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Sweet Valley Confidential: The Verdict? Perfect! [Warning, Spoilers]

30 Mar

Unlike the sugar-coated, predictable, solved-in-sixty-pages plots of our bygone series, Sweet Valley Confidential is surprisingly… real. Told through a series of flashbacks – to high school, to SVU, and to the events that led to the war between the twins – each chapter provides just the right amount of tantalizing detail to keep you in complete suspense. It was absolutely unputdownable – to the point where I was pacing my living room like a maniac, screeching, “Lila had a boob job?!” “How the fuck did Liz find out?” and “Who has Steven been screwing all this time?”

And yet, it reflects just enough of the series we so lovingly snark, with the resurgence of original Sweet Valley personalities like Caroline Pearce, Ken Matthews and Jeffery French. It harks back to those defining events – the death of Regina Morrow, the demise of Enid-the-Drip – that even snarky old me remembered with a fond smile.

All the while, the book poked just the right amount of fun at the Sweet Valley franchise, with self-referential remarks such as

“Bruce Patman kissed her [Elizabeth] ! That had never happened before. At least, not while she was conscious anyway, but that’s another story.”

Yes, folks, a warm-wine-in paper-cup reference from fan favourite “Dear Sister”.

Although heavy on those age-old Sweet Valley-an themes of true love, sisterhood and commitment, the emotions ‘Confidential dealt with were surprisingly raw. For once, not everything fell into place for our twins, as even they had to cope with rejection, criticism and the realisation that they were  –  shock horror – not the perfect sized-six beings of the past.

Before I give you the story straight up, let me add this disclaimer: my recap can not do this epic work of chick lit the justice it deserves. Recapped in chronological fashion, it seems a little blah, but this suspense-filled book is anything but. Go and get yourselves a copy [or if you’re an Aussie* befriend your fellow Americans / have a super-awesome reader who will express mail you a copy].

Heavy spoilers below the cut!

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The one where Winston Egbert gets what he always wanted: Jessica’s Secret Diary Volume II

29 Mar

My original reaction to these “Secret Diary” editions was that Fran-Pasc was so stumped for new ideas that she had to rehash the events of sixty-odd Sweet Valley books. I probably wasn’t that far off the mark, because the next 77 titles just progress in their ridiculousness [Vampires! Werewolves! Crazy Freddy! French Royalty!]. However, this particular volume is a remarkably amusing read, not only because Jessica Wakefield KEEPS A FUCKING DIARY, but also because she snarks pretty much every Elizabeth-centric event that went down in books #40-#55.

Ten bucks says the ghost-writer in charge of this book secretly enjoyed mocking all the happy endings and Elizabeth heroism we were fed.

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In the word “TEAM” there is no “I” [but apparently there are two Wakefields]…

7 Mar

TEAM SWEET VALLEY #1 “JESSICA GOES FOR THE GOLD”

Jessica Wakefield is the star gymnast representing Sweet Valley Middle School at the state championships. Surprised? Oh, you poor deluded soul. It doesn’t matter that Jessica has never attempted gymnastics/played a team sport/committed to anything longer than one book before. Why not, you ask? Because she is a Wakefield, of course! And Wakefields are awesome at life. And vaulting, apparently.

[On a side note, it’s little wonder that I cannot hack losing and have to be the best at absolutely everything I do. See what you’ve done to me, Francine? See?]

The school is competing at a local meet, and Jessica is kicking ass on the uneven parallel bars:

“It was a killer routine too-full of complicated hand changes and death-defying leaps from one bar to the other. She leaped to the high bar, swung, then came back in a blind back-straddle over the low bar. She’d never felt so strong. Then Jessica leaped to the high bar for her big move. She did a long hanging kip, then casted to a full handstand on top of the high bar and did a pirouette. The crowd went wild. All around the gym, people were jumping up and down, cheering for her. Her face glowing with excitement, Jessica turned around and waved to HER public. Finally the head judge stood up. “Nine point seven,” he announced.

Of course.

This is making me hate Jessica. It’s also making me want to dig out some of my old “Gymnasts” books. I always did have a crush on the coach, Patrick.

So Jessica has developed a fierce rivalry with Dawn Maven, star of the Weston team. I wonder if Dawn is also new to gymnastics? Or if she’s been working her ass off 35 hours a week since she was five like most people who are good at something. Also, where is Weston? What happened to the Secca Lake team? Or El Carro? Big Mesa? Palisades? Dawn is a mega-bitch, but I like her. She oils up the bar so Jessica falls off. Jessica mixes sugar in the chalk bowl so Dawn slips and busts her ankle.  Dawn has a Margo moment when she threatens to “fix her, and fix her good”. This goes on and on until Jessica somehow finds a sense of guilt, becomes Dawn’s personal rehab physician, and they agree to play fair at the upcoming California Games. How Jessica can remediate a sprained ankle in the space of a fortnight astounds me.

Donald Zwerdling, who is basically Winston Egbert on acid, [read: more annoying, more persistent, more clumsy, and just an all around nerdburger] provides something vaguely resembling amusement in the B-story. He missed out on a spot on the boy’s team, [thanks to their captain, Bruce Patman] so he has decided to carry the drinks for the girls and be their assistant. Genius! Betcha Bruce wishes he’d thought of that. Also, can we take a moment to stop and laugh at Bruce doing gymnastics? Bruce on the pommel horse….Bruce busting his tighty whities on the rings….Ha!

