Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Report: Sweet Valley Confidential

As I mentioned last week, I have started my very own Cyber Book Club. (as of now, I am the only active member...that's still a club, right?)  While this was no Girl with Dragon Tattoo Triology - Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later has provided me with ample material for a book report.

"If Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later is how being 27 is supposed to be, then I must have done it wrong." or "Francine Pascal is to Surface Level Understanding of and Awkward References to Modern Day Technology as Stieg Larsson is to Violence and Sandwiches."
A Book Report By HauteMess.

As a brunette, nerdy pre-teen growing up in small town Indiana, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield were like my teen idols.  Blonde hair, ocean blue eyes, slim figures, popular, and living by the beach? Yep.  Sign me up - THAT is the life I wanted. It seemed totes logical that identical twins could be so hilariously different: sweet, kind Elizabeth and manipulative, shallow Jessica.  Even though they were so different, they loved each other dearly.  Of course they had loving boyfriends, zippy cars, and were president/captain of every club and team they joined.  Weren't we all?  It all seemed very logical as an 11 year old in 1993.

Now, as a 28 year old in 2011, reading Francine Pascal's take on the life of a single twenty-something is HILARIOUS!   Before the book even begins, Francine Pascal personally thanks Justin Timberlake and T.I. - so I knew I was going to be in for a real treat.

Sweet Valley Confidential feels like a book written by my grandmother based on what she thinks life is like at 27.   Random references clunkily dropped in as if to say, "No, really! I'm hip; I'm cool.  I heard of twitter once."  

It is, perhaps, most obvious that Francine Pascal has no idea what being a young woman in 2011 is like when we find out that Elizabeth has a LANDLINE...and ANSWERING MACHINE....in New York City, where she drinks her wine with ice.  
 Todd: Did you leave a message? (note: he means a message on her answering machine)
 Jessica: I always leave messages...I text, I e-mail, I everything.  It's hopeless...."
 Todd: "What about Facebook?""
 Jessica: "She ignores me.  She'll never let me be a friend. She doesn't even answer."
I believe she meant to say something like, "She won't even accept my friend request."  or "She blocked me." It sounded so awkward and out of touch that she might as well have referenced MySpace.  Also, in case you didn't know, having both a Facebook and Twitter account is apparently the secret to Jessica's work success.   That, and the fact that she is surrounded by morons. 

While determining the marketing strategy for a facial bronzer, the VP of the BEAUTY company is just befuddled at how to market a product that bronzes very well but doesn't wash off for days.  He was so worried about this conundrum that he consulted his muse, Jessica Wakefield.  
VP of Beauty Company: It is [great]. Until you want to take it off.
Jessica: Why would you want to take it off?
VP: A question I never asked.  You're brilliant!
No, she isn't brilliant.  She has just read a magazine in the last 12 years.  It's called Sunless Tanner, Jackass.  To reward/seduce Jessica, her VP offers to take her next door for a GLASS of champagne.  Wow! Big Spender...a whole glass?  Gee, thanks.  But if you want to impress ME with your success as the Vice President of a successful company with offices all over the United States....I expect more than a glass of Andre. 

Everything the Wakefields Know About Sex, They Learned From Church...or Nicholas Sparks.

The best line of the entire book is dropped on page 7 with a gentle backdrop of Beyonce and Justin Timberlake: "She cried after every orgasm. How embarrassing."  How embarrassingly awkward indeed.   Even if you can get past phrases like, "we make love with an other worldly passion that is so powerful..." it is still uncomfortable to read.

My favorite part is Francine's dip into homosexuality...she likens it to a communicable disease, contagious upon contact.  The twins' older brother Steven, although once a massive womanizer, is now gay.  I would LOVE this plot line...if Francine had ever spoken to a gay man in her life. OR even if she had watched an episode of Will & Grace.   Instead, Steven Wakefield had several "loves of his life" of the female persuasion...and bedded many women in his prime.  He never had an inkling that he may be attracted to men...  However, upon meeting his first gay friend, he immediately wants to bury his bone deep in the glory hole, leaving his Betty Crocker wife behind. 

I mean, of course!  That is how all gay men come out, right? Boy meets girl.  Boy loves girl.  Boy marries girl. Boy loves cheating on his wife with other girls.  UNTIL... Boy meets Gay.  Boy becomes gay. Boyz live happily ever after, pending state legislation on gay marriage. (Yes, there is a gratuitous reference to Prop 8 on Page 292) The end.

And finally, the story is equal parts poorly written and semi-incestuous.
"I see a familiar figure about a hundred feet away.  It's a body I would know anywhere, even from the back: broad shoulders, neat waist, good legs.  So many men have spindly legs, but not him.  And they're in great shape and not too hairy.  In fact, he's an absolute hunk, EVEN IF HE IS MY BROTHER."
I mean, I can admit that my brother is attractive - but that comes more from the years my friends spent fighting over who had dibs on him and witnessing the broken hearts he left trailing behind him.  Not because I have EVER examined his body closely enough to talk about his legs with any level of detail.   When I first read the sentence above, I laughed out loud...then vom'd in my mouth a little bit.

