Captain Obvious here: This posting contains major spoilers. Do not read any further if you don’t want to know what happens!Holy shit.
I don’t even know where to start. Um, I guess with the plot will do, and then we’ll go ahead and tear this apart. Because I’m sorry, but I almost hated this. And I really, really didn’t want to. I was expecting it to be cheesy, and it was, and I was sure Francine would probably choose some paths for the characters that surprised or annoyed me/us, and she sure did. But I was surprised by just how … bad … it was. Aggravating me further is that some characters you’d expect to be in the books, or at least mentioned, were not there at all – not even mentioned in passing. On top of that, the continuity errors were so terrible that I’m honestly thinking Francine put them in there on purpose to fuck with us. Like, “Ha ha! You think the original books had a lot of errors, now check this out, bitches!” I was looking forward to expanded character development, seeing a more mature side of the twins and their friends, and at first I thought I was getting that. But as the book went on, it was clear I was mistaken. So yeah, I’m very disappointed, but don’t think for a minute that I won’t have fun blasting it to smithereens.
The book is laid out with alternating chapters: one chapter Liz in New York, one chapter Jessica in Sweet Valley. Each chapter is told in third person, past-tense. But there are plenty of flashbacks, some of which come on rather suddenly, and all of those are told through the first person, present-tense voice of the twins, Todd, Steven, and Bruce, and probably more people, if I gave enough of a shit to go check. The vast majority of the plot revolves around the current drama between the twins, which is so like many past dramas that it’s hard to believe they are supposed to be permanently torn apart over it, but okay. We’re used to plots being recycled, we can dig it, right? Now the book reveals, very slowly, what has been going on over the years since Sweet Valley University and the Elizabeth series, and it’s supposed to be suspenseful, but for me it’s rather annoying. So I’m just going to lay out all of these past events for you first and then we’ll get into what’s going on in the present day.
The past: It starts with flashbacks to when Liz and Jess were in high school, and the events of Double Love. Elizabeth gives Jessica and Enid rides to school in the Fiat; Enid and Jessica make snippy remarks at each other. Jessica implies Todd called to wish her luck with pledging PBA, and that she’s going out with him that night (when she’s really going out with Rick Andover). She then jumps out of the Fiat and hitches a ride the rest of the way with Bruce Patman in 1BRUCE1. Bruce pisses her off by only wanting to talk about who Liz is taking to the big Phi Epsilon dance. These events sorta kinda fit what actually happened (in both the original and the 2008 versions of Double Love), although it’s been squeezed into one neat scene taking place on one day, rather than spaced out over a couple of days the way it was in DL. Also, there’s no scene in DL where Jess gets mad at Bruce for only wanting to talk about Liz, unless I missed it. In DL, it’s never shown what Bruce talked to Jess about during their car ride, so we could say we just weren’t privy to it until now.
College days are next. Jessica and Liz roomed together in their sophomore year. There is no mention of the events of the Elizabeth series, when Liz fled to London to become a scullery maid after another Jessica betrayal. Liz and Todd start dating again sometime when Liz is 20, and become very serious, and Liz is faithful to him (yeah fucking right). Senior year, the twins live off-campus on the top floor of an old house that once housed SVU faculty. Todd is a basketball star and big man on campus and has recently pulled off a huge upset over UCLA for the state championship. His friend Jim Regis is throwing a huge party featuring Todd as the guest of honor, but Todd doesn’t really want to go and especially not by himself, so he has an easy out when Liz comes down with the flu. Knowing how important it is that Todd be there, Liz gets Jessica to accompany him because I guess Todd would have more incentive to go if he brings someone he hates. The fuck? It’s really not a good sign when the book starts confusing me this early.
Todd and Jess, who’s clad in clothes borrowed from Liz (typical), arrive and meet Jim and his girlfriend, Lianne Kane, who also went to Sweet Valley High (after the twins were there). Is there anyone at Sweet Valley U. who did not also go to Sweet Valley High? I’m just curious. I think SVU only exists to make it easier for kids to avoid escaping the Sweet Valley bubble. It’s a conspiracy. At the party, Jessica is introduced to a guy named Hank as Liz, and Todd goes along with the joke rather than let Jess correct him. The two of them spend the whole night winking at each other as Jessica pretends to be her sister. The game turns them on for some reason and on the way back home, they make out in Todd’s car and head back to his apartment to bang each others’ brains out. Todd lives with Winston in a downtown Sweet Valley rented room, but Winston is away for the weekend. Surprise! Win comes home early and sees Todd and who he assumes is Liz rolling around in bed. They have no clue he saw them. They start a one-month affair in which they meet in a diner that no one ever goes to called Shirley’s. There is no further physical contact; they’ve just fallen in love and want to talk in private every day.
