Whatever happened to Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield?
When you think of the 80's, what comes to mind? Some of my nearest and dearest memories of that era are teased hair, flashdance outfits, poufy prom dresses, Duran Duran ... and Sweet Valley High. At some point during my tweens and early teens, my friends and I devoured Francine Pascal's series of novels about identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. We Filipino Catholic schoolgirls envied the twins' perfect looks and bodies, followed Jessica's crazy antics, fantasized about finding true love like Elizabeth, and dreamed of living the sunny, carefree California teenage life. Bikinis, beach parties, boys, and drama, drama, drama.... yes, it was shallow and silly, but hey, teenage girls can be that way sometimes.
So it was with a thrill of nostalgia that I found out about Sweet Valley Confidential, a new novel by Francine Pascal that revisits the Wakefield twins' lives after they have graduated from college and entered the working world. I gladly accepted a review copy of the book, put on my bikini (okay, just my virtual one) and got ready to dive back into the world of Elizabeth and Jessica.
For a synopsis of the book, head on over to my Sweet Valley Confidential post on Bonggamom Finds (where you can also enter to win a copy of the book!).
I can't really comment on my feelings about the book without giving away a Major Spoiler, so if you don't want me to spoil any surprises, skip the next 2 paragraphs and move on to the final one!
** Major spoiler Alert!**
The early Sweet Valley books (at least the ones I read), despite lots of wild parties, skimpy bikinis and hot makeout sessions, remained pretty innocent. So even knowing that the twins are now in their late twenties, it still felt surreal to be reading about their sex lives. Elizabeth has friends with benefits! Gasp! Elizabeth has orgasms! Double gasp! But hey, I've grown up and so have they, so it was time to shake off the nostalgic frame of mind and treat it like the more adult novel (rather than tween brain candy) that this book is. Besides, fact that Elizabeth has casual sex with a male friend is not the major shocker of the book. Neither is the fact that Jessica is actually capable of a mature adult relationship.
No, the main shocker is the fact that Jessica has ended up with Todd Wilkins, Elizabeth's steady boyfriend for most of the series. It's so completely out of character for Todd to fall in love with Jessica, even a reformed Jessica, that it makes the basic plot of Sweet Valley Confidential almost impossible to accept. But it was either that or stop reading, and how could I abandon Elizabeth in her hour of need? It's funny how my old Sweet Valley loyalties came surging back. At first all I wanted was for Elizabeth to bitch slap Jessica and get Todd back -- but in the end, the love story is not between Elizabeth and Todd, it's between Elizabeth and Jessica. And although teenage me would have voted for a permanent rift, the grown-up, mother-of-twins me kept reading to see whether the bond of love, sisterhood and twinship would overcome the pain of deceit and betrayal.
**Spoiler End -- okay, you can start reading again**
One of the things I enjoyed most about reading Sweet Valley Confidential was getting to find out what has happened to the old Sweet Valley cast of characters: Elizabeth's best friend Enid Rollins, cheerleader Annie, Jessica's BFF (or frenemy) Lila Fowler, jock Ken Matthews, class clown Winston Egbert, brother Steven Wakefield et al. Some have turned out just as you would have expected them to, but there are a few juicy surprises in store!
Without giving too much away, I also wanted to let Bruce Patman fans know that there's a happy ending for him as well. I've always had a soft spot for Bruce Patman and had really high hopes for him when he fell in love with Regina Morrow; it's nice to see that he has turned out to be a good guy underneath the rich-boy arrogance and handsome-hunk vanity. It was quite entertaining to read about them again, just like catching up with old friends at a high school reunion. Reading Sweet Valley Confidential was like taking a trip back in time.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book. The views and opinions in this post are my own.