31 March 2011

A Double-Edged Sword

It was by chance that I got hooked on books about the Sweet Valley twins at the age of eleven (see this post for more of my ramblings about the books themselves). On the way to Scotland on holiday, I signed up to join a kids' book club in a Durham bookshop. A few months later they sent me a copy of a book from the Sweet Valley Kids, one of the spin-off series from the main Sweet Valley High books, in which the perfect, blonde, identical-twin heroines (anti-heroines?) Jessica and Elizabeth are aged seven. This series was far too young for me but I discovered Sweet Valley Twins, in which the girls are twelve, and then later Sweet Valley High.

They were trashy, poorly written and predictable and I could get through a book from the Twins series in about an hour and it took me about two hours to read a Sweet Valley High book. Some of my first experiences with the interwebs involved ordering as many of these books as Papa would let me in a single pop from the American Book Center in Amsterdam, circa 1995, and every time Papa went to the States, I would give him a shopping list of the books to buy and I would constantly scour second-hand bookshops looking for rare titles. The books are now stowed safely in a trunk in my parents' airing cupboard (which functions as a loft) but they'd probably be more upset than me if the books got thrown away; after all, they had invested serious time and money in my collection.

The last book was published about ten years ago but this week, Sweet Valley Confidential has been released -- a sequel in which the twins are now 27 (wow, they're finally the same age as me!) and all grown up. The reviews haven't exactly been positive; Monica Hesse in the Washington Post's Lifestyle blog describes the new book as, "less like a sequel and more like fan fiction." I can imagine. I've read the first chapter and it really sounds like it's trying too hard to be all contemporary. I should know. When I was 13, for English class we had to put together a creative writing portfolio and my short story component (well, more of a novella in my case) was at least partly inspired by a pair of twins who look identical but act like polar opposites. I got an A+.

Anyway, as Hesse points out, who is the audience of Sweet Valley Confidential? Tweens and teens probably won't want to read about some ancient 27-year-olds and besides, SVC would look embarrassingly tame compared with the likes of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. Of course, the former fans on the 1bruce1 community who love to hate the series will probably take a look at the books but no other twenty-somethings will really want to read the new book...will they?

Anyway, I will probably be able to see for myself as my parents are in New York at the moment and they went to see Francine Pascal (the creator of the series) read from the new book (Papa even asked a question, although I hope he said I was a former rather than current fan...), and I imagine they'll be bringing me back a signed copy. But it will have to wait until I've finished a Len Deighton trilogy, the new Jo Nesbo, The King's Speech, All We Wanted Was Everything and A Favourite of the Gods. Maybe longer.

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