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Sweet Valley All Grown Up

Before there was Bella and Edward, tweens of the ’80′s were captivated by the exploits of twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, the main characters in Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series. Young girls around the world delighted in the drama that surrounded the duo with flowing blond hair, sparkling aquamarine eyes and perfect bodies. Those avid fans are all grown up now, and Pascal has written her new book, Sweet Valley Confidential (St. Martin’s Press, 304pgs), with these women in mind. The book revisits the idyll of Sweet Valley, California ten years after the original series ended, with the beautiful Wakefield twins now 27 years old.

“This is the first time in history that a kids’ book has made the leap into adulthood,” says the author in an interview with CNN. “And it’s a very difficult thing because the people who used to read the books are people of importance, they’re grown adults, and they have a certain ownership of Sweet Valley because it was their adolescence. With the new book I hoped not to outrage them and I don’t think I have. But I think I have surprised them in a lot of ways and I hope I have touched them.”

Like the young adult books, the plot reads like a corny soap opera. Elizabeth retreats to New York to lick her wounds, after discovering her long-time boyfriend Todd is having an affair with Jessica. She never wants to see the couple again, but is forced to return to Sweet Valley in order to attend her grandmother’s 80th birthday. Hellbent on revenge, Elizabeth then hatches a scheme to ruin Jessica and Todd’s relationship.

Early critical reviews have been tepid so far. “Yes, the plot of Sweet Valley Confidential is cheesy, and the writing won’t win any awards. But it’s a fun read. Time has made Elizabeth a little less perfect, and Jessica is a little less catty,” writes Alicia Rancilio in a review for AP. While Karen Valby of Entertainment Weekly advises: “Sweet Valley fans should treat this book as a ridiculously indulgent exercise in nostalgia — and then revel in how well they’ve turned out compared with those crazy Wakefield girls.”

Despite any criticism, Pascal is proud of the Sweet Valley legacy and how the series turned a generation of young girls on to reading. “I used to get thousands of letters and about a quarter of them started the same way, ‘I used to hate to read. …’And that’s the wonderful thing about this series; it really did bring a lot of young women into the reading world.”

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