Take two parts Serena Van der Woodsen, one part adorable talking twin babies, add a little California cool and you get the exquistiely easy bubblegum good vs. evil, saint vs. sinner set of Wakefield twins: Elizabeth and Jessica, of Sweet Valley, Calif. Oh, to be young, and blond, and aqua-eyed. And double.
Before we could be divided into Charlottes and Samanthas and Carries, we were divided into Jessicas and Elizabeths. We were the do-gooder, high-school-newspaper editor Elizabeth. Or we were the schemeing cheerleader Jessica. The exploits of the duo were traced through 143 books, spinoffs, television shows and a boardgame. The books were scandalous in their time. This was no Babysitter’s Club book. There was suffering from leukemia, parents dying, bullying in action. It was the literary set up to Beverly Hills 90210 and every single CW show to follow.
And, now, the original author Francine Pascal has revisited Sweet Valley to give us an update on the twins 10 years later. The book, “Sweet Valley Confidential,” was released this week. And can I just say, it’s really, really hard to go home again.
Monica Hesse reviewed “Sweet Valley Confidential” for the Post:
“Sweet Valley” reads less like a sequel and more like fan fiction — and not the meticulous, in-canon kind that obeys the laws of the Sweet Valleyverse, either. Reading “Confidential” is like stumbling onto the message boards populated by the deluded people who insist that Harry Potter is in love with Prof. Snape. All this could have been fun and entertaining if written by amateurs, but really, Francine, you should have known better. “She cried after every orgasm” is not a sentence that anyone wants to read about Elizabeth Wakefield.
Mind you, that sentence is only in the first chapter. It gets much worse. But is this the curse of Star Wars? Can you ever remake a classic (in its manner) and please the old fans?
I say yes, if you actually stay true to the original. The crime of this sequel is that it tries to make Elizabeth into Jessica and vice versa. We don’t want the characters to become new people, let alone swap rolls. To see an update done right, here’s the Babysitter’s Club today.
Sweet Valley, I bid adieu. I’m moving on to the next remake. I’d like to see what Encyclopedia Brown is up to these days. Is he working for the C.I.A. in Libya? What about those rascally Boxcar Kids? Have they moved to a communal farm in upstate New York? Is Nancy Drew a soccer mom?
What teenage book characters need an adult update?