Consumed by guilt, Jessica finally ends the affair, telling Todd she hates him only so he won’t try to pursue her further. Todd tells her the same and he stays with Liz. But Liz comes close to finding out when the twins run into Todd and Winston in the on-campus bookstore. Winston makes a sly joke about catching Todd and Liz together that weekend of Jim Regis’s party. Liz doesn’t hear what’s going on because she’s busy with books, and Jess and Todd quickly make cover-up excuses. Winston realizes that it was in fact Jessica he saw and is weirded out. Todd can’t bear to keep a friendship going with someone who knows that he’s the type of jackass who cheats but has to keep the secret for him, so he moves out that very day and ends the friendship. Wow, that’s final. Liz understands that they had some kind of weird falling-out that Todd doesn’t want to discuss and is content to leave it at that. That is um, very unlike her. The book does say that she asked Todd several times but then let it drop which again is not like her. The Liz we know would’ve pitched a fit when he didn’t tell her and they would’ve had a mini-breakup over it. Maybe she really HAS grown up?
Everyone graduates from college; Jessica takes off for L.A. and goes through a series of public assistant jobs. Todd and Liz stay together, become writers for the Sweet Valley News (Todd as a sports writer … since when did he write?) and eventually move into a house in the Sweet Valley Heights development where everyone and their brother also lives. No literally … I think Steven and Cara, who are now married (poor Cara), also live there. Everyone else’s siblings have long since vanished into the black pit of forgotten Sweet Valley siblings. Steven is a successful lawyer (color me surprised) and he “works long hours” but everyone, including Cara, knows he’s cheating on her. They just don’t know with whom. Cara deals with her pain by baking cakes and pies all day long (but don’t worry, Francine is sure to clarify that she hasn’t gained any weight).
Bruce Patman’s parents get in a car accident around the time of graduation, and Mrs. Patman is killed instantly. Mr. Patman is a coma and taken off life support after a brief period of time. Liz of course shows up to the fucking hospital and (literally) holds Bruce’s hand through it all. He falls in love with her immediately for some reason. His parents’ death changes him so instead of trying to steal her away from Todd, he stays content with being Liz’s newest best friend while thinking about how “extraordinary” she is. If that makes you want to vomit, welllllll, so will the rest of the book! That’s right, it’s 291 pages of various people thinking about how perfect Liz is, including Jessica, who blames a lot of her insecurity and bitchy actions on the fact that Liz is so incredible. She even thinks Liz, her identical twin, is prettier than her. Normally that would be cause for eye-rolling and a “That’s so Jessica!” but here the humor fails to creep through. In fact, I think I first began to feel nauseous right around the time Jessica made this admission.
Jessica meets and marries (after a mere two months of dating) her second husband (after her first marriage to Mike McAllery her freshman year, which she had annulled) – a filthy rich, devastatingly handsome older man named Regan Wollman. (Jessica once dated someone in HS named Chuck Wollman. Even in this book, the name redundancy lives on!) Regan is 42, obsessed with his young wife, and hates all the clubbing and flirting she does. He reacts badly after catching her flirting at a party, twisting her arm but later apologizing. Then he throws another fit after Jessica sunbathes topless for hours at the bow of their boat in front of the captain. So now after a mere six months of marriage, Jessica realizes she doesn’t love Regan and is scared of him. She’s also gotten bored with, you know, traveling all around the world and sailing on a yacht and having whatever she wants at the drop of a dime. I thought she wanted to live like Lila. Now she is and we hear that she hates it. What the hell is going on? After the couple move to Cannes, Jessica packs a bag and tries to get their driver to drop her off at the airport, but Regan appears and insists they go shopping for new shoes as part of his apology for the boat captain thing. For the moment, Jessica’s plans are dashed. Later on, Jessica succeeds in making a narrow escape in a taxi. She flies to Geneva and then to the U.S., where she moves in with Liz and Todd.
Todd works at home so the jobless Jess is stuck in the awkward position of avoiding him all day. By now Todd and Liz have been together for nearly 7 years and living together for two, and the closest they’ve ever come to breaking up is when Todd grew distant after he slept with Jessica. Now the sexual tension is killing Jessica and Todd. They love each other, you see, but both of them pretend to hate each other. Liz still has no clue and Winston’s never let the secret slip. Winston, by the way, has earned a lot of money from a dot-com venture with Bruce Patman and become a total douchebag who dates gorgeous women and treats them like shit. So we’re supposed to hate him, and that’s a little hard to swallow (especially since he hasn’t shown up in the book since that awkward college bookstore scene).
