn’t try cocaine because of Regina Morrow?

  2. AmyWhipple
  3. Roxane

      OMG I learned the word “lavalier” from SVH. I *think* they make an appearance. Intellectually I know how horrendous everything about SVH is but my god, the books affected me profoundly. Read it. You will laugh your ass OFF. Like, right off.

  4. Roxane

      I will read your blog post later. This is fantastic.

  5. Molly Laich

      from page 2 on amazon preview:
      Like that embarrassing time a month ago on Broadway, when the fury escaped her mind into her mouth and she said, out loud, really loudly, “I hate you!”

      that might just be genuinely good writing; not sure. buying this book is a terrible idea that I might indulge anyway. I loved the books as a child very much, but I always knew I was bad. I was always Jessica.

  6. Jam Jemc

      It’s sad that I get Francine Pascal and Francine Prose mixed up, right?

      Also: William Gass and William Gaddis.

      Also: Sometimes I have to check myself before I say Barth, Barthes or Barthelme.

      Also: I will myself not to accidentally say Neil Diamond when I mean Neil Young, and the anxiety about this, because Neil Young has been one of my favorite musicians for a real long time, causes me to say “Neil Diamond” about 45% of the time.

      Also: I still don’t know who is in The Illusionist and who is in Prestige, but that doesn’t matter.

  7. Roxane

      I have always been and remain firmly on TEAM JESSICA 4EVA.

  8. Roxane

      I mix these things up too, especially Pascal and Prose which I’m sure would scandalize Prose. Alas.

  9. Mike Meginnis

      If it went for the full porn (doesn’t look like it’s that far off now) I would totally read it.

  10. Roxane

      There wasn’t nearly enough sex. I kept thinking, “We’re adults now! Go there!”

  11. Mike Meginnis

      Looks like it’s time for some fanfiction.

  12. Sara Habein

      I think I’m getting enough satisfaction just by reading all the reviews posted.

  13. lauren

      OMG–I reserve the use of such an expression simply based on the subject of this posting. I am hating my library for refusing to inter-library loan me a copy of this(! too new!) So I’mgoing to have to go buy it. It’s worth it for nostalgia anyways.

      >Lavalier- tried to use that in a poem in 7th grade english class and my teacher told me it was a word she did not know. I was embarrassed to admit where I learned it!

      >Hosting a reading tonight at aforementioned library to honor national poetry month, where we read our own work as well as a piece or two that have been significant to us from other poets. My choice? An abbreviated version of Byron’s “When we two parted” that Elizabeth claimed to love! It was the first poem (or, as I later learned, partial poem) that I ever memorized, and recited on the phone to “the love of my life” when I was 13…oh those days. Thought some people at the reading might get a kick out of that…

      Thanks for having a place to geek out and admit my girliness…I have a feeling I won’t be able to hold back from having serious nostalgia when the Secret Circle trilogy becomes a CW series, either. That’s a whole new issue, though…

  14. Dawn.

      OMG yes. I used to be all about Sweet Valley High and The Babysitter’s Club. They’re like the literary equivalent of cotton candy. Definitely getting a copy of this reboot from my library. Honestly, I wish they would do a new Babysitter’s Club movie. Actually, did anyone ever make a Sweet Valley High movie? If not, that needs to happen.

  15. Lavalier! « La La La La La blog & website

      […] Just out, amazing! If you were a girl who read these books then it is where you learned the word “lavalier”! Yes! And after the first 100 pages of Vollmann’s RISING UP AND RISING DOWN – the timing! Here is a bit of Roxane Gay’s blog on the matter (read her delightful entry * h e r e *): […]

  16. smfaulkner

      I was never into this series, but damn was I into V.C. Andrews and Christopher Pike. 15 years later and they still hold all their contrived charm. Recently, my sister purchased Pike’s “Whisper of Death” off eBay for nostalgia’s sake. I re-read that gem in maybe 3 hours, loving its campy horror and the depiction of teen sex (“better than ice cream”). And I often dream of adapting Andrews’ “Petals on the Wind” for a truly spectacular NBC miniseries.

  17. victoria trott

      reading a colleen mccullough novel… does that count?

      might skip straight to book porn, but not sure where to get it

  18. Amy McDaniel

      so with you. it annoyed me a little that this was elizabeth’s book more. part of me was hoping by the end not everything would be resolved as much so that there would be more room for a sequel. i was also annoyed that jessica’s boyfriend sam was written out of the backstory. but of course i totally ate it up. nothing has changed. despite the fucks it is the same degree of racy, really, and despite all its attempts it is no more with it than before, which is so charming. i think my favorite was where it says “[Regina] went to that party with the drugs, tried some cocaine, and it killed her.” That party with the drugs.

      Roxane, in re your reading list post the other day, have you read The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe? I think you would like it.

  19. jenandthepen

      […] finds it “terribly, terribly written” and “horribly contrived,” Roxane Gay loves […]

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