The climax of the book is as uneventful as I have ever seen.  252 pages of anger and hatred building up in the chest of one betrayed sister...was magically resolved in two too-intimate-for-comfort sentences: 
Jessica: "Please, just let me hold you once before I go.  I know I can't have your forgiveness, but just let me feel one more time the other part of me that I can never have again."

The sight of her sister, her face torn with the love and need, and Elizabeth's own longing defeated her resolve.  Was any man worth losing this most precious thing in her life?
The way the twins go on and on about holding each other and longing for each others' touch makes me just plain uncomfortable.  It is laughable to believe that the heartbreak from the abrupt dissolution of an 11 year relationship could be healed in 8 months and one hug.  If my fictional twin sister ever slept with my fictional boyfriend AND then let me continue that relationship for 5 more years, including when I became engaged to marry him, before sneaking her slutty tongue back in his mouth - I wouldn't long to HOLD her.  I would KILL her.

Although I usually hate when women only place blame on other women - allowing men carte blanche when it comes to infidelity,  I just couldn't kill Todd Wilkins.  Todd is about as interesting as toast and as deep as a puddle.  Killing him would be like killing a retarded gerbil...pointless.  But that bitch Jessica would have it coming...

And my parents sure as shit wouldn't pay for the traitors' wedding a mere 8 months after they destroyed my life.   Not to mention that their love was about as believable as the JFK single shooter theory.

Overall, this contrived and out of touch story is a perfect read for any major Sweet Valley Fan who has recently suffered a head injury.  It is funny in all the places it was supposed to be serious, and sad in all the places it was meant to be relevant.  If nothing else, I recommend you read it so that we may all commiserate with each other on Francine Pascal's obsession with women in silk blouses and inability to keep dates straight from one page to another.

14 comments:

  1. thanks for saving me money hahaha your reviews are hilarious!

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  2. That is some of the most cringe-worthy dialogue I've ever read, and I read The Fountainhead in high school.

    The most recent Sweet Valley series I read was in high school, and I don't think it was even written by Francine Pascal, which probably explains why it was relatively awesome. Elizabeth runs off to London after catching Jessica with her boyfriend (duh) and then meets a prince or something. It made sense when I was 15.

    Also, was Todd ever not the most boring character ever?

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  3. Ah I never ever planned on the remote possibility of reading or even purchasing this book, but after reading this- I feel like I need to stand in Borders or B&N (RIP) and convince people to avoid this book haha but great review. I'm sure your review was 1000 times more fascinating than the actual book!

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  4. Man, that sucks! I was sort of hoping it'd be a good book. Thanks for saving me the time and money!

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  5. Glad to do you a favor! however, if you are ever in the mood for a laugh - there are some "serious" parts of that book that could be good for a chuckle. :)

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  6. Thanks, love! I hope Francine forgives me for my harsh words - but some people just shouldn't come out of retirement!

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  7. I would rather gouge my eyes out than marry Todd Wilkinson, fo sho! It is just unfathomable that not one, but TWO Wakefield sisters could picture spending their lives with him.

    Unfortunately, I think that Francine forgot that her 11-15 year old audience would be a tad more sophisticated these days. Poor, old woman!

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  8. Thank you, dear! I am happy to oblige. I have a free copy of the book if you ever change your mind. :)

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  9. hahah this is great! I can't believe you even read it... I used to love the original series, and even read the series when they were in college (which was awful, but i ate it up because i was like 14 and enjoyed the tacky sex scenes) you pulled the perfect exerpts to make me laugh out loud while at work.
    PS....your line about stieg larsson and sandwiches was freaking hilarious - when my husband read the trilogy he said every time he picked up the book he had a damn craving for a sandwich.
    Love your stuff.

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  10. Hehe - The Swedes love their sandwiches! I never read the Sweet Valley University books...but I would love to read those sex scenes again today...just for funsies! :)

    Thanks for the compliment!

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  11. Thank you for your sacrifices in actually suffering through this book! When I saw the cover, I was like, oh my gosh, I have to read this. After stiffling laughter at work while reading this, I think I'm good to go.

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  12. Dude, I'm kind of bummed to hear it sucks!
    I was so so so SO not allowed to read SVH but love the idea of a "ten years later" kind of thing! ;)

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  13. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it! :) I mean, while it was no War & Peace, I did enjoy writing this book report. Glad to make you laugh!

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  14. Your parents simply shielded you from a poorly written series grounded in a 50 year old woman's dream world. Trust! R.L. Stine's Fear Street was more realistic than Sweet Valley. ;) Speaking of....I would like to see a Fear Street 10 years later!!!

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