Looks that Kill

We never thought we’d see it happen! A new Sweet Valley book. And the first one AUTHORED by Francine herself.  At least that we know of.

Allow me to use a metaphor for how I am feeling about the release of this book. I mean without even getting into the content. Because that’s a whole other…well, just wait on that. I have recently come to find out that Motley Crue and Poison are on tour and are stopping in San Francisco. (Oh yea, and the New York Dolls, but they have no significance to me.)

For those of you that know me, I freaking love the Crue and Poison. They are a huge part of my childhood, my introduction to loving music. That and they were AWESOME. To me, as a teen, they epitomized the ultimate cool, the ultimate rock ‘n roll, the ultimate MEN. The fact that they wore makeup and glam made them even MORE AWESOME AND HAWT. I longed to be one of the women who partied backstage with them. Although, I am sure my 14 year old self didn’t have a TRUE idea of what that entailed. [Side note, a coworker recently revealed to me that at age 15 she went backstage and fooled around with Vince Neil. I cannot control my immense envy. ] I was obsessed with watching their videos on Headbangers’ Ball [ah memories] and waited for the “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” video to catch a glimpse of Bret Michaels getting out of the bed in his briefs. Am I right ladies? You did that too.

Alas, I never got to see them live.  I should probably thank my parents to never allowing my tween self to one of those concerts. So wouldn’t the choice of seeing them live be a total no-brainer?

I’m not gonna go. Why? Because yes, even though the bands are the same, have all the same members, will likely sing some amazing classics, they are NOT Motley Crue and Poison. At least how they were, and it’s not even about their age. The times are different, I am different, and they don’t represent that rock n roll outlaw culture that they defined. It wasn’t just them that I loved, it was for me at the time what they represented and the influence they had over the music and culture of the time. I will never get that back and it can never be created. So, it’s not their fault, it’s just a change in my relationship to them. [However, if Enuff Z’Nuff reunited and joined the tour, I’d probably be there in a second.]

So thus is my feeling with Sweet Valley Confidential. Plus, we have such a relationship with these characters that nothing that happens to them will fit our expectations. So, in a way, I feel bad for Francine. She’s running an uphill battle with this.

First things first: It seems that Francine is completely ignoring the other series that are not Sweet Valley high. Hence, all the stuff that happened in Sweet Valley University obviously has not happened in the Confidential universe. No marriage to the Mike guy, no Tom whats his face. And certainly no time when Elizabeth goes to London to become a scullery maid (which, btw, WTF? I’ve never really talked about that before.) Does Francine not “endorse” those series? Or was it easier for her to just keep it in one universe? Thank god this isn’t sci fi, or it would be torn apart by angry fans. Well, more so than now.

[Apparently I am wrong- I had read an earlier draft where these things were not mentioned.]

For now, I’m focusing on the first two chapters, because let’s be honest folks, we need to analyze this to death.

-So Liz ran away to New York. And she’s not suddenly the toast of the town, offered a job at the New York Times, etc. That’s refreshing. She’s working at a “meager” theater periodical, which sounds sort of like Playbill. Not too shabby, that actually sounds like a dream gig for me.

-Jessica and Todd. Sigh. So we’re back to that. I don’t buy it for a second that these two should be together. Although really Liz, are you surprised? All that cheating didn’t give you a hint?

-Remembering back to the “Double Love” era. is this a verbatim of what happened? I don’t care to take the time to look. And Jessica’s voiceover: sorry Francine, after 100+ books of Jessica’s sociopathy, there is no way you can convince me that she is a tortured soul.  That’s she’s really tortured and is the way she is because she is insecure. Too little, too late.

And then we get to Lila’s party. Sigh.

Francine, I feel, hates her characters. The ones that were the supposed “good” and “well-meaning” are sad souls. Cara is miserable and has a failed marriage (did the move to London never happen?) Enid, now married to A.J. Morgan (what?) is an arrogant anti-choice doctor. I guess that’s your punishment for being brunette and a non-cheerleader. You hold that anger inside you until you are an adult and then become a horrible person. Beware everyone.

Robin Wilson. Robin, Robin, Robin. Never able to escape her food issues. Well, don’t worry folks, she only gained back “a little of the weight” she lost. And, apparently, will always be a fatty because she became a caterer so she can always be around food. Wasn’t Robin a science wiz? And a champion diver? None of that mattered?

Lila, our dear Lila. What happened to her? All that character building and exploration of her true self…leads her to being a manipulative trophy wife. With a boob job.