Jessica is taking a walk on the beach by herself to sort out her feelings when she runs into her brother Steven making out with Aaron Dallas. The hell? Now we know who Steven’s been cheating on Cara with. Steven is upset that he’s been caught by the imperfect twin. No, really, he is. I seriously feel like everyone in this book worships Liz and looks down on Jess. I don’t think it’s just her imagination, it’s the way it really is. Well, it is true that Jess is the one who runs her yap all the time so okay, I do get it! Jessica assures Steven and Aaron that she won’t tell anyone, then decides that the best thing is go straight to Cara and tell her. As you might guess, this infuriates Steven, even though he probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to come out if it weren’t for Jessica spilling it. The marriage ends and Steven and Aaron are forced to bring their 2-month-long affair into the open. They are serious enough that they consider themselves life partners and plan to marry when California laws change. I’ll be damned if Steven realizing he’s gay (or bi? because it reads more like that, honestly) isn’t the most interesting thing that boy has ever done, in the entire history of Sweet Valley.
Bruce takes Liz out to dinner with the intention of telling her he loves her and that he’s known about Jessica and Todd for a long time. (He caught them eating at the diner one time. So? That doesn’t prove anything.) He couldn’t bear the thought of hurting her with the news previously. But now he thinks that, five years after the fact, it’s time to spill all because Liz and Todd are engaged and looking to set a date. But before Bruce can get it out, Ken Matthews runs up bawling that Winston’s dead. Yep. It turns out that Winston drunkenly fell 20 feet from a balcony in his house onto a marble floor. This comes after almost no mentions of him otherwise, except for being the near-foible to the early stages of Jessica and Todd’s love.
It’s at this point that I started to hate this book.
While Liz rushes home, Steven shows up at their house and bitches out Jessica for telling Cara and ruining his marriage. Jessica is left behind to cry in Todd’s arms. They start kissing and are about to rip each other’s clothes off when Liz arrives home with Bruce and catches them. She thinks they’re crying over Winston while Jessica thinks the truth is finally out. Instead, Liz mentions Winston has died, and Jessica plays along because it’s a very convenient excuse for why she’s in Todd’s arms. The funeral is depressing and even though Winston has annoyed me at times while reading the original SVH series, I do think such a major character deserved a better send-off than that. (He also deserved his own cover art, but that’s another matter.) I have to say I’m pretty depressed that his character was assassinated (in more ways than one!). In fact, this whole book is pretty much bringing me down.
Our very last flashback explains how Liz finally does find out the truth about her cheating, lying boyfriend. I had assumed she would catch them kissing or that Bruce would tell her, but instead, she comes home to find Regan and Todd having a good old fashioned fist-fight in the living room. That’s right, Regan has caught up with Jessica. And the second he looked at her and Todd standing together in the living room, he knew what was up and gave up on trying to win her back. Are Todd and Jess really giving each other the sexy eyes enough that people can just glance at them and know? Liz breaks up the fight, and Regan tells her it’s obvious that Jessica and Todd have something going on before he storms out of the house. Liz looks at J and T, sees it’s true, throws some lame profanity-laced insults at them that sound like they came from a 9-year-old, and leaves for good. Jessica and Todd are free to admit their love for one another, but they’re also wracked with guilt! Wah wah.
The present: For the past eight months, Liz has been in New York City, where she writes for a little off-Broadway review publication called Show Survey. She was somehow able to get an apartment and a job within days of fleeing Sweet Valley and her traitorous sister and former fiance. Jessica has been trying to get Liz to forgive her ever since, but Liz ignores all of her text messages, emails, landline phone messages (left on an answering machine, hah), and Facebook friend requests. Liz hasn’t made any friends in the city whatsoever, although she did sleep with a guy named Russ Klein for two months before he got tired of her bawling after every orgasm. Now her boss, David Stephenson, is interested in her. Although Liz considers bedding him after they go out to dinner, spur-of-the-moment (where she is pissed at having to pay the tip – get over it, it’s not a date), she ultimately decides not to go for it. Hence we have the scene from Chapter 1 preview, which has been edited only slightly.
In the meantime, Jessica and Todd have moved into a two-bedroom townhouse together, which Alice helped them decorate, and are in love and planning to marry in four weeks. Liz refuses to come to the wedding, which is understandable. Jessica has a very successful marketing position with a stupid company called MYFACEISGREEN (is that supposed to be like the real-life brand KISS MY FACE) that markets green products to large cosmetic companies. Todd still writes for the News. Jessica and Todd spend a lot of their time feeling weighted down with guilt and it makes for a miserable existence. Todd has to drag Jessica to a party at Lila’s house, which she shares with her estranged husband, Ken Matthews. That’s right, Lila and Ken. What … the … fuck? I know they were together for SVH books 2 and 3, but Ken seems too … dumb jock for Lila. I guess it doesn’t hurt that he’s a famous NFL player now. He and Lila are working on a divorce after more than a whopping two years of marriage, and Lila sleeps around on him I think, but Ken loves her enough that he doesn’t care, or something. I don’t know. Lila has a small boob job and doesn’t do anything other than be a trophy wife. Great, just great. Love that this is the life Francine has chosen for her.
