Friday, April 1, 2011


Catching Up With Jessica and Elizabeth: Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

I started reading the new Sweet Valley High book last night, and oh my god I love it I hate it I love it I hate it. It's unexpectedly stirring — you can feel it in your heart, this fluttering memory of caring about Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, and aren't we all Elizabeths? Did anyone identify with Jessica? Oh you sluts! Just kidding, somewhat, because Jessica, what is wrong with you?! but I'm getting ahead of myself — but the book's main problem is that Jessica, what is wrong with you?!

The thing she does to Elizabeth — the drama that provides the book's foundation — is so ridiculously evil I don't even know where to begin. And the ease with which she started doing that thing? Ugh, I could kill this girl.

OK so in case you haven't heard, Sweet Valley High is back (you can read chapter one here), and it's 10 years later, meaning the twins are 27 and so is everyone they grew up with (Lila Fowler/Enid Rollins OMG, etc.), which means the book's being marketed to us and not pre-teens. Us being women who read SVH as kids and feel fondly (or deeply, surprisingly hateful) toward the characters, and who might get a thrill out of hearing Jessica and Elizabeth describe their wines and their orgasms, both of which they enjoy liberally. It's kind of like running into someone super-pretty you went to high school with and discovering that they've become even more beautiful than they used to be (nooo!), but that they've got a shitty job/life, so phew. (Do you guys do that? Where inside you're an asshole? Well don't even worry, because there's no way you're as much of an asshole as Jessica "Lizzie pick up the pho-one" Wakefield, but does that surprise you? No. No, Jessica, I saw this coming even back in the day. You're dead to me.)

Anyway, I'm only about halfway through because I got so mad at someone in the book that I had to fall asleep, but here are a few fun parts from the first 150 pages (it's about 300 long).

Oh, and quick backstory — Elizabeth's living in New York and working at some awful theater magazine while Jessica's living it up as a total B in Sweet Valley and doing PR.

The dialogue can be kind of hilarious/it's a Sweet Valley book. For instance, Page 28 (and spoiler alert):

Todd interrupted her misery. "Come on, Jess. I'm not saying it wasn't horrendous what we did, it was a terrible betrayal that we'll have to live with. Nothing is going to change that. So what should we do now? Break up?"

Burn in hell. Also, does anyone else remember Lila Fowler more vividly than actual friends she used to spend time with? Here's where Lila's at right now, and it's so good. Page 29:

Lila Fowler was no different than she had been in high school. Still the same light brown wavy hair — only now it was ironed flat and streaked blond — hazel brown eyes, a perfect little figure, and just as rich and snobby as ever. Lila had never really changed, never grown, and now all she had left was her old cheerleader uniform. (Ed. note: huh?) She'd done nothing with her life so far other than drop out of college in her third year. She'd spent a few months trying to get work as a model, but when the agencies didn't scoop her up immediately, she gave up and went back to plying her natural talent as a shopper and a flirt. It was like the good old days, and Elizabeth said it made her feel popular, just like in high school.

Lila, her perfect body delectable in the shortest shorts possible and a salmon-colored silk halter top loose enough to slide lightly over her just right, slightly augmented, perky braless breasts, answered the door with shrieks of delight and surprise.

I <3 u, u bitch!

On page 43, this is just an amusing full sentence:

Weak asshole!

And page 44:

All she could remember now was how much they had hated each other, Jessica and Todd. They hardly spoke. They weren't even Facebook friends.

Kind of funny, but to be fair the book actually does an impressive job of inserting social media/technology/modern signifiers in a not-too-heavy-handed way. Mostly. Stay tuned for something a few inches down, though.

Page 73:

Elizabeth remembered a cartoon of a couple sitting in a restaurant in New York: The man wants to call the waiter, who is across the room. He lifts his hand and calls out, "Actor! Actor!"

Haha. I don't know. Let's just keep going.

Page 82:

His smile was nothing like Todd's. Except — on closer look — for the slightly crooked fucking front tooth.

F word siren!

Page 96:

Okay, there were fun parts. Like that he is fabulously handsome — dark hair, charcoal eyes, a great body — and very young-looking for forty-two. And with his wealth and brains he's extremely powerful, which is very sexy. And I love the parties and the private planes and yachts and all that stuff. Like, who wouldn't?