Lastly, why are they all still hanging out together? These folks were not friends in high school. For the sake of the story, we need to see all these characters interacting, but I just don’t buy that they would all move back to Sweet Valley after colleges and various careers.

And Jessica and Todd. Wow. They are miserable people. And pretty much hate each other. And Todd still loves Elizabeth, but is with Jessica because he would just end up hurting Elizabeth anyway?

I realize I’m being bleak, but this book is turning out to be bleak. I guess my hopes were that it would celebrate the characters we have come to know, but it seems that I’d rather not know if this is how they turned out.

And that’s only the first two chapters!  To end on a positive note, let’s watch  a golden oldie from Poison, back when narrative stories were all the rage with videos. And this story is very Sweet Valley-like.

More thoughts later…

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38 thoughts on “Looks that Kill

  1. heather says:

    I don’t think she’s ignoring everything that happened in the SVU universe. There’s a brief mention of Jessica’s marriage to Mike Mcwhatshisface and another one, later on, to her college roommate Neil. And she talks about how Todd dropped out of school and bartended for a while. But Francine seems to be picking and choosing what parts of the college series she’s actually using. I don’t know, I didn’t read that far past the first twenty books or so of SVU so I don’t know how closely she’s following it, but there are definitely parts that she’s ignoring entirely (like Enid’s makeover into Alex). Then again, her grasp of the actual original SVH details and timeline doesn’t seem all that great either. There’s a point where she mentions A.J. Morgan being a blond and living in Sweet Valley in seventh grade . . . isn’t A.J. Morgan a redhead who moved from the South sometime during their interminable junior year? And she also has the Wakefields belonging to the country club, when I remember at least one book where the ghostwriter made a big deal of how Jessica had begged her parents to join the country club and they refused because it was too snobby. I haven’t read the books in a long time, so I’m sure you’ll be able to pick up on more inconsistencies than I did . . .

    It gets more enjoyable after the first two chapters. (I can’t truthfully say it gets BETTER, but it gets more campy-fun.) I was not a fan of the major conflict being the Elizabeth-Todd-Jessica triangle AGAIN, but after she establishes that, she turns to more minor characters for a few chapters, and we get some fun revelations involving them. I get the impression that the original concept for the novel was the soapy middle stuff involving all the characters living in the gated community of “Sweet Valley Heights” and was much more of an ensemble thing than a twins-focused thing, but that they couldn’t find a way to tie all that stuff together and so she resorted to injecting the love triangle again. I wish they hadn’t, because it’s so boring at this point and nobody wants to read it anymore. Not to mention that the actual quality of the writing is significantly worse than even the writing of the original SVH books. Did she miss her deadline and they ran out of time to edit this thing properly? I’d love to hear the behind-the-scenes gossip on this book! She started working on it way too long ago for it to reasonably be this bad.

    • Sarah Moen says:

      I think I could have liked the books a lot more but the continuity issues are what got me – they were SO GLARING it just completely distracted me from the story. I mean, really, Jessica tells a story about how someone started a rumor that she let A.J. Morgan touch her boob in 7th grade? And that he’s a blonde-hair bad boy? WHUHHH?!?!?! A.J. Morgan is a sweet southern red-head who moved to Sweet Valley during Junior year and was Jessica’s first serious relationship. Come on! There’s like, whole books devoted to it! And Francine still insists she wrote ALL of the outlines for the books, so obvs she should have known this. I cannot seet how she wrote this book for loyal SV fans as has been stated. She royally screwed up pretty much every single one of the characters. I get that people change in 10 years, but she changed their entire history!

      And don’t even get me started on the Bruce thing!!

  2. Nadra says:

    I’ve yet to read the book and don’t know if I will, but I think finding out what the twins and the rest are like ten years later is kind of like finding out what your former classmates are up to via Facebook. Sometimes these classmates turn out exactly as expected, sometimes better than expected and sometimes worse. All that to say that what you’re feeling is akin to what people feel in real live when they reconnect with old acquaintances.
    On another note it’s so odd that you posted this now. I happened to drop by after not doing so in months because I knew you were on hiatus, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this new post and startled to see the post date as March 31. Anyway, I’m honored to be one of the first to read this.

  3. Violett says:

    I agree and totally get what you’re saying about how hair metal and SVH were cool in the past because they connected with some part of us, but now we’ve outgrown them and it will never be the same.