The party at Lila’s is about as dull as every other party these kids have ever attended. The only people there are Sweet Valley people, all of whom still live in Sweet Valley. What the hell happened to all those friends they made in college? Enid Rollins is a gynecologist who is “arrogant”. She is secretly sleeping with A.J. Morgan, whose description as the “bad boy” of SVH completely baffles me, but I’ll have to talk more about that later because my brain will fall apart otherwise. Enid is hiding her relationship with A.J. for some reason that will be revealed later. I kind of don’t care. Jeffrey French – gasp! he’s alive! – is also at the party with his wife (remember that point) and he’s a dentist. Robin Wilson and her husband Dan Kane, who works with Steven, are there. Robin is a caterer and food critic who’s only put on a few pounds since high school. And lastly, stupid Caroline Pearce. She’s a real estate broker who writes her own gossip blog (read by whom? the ten people it’s about?) and recently survived cancer. She’s even more annoying than she was in SVH – for real – and according to Jessica, has a “big ugly body”. Caroline tries to nose into Jessica’s business and Jessica tells her off, yells at Lila for inviting Jessica when she knew nosy Caroline would be there, and then leaves the party with Todd.
Back to Liz. She tries to interview a playwright named Will Connolly for her latest article, but he’s really rude to her. And get this: he looks exactly like Todd. Yawn, been there, read that storyline before, Francine. Will and Liz end up drinking at the same bar, the Wicked Teapot, that afternoon where he calls her “Lizzie” within a few minutes of being introduced to her as Elizabeth and she freaks out. They swap their sad stories and bond. Will left his law career, family, and his fiancee Wendy behind in Chicago, so that he could move to NYC in pursuit of his play-writing dream. In response to Liz’s sob story, Will (jokingly) suggests that she bring a hot date with her back home to Sweet Valley for the twins’ grandmother’s upcoming birthday celebration, then have that person seduce Jessica and ruin her relationship with Todd. Liz takes the idea seriously and plans to execute it. She and Will introduce themselves to the Teapot’s bartender, described as a superhot wannabe actor with an Irish accent, Liam O’Connor. Liam seems interested in Liz, but later on it’s explained that he in fact isn’t. Whatever! Liz goes home with Will and they kiss but then she leaves before any clothes come off. It’s good to know the twins can still make dudes fall in love with them instantly.
Liz asks Will to attend her grandmother’s birthday with her and he can’t go. Then she asks Liam and he agrees despite barely knowing her. Liam’s family moved to L.A. from Ireland so it works out well for him, we’re told, even though Liz is only planning to be there for less than 24 hours. Liz doesn’t tell him that she wants him to seduce Jessica; she thinks Liam is hot enough that things will happen naturally on their own. But she’s being kind of wishy-washy about the whole thing. She irks me.
Funnily enough, while Liz is plotting all this, Jessica is back in California having champagne at a bar with one of the VPs at her company, Michael Wilson, who is crushing hard on her. Jessica is considering giving him what he wants because then she and Todd could split up and Liz would be happy and reconcile with Jess. But just as Michael is about to confess his feelings to Jessica, she realizes how in love with Todd she is and flees the bar. Or at least I think that’s what’s going on. Sometimes this prose is so weirdly written that I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to be getting out of it.
Liz tells Will that she’s going to carry out the plan to break up Todd and Jessica at their grandmother’s birthday. Will is shocked because he was just joking, and seriously? What kind of bitch would want to ruin her own grandma’s birthday like that? Liz tells him off with a “Fuck you” and storms out. Ooh, Liz is letting the F-bomb fly. Then the night of Grandmother Marjorie Robertson’s birthday arrives! As you’ll see when I review the first Sweet Valley Saga, that’s the name she had in that book too. I have to give points for continuity because when it comes to this novel, it’s a rare event. Bruce is at Grandmother’s dinner because Alice had arranged for him to be Liz’s date before she announced she was bringing Liam. Now Bruce is sad because he’s afraid she’s having sex with Liam. I could really give a shit.
The dinner goes fine until all them dern young people have to ruin it! Liam becomes infatuated with Jessica the second he lays eyes on her which makes about as much sense as Nicholas Morrow falling for Liz’s looks but not Jessica’s, or Bill Chase falling for Liz, but not Jessica because Liz looked so much like his dead girlfriend, but okay. Liam follows Jessica around all night and she’s kind of annoyed by him, but still disappears with him for a bit. Todd thinks she’s off hooking up with him and freaks the fuck out. When they come back, everyone starts fighting and screaming while Alice frantically yells for Ned to bring out grandmother’s birthday cake already as a distraction. He takes fucking forever to get the damned cake and I’m wondering if one of the kitchen staff ate it. Grandmother Marjorie tries to restore some order, but they’re all ignoring her because who gives a fuck about the old birthday girl! What, you think this party is for YOU Grandmother? Finally, Alice screams, “Ned! Bring out the fucking cake!” and I just about fell off the couch! Holy shit! That’s gold!