Which is hilarious (the book's narrative goes forward and back in time, shifting from first to third person), and guess whose thoughts those were? Yeah. She thinks with "like" and "so" a bunch. As in, she so thinks, like, with "like" and "so" a bunch.

Page 97, more Jessica:

I like dancing, hangin' out, fooling around. Even updating Twitter would be more exciting, if only I had something interesting to say.

Ahhh. Dying.

And then my other notes are a little too spoilery/vague ("Page 130, jess u cunt"), even though so are all the other things above. I'm enjoying this book, but it fills me with rage.


95 Comments / Post A Comment


I devoured this book, much the same way I would devour my SVH books on the hour-long drive home from the bookstore when I was a kid. I also laughed at the "They weren't even Facebook friends" line. And many other lines. And the whole Steven subplot. And the stupid birthday party. I kept finding myself telling characters to shut up, but since I was reading the Kindle version I couldn't exactly throw the book down in disgust, so I read the whole thing.

superfluous consonants

it took an hour to get to the bookstore? i am rudely curious.

Narwhals Tooth

I will read this on the sly, where no one can see me. On the ipad, so there is no physical proof that I own a SVH book at my age.


JESS AND TODD??!!?? Jess and TODD? O.M.G. Must call childhood BFF immediately. This is freaking me out.

Why, yes, we did get overly invested in the books and talked about the characters as though they were real people.


This should not be a surprise! Jessica sleeps with Liz's boyfriends like it's her job. This is the girl who spiked the punch at the Jungle Prom, letting Liz and Sam Woodruff drive into the night (unknowingly) wasted just so she could be queen. Jeffrey died and there were zero consequences for Jess because that's what it takes to be prom queen sometimes.


Exactly. Jessica has always been a huge dick. They tried to make her a little nicer in the later books and the TV show, but in the original stories she was truly the evil twin.


Well. AN evil twin. Not more evil than Margo and Nora, certainly.


True. The twin from Stranger with my Face may have been eviler. Stealing your sister's body is way meaner than stealing her boyfriend.


I know, but Todd? I am so ashamed of him!!


Jess, u cunt!! I wish I fell asleep when I got angry at someone! It would almost be like I was happy all of the time, and couldn't remember how I thought Jess was a c-word for my entire adolescence, because I'm in such a good mood! Whoops, no, I think I was angry? ...Wait, zzzz.

Edith, do you think you could recreate the scenario in which Brenda "I hate you both! Never talk to me again!" Walsh runs into her man-stealing ex-bff Kelly Taylor at the salad bar area of the Bowery Whole Foods? (Brenda lives in the area with her fashion photographer boyfriend, Kelly Taylor is visiting for the weekend before popping up to Vermont for a ski trip.) Preferably, Brenda would throw a glass of wine at Kelly at some point, but it would be okay if you can't fit that in. My point is, who secretly feels like the prettier, more fulfilled, tighter-despite-their-older-age asshole on the inside afterwards ("MEEEE. IT'S MEEEEE!" - 79 year old Andrea, watching jealously as she crouches limberly behind a large cookie display)?

Edith Zimmerman

Lol at 79-year-old Andrea


OF COURSE Jessica works in PR!!!

This book sounds INSANE. I feel like it sounds so, DIRTY?? Like, "Oh no! What have you done to Sweet Valley?"

I haven't bought it yet, I just got "Is This the Real Life? The Untold Story of Queen" and also the one about Cleopatra. Maybe I'll buy a secondhand copy of SVC next week, since anyone who gets it is obviously going to read the entire thing immediately.


What's the Cleopatra book? Stacy Schiff's? Always looking for good historical bios.




I just put in an order for this and Your Voice in My Head. My "recommended for you" section is going to be so wonky!


Haha I just read it and it is so great/terrible. Wait till you get to the ending, it's *classic* SVH. Except with a SEX SCENE (ok it's not really too graphic). Haha and how hilarious are Jessica's endless iterations of 'so', even when it so makes no sense to say 'so'.

Jolie Kerr

I was totally a Jessica. Humph.