    Even if hair metal bands made new music and Francine wrote a novel that we enjoyed TODAY, it wouldn’t be the same. We may be able to relate to the lyrics or the story, but it’s no longer some projected ideal of what we think is cool and hope to be like someday. It can be something we enjoy (if done well), but it will never be a piece of *us*. It will always be on the outside and I think that’s why it’s not the same.

  4. Jenna says:

    Sweet Valley Universe is definitely in the Confidential universe. They even talk about Elizabeth’s time in NYC when she produced a play, and her later relationship with Sam Burgess. So if thats your reason for not reading – sorry honey. 😉

  5. Amaluu says:

    *SPOILERS*

    I was bothered by the gratuitous name changes … Teddy Collins became Sam or something, George Fowler became Richard (heh heh, Dick Fowler). And then in the epilogue we find out that SVH Special Edition ‘Special Christmas’s ending was a hallucination of Elizabeth’s? And Roger Patman, who died according to the Senior Year series final book, apparently resurrects. And um, who cares about Nicky Shephard? Plus when Liz says she’s NEVER kissed Bruce like that before, she has blocked out that entire arc where they were trying to track down info about Hank Patman & Alice Wakefield’s past relationship and totally hooked up. Speaking of, isn’t it a bit RICH of Liz of get mad at Todd for cheating considering HOW MANY TIMES she’s cheated? I get that it’s her sister and all, but really, they’ve done that to each other enough times for this to be routine business.

    I STILL loved reading this, despite all the inconsistencies. It was just fun to fall back into the hilariousness of Liz’s melodrama. Angry!Liz was too funny.

    But really, it wouldn’t be THAT hard to do a little research to be the book consistent with existing books? Hire a few people to read the series? It would take, like a week. Or come on, use these blogs! They are a veritable storehouse of info! 🙂

  6. Christina says:

    I just kept thinking about the twins’ “secret diaries” — didn’t Jessica and Todd hook up behind Liz’s back in at least one of those? And Liz hooked up with Jess’s boyfriend too, right? Sam, the one she KILLED after the Jungle Prom? My memory is a little fuzzy…

  7. GothamGal says:

    I hear you! I’m only in the third chapter, as much as I wanted to read it, I’m taking my time.
    Also, I’m picking up some of the series I missed so that I can really get a handle on everything. It’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for a while–no time like the present.

  8. genevieve says:

    I didn’t see Poison live until the summer of 2008, when they toured with Dokken and Sebastian Bach….and it was *AMAZING*. I’d loved those boys for 20 years, and I must say, not much had changed. And the people-watching was CLASSIC!!

    While I understand your reasoning for not going, I’ll still say that I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you DO go. At all. 🙂

    • ihatewheat says:

      Yea, I’m actually more worried about seeing The Crue. I still love Bret! I watched all of Rock of Love and even his reality show. I won’t lie, I would still hit it.

  9. Vanessa Saxton says:

    Major Spoiler Alert-
    I just got my copy in the mail today (I pre-ordered it long ago so why did it take so long to get here?) Anyways, I of course flipped to the end and found out a few juicy details. Mr. Collins gets together with a former student that he met during her senior year. We all saw that one coming! No surprises there. But, I am surprised that Winston dies! WTF???? Why, Francine, why? I am furious that she killed him off. That poor boy never got a cover from Jimmy and now he never will.

    • winstonegbert says:

      That and he morphs into an arrogant bastard with no real friends at his funeral. Having said that, I kinda liked the move away from the whole “token class clown” bit. And maybe he just seemed like a bastard to the twins and Todd because of what he knew…

      • Just Some Trans Guy says:

        My fan wank to explain Winston’s severe personality change (which upset me more than his death, as Winnie was/is my favorite SVH/SVU character, and I UTTERLY REJECT Francine’s character assassination in SVC):

        – Winston tried to do the right thing. He told Todd to tell the truth, and Todd told him to buzz off. Then, after agonizing over the decision, he tried to tell Liz, but Liz was too deep in denial to listen.

        – He couldn’t hang out with his old crowd anymore, at this point, and became depressed. His distancing himself–and also Todd’s purposeful distancing of Winston, which was largely hidden to outside observers–read to others as him being a standoffish jerk, due to his actions being read through the prism of his new wealth.

        – Winston became a bit jaded as, over time, due to being cut off from his old friends, he was left surrounded only by parasitic types. But fundamentally, he wasn’t a bad guy, still–just a sad guy.

