Originally Ariel and I were talking about just skipping ahead to the batshit insane Sweet Valley High novels (and there are some choice ones, let me just say!). I imagine we’ll be coming back to those eventually, all out of order and with a complete lack of respect to continuity. But we could not resist the ten years later sequel with the Wakefield twins as adults, which even the fans hate. That’s our friggin’ bread and butter!
Chapter 2: Sweet Valley
Jessica’s been trying desperately to get in touch with Elizabeth! Also, don’t forget that this book takes place in the 2000s now.
“It’s hopeless. She’s never going to answer.”
“What about Facebook?”
“She ignores me. She’ll never let me be a friend.”
Somehow that’s so much sadder than the book probably means it to be.
But wait, who is this mysterious person that Jessica is talking to?
“She’s never going to answer you, either, is she?”
Todd shook his head. “I don’t know.”
TODD, AS IN ELIZABETH’S HIGH SCHOOL BOYFRIEND TODD?
Oh shit! How did this happen? Let’s start diving into this mystery! What’s happened to Todd in the last decade?
Yes, he was the same boy, yet in many other important ways he was quite different.
…ok, I’m just gonna summarize this section, if that’s cool with all of you.
We learn that Todd, the former high school football team’s quarterback, is now a sports writer beginning to get “regularly picked up on the wire and sometimes [run] in up to ten other papers”, because I guess this book takes place in a version of the 2000s where the newspaper industry isn’t collapsing. We also learn that Todd is considering leaving Sweet Valley, but Jessica “isn’t ready yet”, even though “everyone hates us [and] we have no best friends anymore”. But also they they know that what they did “was a terrible betrayal”, and that it’s been eight months since Elizabeth last spoke to them.
Also, Sweet Valley Confidential is still summarizing the first Sweet Valley High book for some reason.
When [Todd] thought Elizabeth had gone out with bad boy Rick Andover, he asked Jessica [to the dance] instead. He remembered thinking, Well, they are identical twins…
But he soon realized his mistake.
So this is a pretty good time to point something out. The writing in this book is really bad. You might have already picked up on this, but seriously. It’s somehow both incredibly overwritten and underwritten, so there’s a lot of prose, and a lot of it doesn’t even manage to say anything.
the idea that a stranger, a girl at that, would become part of his life was probably the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him.
What does that even mean? As opposed to what? Strangers becoming part of your life is what life is. And I don’t mean that in a zen “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet” way. I mean the way this is worded, the only way Todd’s revelation (?) isn’t applicable is if you know literally zero people.
We then receive our most explicit revelation yet about what’s happened between Elizabeth and Jessica thus far:
“Elizabeth’s going to find someone she really loves the way I love you, and then she’ll know she and I weren’t right together.”
“And then she’ll say, ‘So really Jessica helped me by sleeping with the man I thought I loved but didn’t. How lucky I am to have such a wonderful sister.’”
OH MY GOODNESS! After a dramatic twist like that, I guess it’s time for… wait, more summary of the first fucking Sweet Valley High novel?
Just like when I do her another great favor way back when we’re sixteen and Todd calls for the first time and asks for her. […] Just like when I do her another great favor way back when we’re sixteen and Todd calls for the first time and asks for her.
As you can see, this time the summary/insanely ungrammatical sentence/reminder that they’re twins is in first person! Therefore it’s totally worth sitting through, what, our third summary of Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love?
As you can probably guess, no, it’s not.
I always have to spend a lot of time planning, which might look like manipulation, but I can’t leave anything to chance.
It’s really weird how this sequel doesn’t really capture the silly, soapy spirit of Sweet Valley High so much as it captures the psychological and investigative spirit of, say, Serial.
Aside from that, the first-person rewrite of the first book doesn’t really add anything, since that book was already written in third-person limited from each of the twins’ perspectives anyway. We… kind of already knew that Jessica is scheming? And that she’s aware of that? But whatever. This time around we get to read it with weirdly miswritten prose.
It’s like unfair to have to compare yourself constantly to someone so perfect
Seriously, how is this book so badly written?
After her flashback (?), we finally get a hint of how one of these characters might have grown over the years:
Just thinking back about those early days and the awful things she did to Elizabeth made Jessica squirm.
Eventually they rally the strength to go to their friends’ party. Which is really exciting because it’s time to learn what happened to ALL THE MINOR CHARACTERS!
- The party is thrown by Lila and Ken, who are married, but getting divorced, but still live together, because – as the book helpfully informs us – “some people are like that”. Thanks, Francine Pascal’s prose.
- Lila, who was Jessica’s gossipy BFF, is “no different than she had been in high school” and “had never really changed, never grown” and “drop[ped] out of college in her third year”. Oh, and briefly tried to have a modeling career but gave up when it didn’t “immediately” work out. Somehow Sweet Valley Confidential is already the most depressing book we’ve ever read on this blog.
- Ken is an NFL star. I don’t remember who Ken was, but I feel like I have everything I need to know somehow.
- Remember Enid, Elizabeth’s BFF and Jessica’s nemesis? Who had a secret drug-filled past and was a recovered alcoholic? Apparently now she’s dating one of Jessica’s ex-boyfriends from high school, and is exactly the sort of person you would expect Jessica to have dated in high school. This is described as “not the best thing for Enid’s image as a serious doctor”, which checks out.
- Caroline, “a person she had known since kindergarten and never liked”, which is a fucking awesome sentence, is still an awful gossip.
Caroline almost immediately tries to tease out some good gossip from Jessica about Elizabeth. Jessica isn’t taking any of her shit. Like, at all.
“I’ve known you for over twenty years,” Jessica said in a very soft voice that belied the words, “and like most people in Sweet Valley, I don’t like you. You’re malicious and you never mean any good. Most people are too afraid of your vicious tongue to tell you, but I’m not. Not anymore.” […]
Then Jessica turned on Lila. “Why did you invite me when you knew this pig was going to be here? For entertainment? Thanks, best friend. Let’s go, Todd.”
I think a drinking game where you drink every time someone in this book says “best friend” or “twin” with contempt might actually kill you.