(Totally running to the bookstore this afternoon and spending the entire weekend in bed with the twins. That sounds so much cooler-slash-kinkier than it will actually be.)



"Omg. Jessicaaaaaaaaa!!!"



Though I swear I remember Jessica stealing Todd on around 3 occaisions in the SVH books.
And she dumps him every single time as he is so horribly horribly dull. She should, so like, learn by now.


I read the first chapter online because I am at work (and pasting it into a word document made it look like I was reading something work related?) AH NOW I NEED TO BUY THIS STUPID BOOK.


great move, i am going to do that now.


TEN years later? But I was definitely reading these books more like twentyfive years ago... TIME CONFUSION... do the twins regenerate, like Doctors Who?

julie lauren

Seriously. I want updates on vc Andrews characters, btw

rien à dire

I refuse to believe that Lila Effing Fowler peaked in high school. My world is shattered!


Agree! She sounds like she's holding up pretty well...although the creepster who writes these descriptions of her perfect breasts/tiny shorts should take it easy.


Yeah that line totally reads like alt.sex.stories - stop perving out on Lila!!


I KNEW the rift had to be about Todd. He was always a secret douche underneath his perfect boyfriend-ness.


I also need to add how awesome it is that she thanks Justin Timberlake and TI in her acknowledgement page.


Of course he's a douche, his name is freakin' Todd!

(Apologies to all the nice Todds out there...if you exist.)


Can we talk about how FP thanks an editor in the acknowledgement for helping her mention current technologies? Someone was paid to add the word "Twitter" to page 58 or wherever. FRANCINE!


ok, I am reading this now and it is making me feel so wierd.


I'm in the middle of a book, but you know what? "Ulysses" can go fuck itself. I'm buying this book pronto.


Yes. Do this. I was so inspired yesterday that I took the afternoon off, went to a used bookstore with my best friend and cleared out their classic SVH selection. We then retired to a donut shop and read all the best parts aloud. It was the best decision that I have ever made.


That sounds so nice. Donuts and a tandem read-aloud.


Can we also talk about how my favorite April Fool's joke of the day so far is whomever tampered with the series list in Wikipedia?

Elizabeth is Mine Todd Wilkins and Devon Whitelaw aim for Elizabeth's heart, while Jessica is plotting revenge.
Please Forgive Me Jessica celebrates her conquest of Todd, while Elizabeth's heart is broken when Devon reveals his secret homosexuality.
A Picture-Perfect Prom? Devon and Todd go to the prom together, and Elizabeth goes to the prom with Enid, as she experiments with her sexuality.


Obviously, the most important question here is whether Bruce Patman still drives a car with "1Bruce1" license plates?


I was thinking this exact thing.


Anyone else puzzled by the home telephone ringing inside Elizabeth's apartment?


her mom bought it, for safety reasons!


I LOVED these books growing up. I'll never forget the one where they go swimming on Valentine's Day, and as a kid from New Jersey, I didn't understand how someone could go SWIMMING in February. I don't think they had taught us about climates in school yet. My mom had to explain.


Hairpin Book Club members, because of recently reading Villette I now know that Lila Fowler is basically Ginevra Fanshawe. And I love it! I <3 u, u bitch, INDEED.


haha yes! and what happened to this book club? I finished Dombey and Son even! And that was dang long.


Right! I sing the praises of Villette, hard, and sometimes I go that thread just to see if anybody else is commenting on it months later. Lila/Ginevra with your better clothes and hair and open status-seeking, love you and hate you!


Am I to understand that some of you wanted to be ELIZABETH? I lived for Jessica. I'm still mostly a Jessica, Ithink? Elizabeth is a major pill...right? What is happening I am so confused.
(I was so obsessed with SVH as a young girl, my mom wrote an article about it in SLJ. People still quote it, so sometimes I feel like the poster-child of the junk-food-book generation.)


I wanted to be Suzanne Devlin. Crazy, but with a sympathy-garnering disease.

superfluous consonants

Still the same light brown wavy hair — only now it was ironed flat and streaked blond

So...completely different? Or the same in that she's still growing it, out of her head?