        Also, is it just me, or was Francine purposefully implying (or allowing readers to infere) that Winston’s death wasn’t an accident? I know subtlety isn’t Francine’s strong suit, but danged if I didn’t immediately think, “Oh, no, Winston killed himself.”

  10. Jen S says:

    Wow, and I was worried it would be too light.

    Francine seems to be harboring a huge animosity to the characters that made her rich. Seriously, why not just have them all join a cult, take arsenic, and turn the whole of Sweet Valley into Jonestown II? Man, Regina’s lucky she’s dead.

  11. Jenn says:

    That whole scene from Double Love did happen, but not in that way. It was just the twins driving to school and having the conversation, but Enid was nowhere near the car! Jess didn’t jump out of the car for a ride with Bruce either; she stole the keys from Liz’s pocket, went back to the car and drove it back to school, so everyone could see her looking oh so cool. It was the first big continuity error I found.

  12. Avalon says:

    This book could have been pretty entertaining if it had nothing to do with the SV world we grew up with, but in the context of Sweet Valley….it fell short. I was so excited for this book. I’m only 28 now, so when I was growing up, I had pretty much all of the Sweet Valley series available to me already. I have read literally every single Sweet Valley High, Twins, University, Saga, Unicorn Club, and Diaries book at least once (most twice or more) and even some SVKids books when I was in elementary school. (I read some of the SVSenior Year and SVJunior High, but they didn’t hold my interest and felt empty to me.) Until I was in about 9th grade, Sweet Valley was ALL I read. (At that point, my literary tastes began to develop, but even then, I could not shake Sweet Valley and continued to read them through college. My guilty pleasure!) So, suffice it to say, I know my Sweet Valley. And I am very used to the reality that Sweet Valley will always contain inconsistencies. It used to upset me, when I was younger, but then I just kind of accepted that there would always be stark contradictions between the series, and often even within a single series.

    But the inconsistencies between SVConfidential and the entire Sweet Valley history were too much for me. I don’t even have a problem with Todd and Jessica getting together. I think it’s pretty unrealistic (what woman ends up marrying the boyfriend her sister had from the age of 12, off and on [but mostly on] up until 26? Not even Jessica). But hey, it’s Sweet Valley. This is for entertainment purposes, it’s not a big deal if it’s unrealistic. And to be honest, I really loved Bruce and Elizabeth getting together. I always had a soft spot for Bruce and I always knew that there was a real, feeling, great guy underneath the arrogant I’m-rich-and-better-than-you exterior. I loved that brief moment in Sweet Valley High when his feelings for Elizabeth come through, and was always mildly disappointed that those feelings never seemed to come back. I think it’s kind of fun that Jessica ended up with someone we’d have never expected her to be with in high school, and that Elizabeth ended up with someone Jessica seemed so much more suited for. (I also think it’s great that Liz ended up with the guy with all the money, and gold-digging, boyfriend-stealing, backstabbing Jessica got “boring” old Todd Wilkins.)

    But I digress… I had no problem with the ultimate romantic match-ups. What did annoy me greatly were details like this:

    – AJ Morgan is described in SVConfidential as having always been a bad boy, having blond hair, being a bit of a jerk. Okay, rewind. I remember very clearly that AJ Morgan, who dated Jessica briefly, was a super nice boy (too nice for Jessica’s tastes, which was essentially why it ended), with *red* hair, a soft southern accent, and an inherent sweetness. He was also NOT there in 7th grade, as Confidential claims. He did not move to Sweet Valley until high school. They completed replaced AJ with an entirely new human being and kept the name for convenience.

    – Aaron Dallas dated Jessica throughout most of middle school. That is not mentioned once. He is Steven’s new boyfriend, and nobody seems to think or remember, “oh, this is kind of funny, he used to date Jessica.” I realize that middle school relationships are hardly significant in the grand scheme of things, but years and years of those middle school books were published when we read about Jessica and her “sort-of boyfriend, Aaron.”

    – Steven being gay is all fine and good with me, but honestly, we read about this guy all throughout his youth, and never once was there any indication that he had these feelings. There were even plenty of books in SVH and SVU that were written partially from his point of view, and we never hear about any inner struggle, any conflict, any latent attraction to men, or anything but love (complex as it may have sometimes been) for his girlfriends. I think it would have been far more realistic to have made a character we knew a little less about to end up being gay. Someone we couldn’t look back at and say, “there were plenty of opportunities to clues about this, and there were none.” It’s totally fine that he doesn’t come out until he’s 30, there are plenty of people who don’t come out until far later in life than that. But we KNOW Steven. We have known him since he was 15, and we have read through a lot of his personal issues, and there was never any hint of inner conflict. For his entire adolescence and youth.