At the end of the night, Todd and Jessica are miserable and go to bed without resolving the fight. Liz and Liam fly back home; Liz is now mad that Liam got the hots for Jessica. Okay Liz, make up your fucking mind, either you want him to ruin your sister’s life or you don’t. I hate this bitch. Back in NYC, Liz finds Will and sleeps with him as therapy for the total shitstorm she just willingly caused; they become “friends with benefits.” It feels really forced on us as opposed to something that happened naturally, and I’m thinking it was thrown in there just to appeal to modern readers with the whole “friends with benefits” bullshit. Meanwhile, Jessica decides to leave Todd and flees the house in the middle of the night, catching a flight to New York City. She’s sure Liz will forgive her if she explains that she’s not going to marry Todd. Okay, so now she DOESN’T love Todd enough to leave her sister for him. Liz comes back from Will’s where she’s spent the night, to find Jess curled up asleep outside her door. She lets her in and they cry and make up because I guess by now Liz has realized her relationship with Todd was over long before he ever cheated on her with Jessica, or something dumb like that. I don’t know. Liz realizes Jessica truly loves Todd and tells her to go back to him, but when Jess leaves the building for the airport, she finds Todd already waiting outside. They make up too. Bla bla, fucking bla! Liz makes up with Liam; she and Will sleep together for a while and then Wendy moves to New York and she and Will get back together and that’s the end of him and Liz. What was the point of sticking them together then? To showcase Liz as an independent woman? To give her more of a sex life? Who cares?
Liz gets an increased series of job offers from real-life New York magazines and all her dreams start to come true. Good for her. Jessica’s wedding day arrives and Liz is the maid of honor. The night before the wedding, Bruce tells Elizabeth he’s selling his house to move to New York, because he loves a girl who lives there. Liz doesn’t get that it’s her because she’s a moron GOD I HATE LIZ. Do you guys realize I just voluntarily read a book all about how great Liz is? Liz panics because she can’t stand the thought of Bruce in love with someone else, the selfish twat! Then Bruce confesses it’s Liz he loves and she realizes she loves him also … yeah right. They have sex at Bruce’s house and he gives her the best orgasm of her life. Their sex scene kind of grosses me out to be honest with you. It’s very vaguely described, but Liz and Bruce feel so … unnatural together. They go to the wedding the next day glowing with the force of their love! I could just hurl.
The Epilogue is “For All Sweet Valley Fans of Old”. It tells us the details of Jessica’s third wedding day and then gives us the latest update about a rather random cast of characters! “Random” because characters no one gives a crap about are mentioned, while characters who were major (such as the bitch Amy Sutton!) are NOWHERE TO BE FOUND in this entire novel! So, the condensed version:
Bill Chase lost his right leg below the knee to a shark in Australia. He lives in San Diego with his wife, Lianne Kane, whom he stole from that Jim Regis dude mentioned earlier in the book. Lianne spends the wedding reception flirting with Jim until Bill gets mad and they leave early.
Roger Collins is an author. He quit teaching because the whole Suzanne Devlin incident made him too uncomfortable to continue on, even though his name was cleared. What the fuck? He sure didn’t seem traumatized over it through, you know, the whole rest of the SVH series. He wrote a book about the ordeal called Lies and it’s a bestseller. He lives with his girlfriend whom he met when she was a student at Sweet Valley High. That seems creepy enough to be appropriate for old Rog. I really want to know who this girlfriend is. His son’s name is suddenly Sam, not Teddy. What? Sam is a junior at UCLA and is 19. Is this some other kid? What the hell Francine?
Aaron Dallas is Steven’s life partner and he hopes to marry him whenever California officially legalizes gay marriage. And that’s about all that is said about him in the Epilogue, other than he and Jessica have learned to tolerate one another following her big blabbermouth moment.
Lila and Ken have been separated for six months but their status “changes as the wind blows” and Caroline claims Ken has proposed to Lila again. Lila brought Jeffrey French as her date to the wedding. Wait, wasn’t Jeffrey married earlier in this book? I went back and checked it at least three times. In a glorious continuity moment worthy of Spring Fever, Jeffrey’s wife has been sucked into a black hole to join Annie Sue Sawyer’s little sister. He’s now “still unmarried and unattached.” Lila only brings Jeffrey because she thinks dating the boy she lost to Elizabeth years ago will “spice things up” or some bullshit. But she loses interest in him and he ends the evening wandering off with Dee Dee Gordon, and I think it’s supposed to imply that they go make out for 45 minutes. Speaking of Dee Dee, she’s engaged but her fiance couldn’t come to the wedding. She’s still attracted to Bill and used Jeffrey as a substitute for him. Isn’t her name spelled “DeeDee” with both words together though?