I have always hated Elizabeth. She's so wishy washy and so pure and good. It's exhausting having to read 429 books where she details her neurotic and one-dimensional inner life. I thought Jessica was the most interesting person in this book, and in all the books, and I loved (hated) loved (hated) Confidential so hard. The writing was so epically bad that instead of getting mad, I decided to embrace it fully. Great decision. I was thoroughly charmed by the technology product placement. Welcome to the aughts, Francine. Everyone in Sweet Valley is such a hot mess AND, for the record, Jessica was, indeed, always right about Enid. Such a bitch. I can't wait for the next installment, Sweet Valley Rehab.


team jessica


i want to read this, but i couldnt even handle the sweet valley high books. i was strictly a fan of the sweet valley jr high books. but jessica was still obviously a total b in them.


also, weren't there already books about them in college? that were murder mysteries?


Fuck, my hands just kindle-bought this book before my brain could stop them!!


F words? In my SVH??


not just that...alice fucking wakefield (who apprently *still* could pass as the twins' older sister) even drops one at one point!


I haven't read the book yet but totally not shocked about Jess sleeping with Todd now falling in love with him?Thats quite a shocker lol he seems too boring for her.


Oh I thought Enid changed her name to Alex when they went to SVU.I love how everyone ends up with everyone that they went to high school with and none of there college boyfriends/girlfriends

Das Awesome

Ok, so color me devastated they seem to not have incorporated the SVU continuity into this new book. Because I don't wanna live in a world where Lila DIDN'T marry a beautiful Italian count who promptly died in a tragic skiboat accident, leading to her tragic return to SV in order to mourn. And attend college.

Lila 4 Eva.


They mention Jessica's marriage to Mike and Enid's alcoholism, so they tie it in a bit.


Okay, I never read Sweet Valley High because I was a pretty normative kid and I felt I'd be embarrassed to do so BUT Francine Pascal also wrote Fearless, which is about a girl who experimentally had her fear gene removed and I guess she just kicks asses in New York? There's a cute boy in a wheelchair? Does anyone know what I am talking about? Whatever happened to Gaia? Did she kill that guy or whatever like she wanted to?


Oh my God, FP wrote that series? I used to read it every Friday afternoon at the Borders near my junior high!


Yes! She did! I just read the Wikipedia article, which is VERY long and VERY funny, and apparently I missed a whole lot!

Better to Eat You With

Sweet Valley High was entirely ghost-written. I know someone who worked on it, back in the day.


So did anyone here read the Sweet Valley SAGA? It was seriously 5 generations of Wakefields, including Elizabeth/Jessica dopplegangers who came of age around the 1920s, and the Jessica of that duo was EVEN MORE EVIL than this Jessica? It lingers in my soul. She wanted Elizabeth's boyfriend/one true love/Todd of the 1920s and somehow decided she should set him up for moonshine in his trunk and pretend she was Elizabeth doing it. So that of course he would hate her for sending him to jail and love Jessica instead! And when the dude was so hurt he left town to disappear forever, Jess was just like, OH WELL, BOYZ! Sisters are forever though, right?!?


yes! I never actually really read SVH, but I LOVED that saga book. although in retrospect the timeline/weird similarities in generations make no sense whatsoever.

Brobdingnagian Brainboners

YES!!! In fact, there were TWO of the sagas (saga? sagae?)--one that followed the mom's ancestry, and one that follows the dad's. Somehow there are beautiful twins in nearly every generation and one of them always dies or moves to France or something, and every 40 years or so someone from the mom's side of the family falls in love with someone from the dad's side, but of course it NEVER WORKS OUT because of wild horses or the Hindenburg, or something.

Good gravy, I loved those books. I gave away all my YA fiction years ago, but I was certain to keep those two books. Love.


How could I have forgotten the fated to be together and then torn apart over and over part of the storyline?!

And now I have to get the other one of the sagae. I'm kind of obsessed with that 20s storyline and WHAT: "Betrayed by his true love, Ted Wakefield must forget his past to find happiness with brilliant journalist Julia Marks."


And do you remember the Saga about the Patmans??? I think I loved those books more than the regular series, because I am a history geek, and loved period piece stories.