    – Enid Rollins became a bit of an arrogant bitch. No one really wants anything to do with her anymore. But nobody even mentions Alexandra Rollins and her entire college life. Enid/Alexandra underwent a name change, personality change, social life shift, from high school to college, and nobody mentions that. Nobody remembers that. She has apparently always been Enid, as far as SVConfidential is concerned, and we all know that’s not accurate.

    – There was FAR TOO LITTLE of Lila.

    – We see at the end that apparently everybody from SVH has become a bit of a loser and most have already gone through divorces and/or marital affairs at the ages of 27 or 28. Come on. What is this? Sure, some people have been divorced by their late 20s, or had affairs, but practically EVERYONE?

    – One line I found hysterical was this: “Besides, the possibility of Elizabeth Wakefield cheating on anything or anyone was near impossible.” Have we forgotten about high school entirely? The Todd/Jeffrey situation, Ken, all the zillions of camp counselors/vacation boys/temporary visitors to Sweet Valley/etc? Elizabeth probably cheated on her boyfriends even more than Jessica did, and I honestly think that’s true. Anyone feel like going back and making a tally? haha.

    – The book stated that Ned was walking Jess down the aisle for the third time, but I’m pretty sure that’s not true. Didn’t Jessica and Mike McAllister (first husband, from freshman year of college) marry and *then* tell her family?

    – Winston?! He *died*?! What? I did not like that at all. The changes made to Winston’s entire character since high school and college were too unrealistic even for Sweet Valley. Of course people change as they grow, and of course becoming rich can change people to a degree, but this was too much of a 180. Winston is a sweet, funny, lovable, dorky guy. You don’t go from that to a complete and total asshole with no feeling, no empathy, and no friends. I’m sorry, that isn’t how it happens, not even in Sweet Valley. I had more of a problem with Winston’s new persona than his death, but needless to say, I was still pretty disappointed/disapproving of the killing off of Winston Egbert.

    One thing I did find fitting and awesome was this: “Mr. Collins hasn’t remarried and has lived with the same woman for the last 8 years. He met her when she was a senior at Sweet Valley High, though not in his class.” Perfect. That is just perfect. We all knew Roger Collins was creepily in love with Elizabeth Wakefield. Come on. We knew that. Of course he ended up with someone he met at the school where he teaches.

    I was relieved – and honestly, a little surprised – that Jessica and Elizabeth’s grandmother’s name was correct. We know from Sweet Valley Sagas that her name is Marjorie Robertson, and they actually kept that consistent. Minor detail, but one I was pleased to note.

    Honestly, I think I am going to mentally discard SVConfidential from my picture of Sweet Valley and its history. It just doesn’t fit. I’m glad I got it, I’m glad to have read it, I’m glad it was written. But it’s not Sweet Valley, to me. It’s too far off the mark and makes a joke out of characters I grew up knowing. It throws their personalities and histories right out the window. So, for me, this was a somewhat entertaining one-time read, but it’s not really Sweet Valley.

  13. Kristin says:

    Enid was not married to AJ Morgan, she was having a secret relationship with him that was not really a secret since everyone knew.

    Ughhh this book was lame. The only thing I liked was that Liz actually had to work hard to get noticed in NYC. And that Bruce actually was moving THERE – and Liz wasn’t moving back to SV for some contrived reason.

  14. Haley says:

    Also the restaurant Bruce took Elizabeth too was from their high school days but there was no mention of it being the dairi burger! it was described as some cheesy restaurant with flowers on the table…And jessica keeps saying “i like so don’t …” whatever. in places that don’t make sense..
    This book is terrible. Not how i wanted to see them end up 😦

  15. Dee says:

    I just finished reading the novel and found myself to be highly disappointed! I agree that all the inconsistencies were disappointing. Why didn’t she even explain the whole death of Winston, it’s like she made a big deal about it and even gave it the possibility of murder, but we don’t ever find out the true story. Did anybody else find it annoying that she threw “like” practically in every page? What was up with that? And Steven gay? I don’t think so! I did like Elizabeth and Bruce ending up together, shocked at the description of their love making (that’s a first!). Didn’t care too much for Todd and Jessica, though I figured that if Francine ever made a newer novel that she would throw that in it.

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