Charlie Markus and Annie Whitman are married and have a two year old son. Annie’s a lawyer. Charlie is referred to as “the boy who saved her” from her Easy Annie days. What? That was Ricky Capaldo. Annie dated Charlie in a Super Edition and he was almost never mentioned again until it was time for her to break up with him and date Tony Esteban. Seriously, does Francine not know her own series? Also, if anyone “saved” Annie it was fuckin’ Jessica with her stupid cheerleading acceptance speech in the hospital!
Betsey Martin (was there always an “e” in Betsy?) is suddenly someone who never changed from her old ways. She sleeps around and is an alcoholic now, having given up drugs for the drink. It says she dropped out of high school but that isn’t accurate; in the SVH series it was said that she did graduate. And I think she’s supposed to be dating someone named “Sam Nobel.” There was some weird Nobel Prize joke about that at old grandma’s birthday. I’m starting to wonder if I read this book when I was drunk, myself.
A.J. Morgan’s description is WAY, WAY off. It says he has long blonde hair and was a bad boy in high school. No, he had red hair and was a sweet Southern gentleman who only liked Jessica because he thought she was reserved and innocent. I think Francine is confusing him with Rick Andover. Either that or there were some major character changes in the SVH series that I haven’t gotten to yet, ones that involved him dyeing his hair. Here he’s such a loser that Enid won’t admit she’s dating him, because she’s about to run for city council and he’s bad for her image. In addition, earlier in this book Jessica angrily says that in 7th grade Caroline Pearce told everyone about how Jess let A.J. touch her boob. But A.J. was an Army brat who moved to Sweet Valley in 11th grade around the time Jess started dating him.
Roger Barrett Patman is a Hollywood producer and married to a rock star named Zoe Jones. Zoe is given her own update entry like she’s someone we’re supposed to know. Are we? I mean, Francine goes on about her for a few small paragraphs!
Nicky Shepard is mentioned for some weird reason. I consider him a really minor character. He is the kid who got Jessica to run away in book 21. I think he comes back way later in the series but is still not much of a big deal. In case you care, Nicky is a recovered alcoholic dating another recovered alcoholic and they spend the wedding looking down on everyone drinking.
Cara has forgiven Steven for cheating on her with Aaron. Of course she has, that fucking pushover. Now she is dating the CEO of a diet company or something.
George Warren lives in London and works for Silicon Valley. He and Robin are still on good terms.
Everyone is wealthy and successful and I hate all of them.
Francine then gives us a tiny section about characters who died. She only includes Winston, Regina, and Tricia Martin, leaving out other very significant characters. For example, Ronnie Edwards doesn’t make it all the way through the original SVH series (hope I am not spoiling anything for you guys), yet he is mentioned in the Double Love flashback as Enid’s love interest. Isn’t that weird to mention him there and then forget that he dies later? Then Francine mentions Suzanne Devlin, and completely screws up the description of what happened to her. I am mega confused. She says Suzanne came back to Sweet Valley a “changed person” six YEARS after the Roger Collins fiasco and that she had multiple sclerosis and crashed her car and died after drinking champagne with her medicine. WOW. If that isn’t the most mangled description in the whole fucking world! 1) It was six months, 2) it was discovered that she had mono instead of MS, and 3) she didn’t die. You know what that reads like? Like a fan who hasn’t read the books in 15 years and can’t remember what happened and is recalling it to the best of her ability. Which is cool and all except 1) Francine isn’t “just a fan” and 2) EDITORS? HELLO?
I think Francine might be fucking with us, I really do.
Ned is still a mega successful lawyer and I’m sure he still does every kind of law imaginable; Alice has her own design firm now and is a breast cancer survivor.
Jessica was 15 minutes late to the wedding.
Okay, WTF? about this whole book. My general opinion is already clear, but let me add a bit more. First of all, the way the story was laid out did not work for me. It was very jarring to keep flashing back to past scenes, especially with the change in point-of-view and tense. I find it odd that the present-tense is used for past events, and even that was not always consistent. There were typos and other errors throughout.
Jessica’s speaking tone made me need to swallow a jar of cleaning fluid. There were so many likes and so’s interjected that I literally put the book down to get away from them all. Of course, I could also just speed ahead to the present events where she suddenly stopped speaking that way, for the most part. I don’t know if this was meant to convey she suddenly grew up after Regan told Liz about Jess and Todd. I’m thinking that’s giving too much credit. Either way, it is incredibly irksome. It makes me feel like I got sand stuck up my ass at the beach.
But for me, the worst part is that the entire book revolves entirely around the twins. There are precious few scenes with their parents, their brother (save one chapter that tells us how Steven and Aaron fell for each other), or their friends. As I already said, Winston makes very few appearances before he is killed off and his death feels completely unnecessary. It’s clearly a plot device merely to create a comical scene of Elizabeth assuming Todd and Jess are holding each other for the wrong reason, and perhaps to startle us with a shocking character death. We don’t even get to hear how he feels about Todd cutting him off friendship-wise. Fan favorite Lila is barely mentioned at all which is bullshit. Major characters like Amy Sutton and Nicholas Morrow are omitted completely, even though Nicholas’s dead sister is mentioned. (By the way, yes, Bruce really loved Regina.) Everything revolves around Jessica and Liz and their boring conflict that’s a grown-up version of the same old thing. Most of the major characters are just thrown into Lila’s party scene and again at the end of the book for brief updates. The Epilogue is really disorganized and um, don’t get me started.