At the California games, for once Jessica doesn’t win. Amazing. Riding her bike home from Dawn’s the night before, she sprains her ankle, and scores a measly old 9.4 on the bars to Dawn’s 9.6 [you may remember the highest score all book is still Jessica’s 9.7, of course]. She even congratulates Dawn on the victory, which is very un-Jessica. Obvs the ghosties were under instruction to teach us all a lesson. But like so many of these lessons we learn in Sweet Valley [you need a boyfriend to be worth anything, fat people should be burned at the stake, you CAN cheat on your guy 15 times a year, you SHOULD ALWAYS listen to Elizabeth etc, etc..] I’m choosing to ignore it.

‘Cause winning is everything, bitches.

The best part of this book? There’s barely any Elizabeth [she’s off playing volleyball for the school]. The worst? Jessica not getting her come-uppance. At least not properly. Seriously, does any of the shit she pulls have any consequence beyond the same book?

Continuity note: Amy gets a 9.2 on her floor routine at the California Games. So she’s pretty much the best in the state. However, back in SVT#2, Amy is so bad at classical ballet that she scores the role of Coppelia the doll. I’m sorry, but someone who can barely point their foot and keep time in Madame Andre’s sixth grade dance class is probably not a state level rhythmic gymnast.

Cheerio!

P.S.: Those of you joining me in Sydney on April 2nd, could you please email Winston.egbert@hotmail.co.uk and I’ll send you my number for the big day so we can coordinate ourselves. We have about 8 or so coming along for the day, which I’m super excited about. I think we should wear lavalieres to identify ourselves. Also should I go as Margo or Nora? Thoughts, please.

Sweet Valley: Taking the Moral High Ground Since 1983

9 Feb

 

I was fortunate enough recently to have the chance to browse through the religion section of Joshua Fowler State Library. After I managed to push aside the gold-plated Wakefield replicas, I found a rare copy of the original Sweet Valley Bible. You won’t believe some of the stuff that was in there:

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF THE VALLEY

  1. Do not have any other gods before me.

…Unless they are Wakefields, who were put on earth to be adored, and worshipped, and admired by all.

2. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

…And Elizabeth will make sure of it.

3. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

…By going to the Beach Disco, Palomar House, The Box Tree Cafe, and Miller’s Point. No dry humping please, this is Moses.

4. For six days you shall labour and do all your work.

…Which translates to scheming, manipulating, meddling, shoulder-patting, and maintaining the journalistic integrity of the entire f-ing universe. Who knows, you might even get time to take in a class or two at Sweet Valley High?

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Sweet Valley: Land of the Clones Or SVH #64, “The Ghost of Tricia Martin”

25 Jan

Oh hey, Steven. Welcome home from college. Again. Or should I say, hi 33-year-old Justin Bieber. What the fuck are you doing with LaToya Jackson? Ba-by, ba-by, ba-by, oh…

But no – it’s not Ms Jackson taking up with a juvenile. It’s Steve Wakefield’s latest fling, Andrea , who is apparently the spitting image of his dead girlfriend, Tricia, who we met back in book 13.

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The French Are Doing It Better: LES JUMELLES DE SWEET VALLEY

16 Jan

Recently, I secured a copy of Les Jumelles De Sweet Valley California College: “Chacune pour soi” direct from France. Given that my French is limited to: “Je suis Winston. J’adore Maria Santelli”, the subject matter of this book is not particularly conducive to snark.

However, thanks to google translate, I managed to deduce that the book is called “Each Man For Himself” and is actually a [rough] translation of SVH #31, “Taking Sides”. I haven’t gotten around to recapping this one in English yet, but it’s the story of Lila and Enid vying for the affection of Sweet Valley High’s newest addition: Jeffery French. Because this is Sweet Valley, he is immune to everyone’s charms – except that of the pious do-gooder St Elizabeth Wakefield. Here’s hoping the book is better in another language.

Below is the blurb on the back cover, and its [googled] translation into English:

Un nouvel eleve vient d’arriver a Sweet Valley High. Jeffery, un garcon symp, bien dans sa peau, passionne de photos et champion de water-polo. Pas etonnant que toutes les filles soient folles de lui. Notamment la tres sexy Lisa, l’aime de Jessica, et la toute timide Enid, l’aimie d’Elizabeth. Chacune des jumelles va essayer d’aider son amie a seduire le beau Jeffery et ce n’est pas forcement la plus jolie ou la plus aguicheuse qui decrochera le gros lot.

A new student has just arrived Sweet Valley High. Jeffery, a boy symptoms, although in his skin, passionate, photos and champion water polo. No wonder that all girls are crazy about him. Including the very sexy Lisa, loves Jessica, and any timid Enid, loves Elizabeth. Each twin will try to help his friend to seduce the beautiful Jeffery and not necessarily the prettiest or the most alluring that hit the jackpot.

Ahem – who is Lisa? And when did Jeffery add water polo to his list of accomplishments? I got my French-competent dad to read chapter one for me, and it turns out that Lila Fowler is in fact one of the ladies vying for his attention [phew!] and that Jeffery is actually a soccer player [thankyou universe for restoring order.]
However, I’m super glad that the Parisians have clarified Enid’s love for Elizabeth, also that the person who “hit the jackpot” – Elizabeth – is neither the prettiest, nor the most alluring.

Suck à ce sujet, saint Elizabeth Wakefield

Christmas Isn’t Christmas Without A Car Crash or Sweet Valley High Super Edition #2 “SPECIAL CHRISTMAS”

9 Dec

This book seemed so nuts to me, even as a twelve year old. It’s not because Elizabeth has a casual bottle of champers, or ‘cause Todd starts hooking up with her nemesis, Suzanne Devlin [duh, Toddster]. No, it’s because of the insane plot twist where Suzanne is diagnosed, then undiagnosed of multiple sclerosis, with a full neurological recovery in the space of a Christmas break. Between Suzie and Mike McAllery, we could write the fucking Christmas Edition of any medical journal. Or Woman’s Day.

Cover courtesy of ShannonSweetValley

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