The writing style itself was slow and prodding. Scenes were often rehashed and thoughts were redundant. Even the sex scenes (one with Jess and Todd, one with Liz and Will, one with Liz and Bruce) were blurred, vague, and shitty! (We are told that Liz has “taut nipples” and that’s as specific as one of them gets.) All the room taken up with Liz thinking evil thoughts about her shithead sister could’ve easily been devoted to catching us up on other characters and giving us more than second-hand glimpses into their lives. Mentions of “current” things like pop lyrics, Twitter and Facebook usage, and text messaging feel mostly forced, thrown in to prove this book is “with it”. The dialogue was terrible and ridiculous. Characters are not developed effectively whatsoever; they’re just there for Liz to fuck or Jessica to consider fucking and then vanish. The Liz worship kills me, but I could get over it if the novel as a whole was better written. Come on, I’ve been reading and re-capping every last one of these books, I’m used to it by now.
And the pairings – Jess and Todd, for one, but also Liz and Bruce, Steven and Aaron, Enid and the completely re-imagined character A.J. They don’t work for me based on my knowledge of the characters, sure, but they also don’t work because they feel ridiculously fake. Yes, it’s fiction, but I don’t want to read a book that I can’t lose myself in because I’m constantly thinking “Okay, that just doesn’t work.” Because yeah, as a super-fan my panties WILL get twisted in a wad and that is uncomfortable. I CAN’T READ WHILE MY PANTIES ARE IN A WAD. So if you’re going to spring these surprises on us, at least make most of them feel more like they make sense. There’s no mention of Liz loving Bruce until he confesses he loves her, so it honestly feels like she only loves him because he loves her and/or because she doesn’t want him loving anyone else. Jessica and Todd also feels weird; you didn’t convince me they really love each other Francine, especially because pretty much all they talk about when they are together is Liz. And I don’t know if we’re supposed to think they fell in love after a night of joking around at a loud, drunken party but I hope not. Steven and Aaron also feels a bit weird as again, they’re supposed to have fallen in love for life after three sessions at a bar where Steven probably just sat around mumbling about his law practice.
Did Francine even read her own SVH series prior to writing this? For real? Some of these errors are beyond glaring. I haven’t even mentioned all of them! The Jeffrey French wife disappearance is easily the worst one, but there are others that are ridiculous. Some could probably get away with just being changes, but most don’t work that well.
The lavalieres are now gold and aquamarine with the twins’ initials engraved on the back. They swap them at the end of the book. What? That description doesn’t even match what is shown on the cover!
A.J., again. On top of everything I just mentioned, he’s also described as being Enid’s secret crush throughout high school, whom she couldn’t date because there was no way she could compete with Jessica. But Enid was dating Hugh when Jessica hooked up with A.J. Okay, we’ll let that one pass, I guess, but only because Francine included the word “secret.”
This one will spoil something else that happens much later in the SVH series, so forgive me: In Confidential, Caroline spreads rumors that Steven’s secret lover is Lila Fowler. Jessica knows that can’t be right because Lila isn’t Steven’s type. There’s no mention of how Lila and Steven in fact hooked up in Lila’s New Flame.
I think last we heard of Lila in SVU she and Bruce were in love and living together and it was very serious. Here it’s explained that Bruce thinks of that as “nothing” and “a fling” and that it ended quickly. Unless all the recaps I’ve read are lies, that is not accurate at all.
Speaking of Bruce, in the Double Love flashback he’s referred to as a junior, the same as the twins! He isn’t; he’s a senior! Hello?
Lila’s father’s name has been changed from George to Richard and he owns the MYFACEISGREEN enterprise. What happened to his computer chip business?
This book tells us the Wakefields joined the country club when the twins were age 12 … no they didn’t. The Wakefields didn’t want to join the club even though Jessica begged them. Even in Sweet Valley High, they still aren’t members.
According to this book, Winston never had ANY dates in high school. He couldn’t get any until college. Lies! Oh yeah, Maria is absent from SVC, needless to say.
Guido’s has turned into a hip restaurant called Napkin that everyone just calls Pizza for short. Or at least I think it was Guido’s since that was the pizza hangout. It might in fact be the old Dairi Burger. The book doesn’t say and the description is a little vague. Can’t we just leave it as the Dairi Burger (or Guido’s)? Some things really don’t change.
We are told Liz loved Todd since they were in kindergarten but that he never paid her any attention. Yet they dated for most of the Sweet Valley Twins series.
Along the same lines, we’re told Aaron and Jessica have never really liked each other, ever. They, too, dated for most of the Twins series and also occasionally got together in Sweet Valley High. Here, Jessica doesn’t find Aaron attractive and we also learn he has one brown eye and one blue eye. (what?)
Liz muses about Jessica’s unfaithfulness to men as a weak spot like she hasn’t had that same weak spot multiple times.
Many other things throughout the SVH series are either not mentioned or are completely glossed over.
I don’t get why Caroline is allowed to hang with everyone if they all hate her and don’t want her spilling their business? She’s even at Jessica’s fucking wedding! Cut her off and she won’t have anything to gossip about. There is no way in hell I would let someone whose guts I hate come to my wedding, especially not after I told her ass off in front of everyone.
I am puzzled as to why Francine’s author credits do not include any SV series beyond High, Twins, Kids, and University. Did she really have nothing to do with Junior High, Senior Year, Elizabeth, or The Unicorn Club?
The quickie marriage thing freaks me out. Jessica marries Todd after nine months of “out in the open” dating, and that’s the longest she’s ever waited before! (She married Regan after two months!) Liz and Bruce think about getting married the day after they sleep together for the first time. I don’t think they come out and say so, but it’s obvious that is where it’s headed. Liz wasn’t even thinking of him in that way until he told her he loved her. And Todd considers Aaron his life partner after less than two months. There are other examples but I’ve already forgotten them.
Grandma Marjorie Robertson now goes by “Grandmommy”. How fucking irritating!
The neighborhood that Liz and others live in is called Sweet Valley Heights, but although hardcore fans may remember that this was the original title of this book, other readers are going to get confused. The name of the development isn’t mentioned till several chapters in, and when it is, it’s called “the Heights” and not really explained what the hell that is. The suddenly it switches to Sweet Valley Heights and we learn that’s where they all live or something.
There is some depressing vitriol about how much Sweet Valley has changed since the 80s (which is said, here, to be before the twins were old enough to care), with Starbucks and chain restaurants going up everywhere and crowding out the local businesses.
In my review of the original SVC Chapter 1 preview (which isn’t the whole chapter, by the way), I thought it was weird that Elizabeth sleeps in an old “Sweet Valley” oversized tee. Here it has been changed to a Sweet Valley U shirt. And of course, Jessica sleeps in the same shirt. So at least THAT part makes more sense.
Wakefield family worship is alive and well. Jessica knows Steven’s body so well that she can tell it’s him making out with Aaron when she sees him from behind.
Jessica’s trip with Regan to France is said to be her first trip to Europe which is like, SO not true. Sorry, I couldn’t resist making fun of her dumb voice one more time.
This book says that Sweet Valley University is 20 minutes from the twins’ home on Calico Drive. So that’s the latest change in time it takes to get from one to the other! I think SV just changes the freeway system very often.
It makes me laugh that Liz writes for a free publication with few advertisers yet can afford to live in a New York apartment by herself, and with a doorman no less. Anyone who knows New York rents knows that is highly unlikely, no matter how small said apartment is.
There’s no mention of the earthquake that occurred at the end of the SVH series. In fact, this book insinuates that the twins’ parents still live in that same house and that it’s exactly the same as when they were kids. But wasn’t it destroyed in the quake?
There is a sly reference to the events of Dear Sister which creeps me out. Bruce almost raped Liz, even twisting her arms in an attempt to scare her into yielding to him. She had to assault him to get away. That is called attempted rape. Here Francine makes a sly wink at the time she was “unconscious” the only other time he kissed her. But it isn’t really that sly because Liz was not unconscious; she was not in her right mind, and when she came back to her senses and wanted to leave, Bruce didn’t like it. Also, the claim that this was the only time he kissed her is not accurate, but that’s all I am going to say about that for now.
The timing of this book confuses me as well. Weren’t the twins born in May or June? Yet the events of this book take place in the late summer and by that point the twins have been 27 for at least 8 months (because Jessica says she is 27 around the time she leaves Regan and gets with Todd).
I seem to recall Liz is not mentioned as being 5’7″ inches tall in this final version, the way she was in the chapter preview. Or maybe she was and I forgot. Does this mean that the editors took it out after all the bloggers started bitching about how she grew an inch? Damn, you guys should’ve let US edit it 😉
The cover is whatever. The lavaliere on the back doesn’t match the description in the book. Girl on the cover (Liz) has different lips than girl on the back cover. No, really. Look at it. Is it just me? I don’t think it’s the different lip color; I think girl on the back either had some lip plumping done or is genuinely someone different.
So yeah, this review was harsh. But whaddya want? It’s Snark Valley … harsh is the name of my game. Rest assured if it was great, I would be singing its praises from the rooftops.
What did you think? Hate it? Love it? Or just like it more than I did?
Coming up next … I joyfully return to the original series with the Sweet Valley Saga.