Harmony Hunter

I remember Jessica wore her hair in a pageboy, and I wondered like hell what that meant. I still don't actually know what it means.


um, it's a special kind of bob. http://www.bobpage.de/pageboy.html

young preeezy

I'm too embarrassed to buy this book (and unfortunately don't have a kindle) so I can only hope that the twins from the SVH TV series will return to play them in a Josh Schwartz adaption or something. And yes, they're probably, like, 40 by now but they can make it werq!

julie lauren

Embarrassed?!? I will ask the first lady i see reading this on the train out out of sheer principle!

young preeezy

OK fine. I should actually be more embarrassed of the fact that I spelled "adaptation" wr

Carrie Hill Wilner

The first chapter OMG OMG OMG. "Like that embarrassing time a month ago on Broadway, when the fury escaped her mind into her mouth and she said, out loud, really loudly, “I hate you!” People turned, shocked and then interested; she quickly put her hand to her ear as if she were on a cell phone, and it became ordinary and they lost interest."

Yes, her handphone, totally ordinary. Ok I need one copy for my house and one for my office and one for my purse so I am never without. I'm ordering them on my handphone right now, normally.


There was a lady behind me on the el once who was gabbing away on a handphone. She even put someone on hold while she answered her OTHER LINE.


Ha ha ha I have been known to use the handphone! One particularly memorable time freshman year in college, my advisor called me and I had made the big mistake of putting my (landline) phone next to my bed, so naturally I answered in a half-asleep state. She asked if I could come meet her the next day or whatever and there was a long silence in which I fell back asleep. Somehow I hung up because later I woke up talking to my handphone saying, "Tuesday at 1 o'clock? Sounds great!"


It's waiting for me at the library RIGHT. NOW.


only TEN years later? i want whatever they're drinking. those first SVH "books" came out when i was in middle school. WAY more than 10 years ago.


YEESSSS. SVH was my JAM (more than 10 years ago, but still). I'm an Elizabeth who always wanted to be a Lila. Dayam, that girl was badass. I'm happy to see she's still badass in the naughties.


Elizabeth irritated me; she was such a passive doormat. The only time I really liked her was when Jessica talked her out of a coma and she woke up slutty.


I haven't thought of these books in forever, EXCEPT, isn't there this one plotline where Elizabeth gets kidnapped by a man who is in love with her, and he ties her up and listens outside the door while she uses the toilet (?), but then he decides to take her away to start a new life, but before doing that he has to go to the mall for some reason (?), where also the rest of the Wakefields are frantically looking for kidnapped Elizabeth (?why would she be at the mall?), and instead of course he sees Jessica and is like "Elizabeth why aren't you tied up at home like usual" and Jessica THINKS FAST and is like "oh sorry, I just wanted to say goodbye to my friends at the mall (?), I'm ready now," and so he takes her home and somehow Elizabeth is saved. And it was like, that proved that Jessica wasn't evil--she put her life on the line for her twin!!!

I think about this all the time. Wishing I had a twin to save me from kidnappers at the mall

Also wasn't there a character who died immediately after doing a line of cocaine??? Terrifying to a 4th grader (me)


@MMR Yep, SVH #14, KIDNAPPED! He also feeds Liz pancake batter. She's completely over it by the next book though!

Ashley Nicole Pace

They look like Rebecca De Mornay.

Rishe G@twitter

Ok, I never comment on Hairpin articles but this just warrants too much to leave uncommented.

First of all, LOLOLOL at the lady who wants to be Suzanne Devlin. She so unbuttoned her shirt for Mr Collins. And she was seriously deranged.

Secondly, I'm sad if this doesn't cover SVU. Not just SVU, but does anyone else feel like they kept getting a chance for a do-over with all the series? There was Sweet Valley High, then Sweet Valley University. THEN, there was SVU, where Liz lives with her best friend Sam who she doesn't start dating until later and Jess is best friends with a gay guy called Neil that they meet doing some kind of Amazing Race thing... and I think this girl Chloe is involved somehow, who knows why. THEN they went in with Sweet Valley High Senior Year - please someone tell me you've read this. Brand new cast of characters and far more late 90's - it incorporates a coffeehouse as a hangout and instant messaging. Not sure which storyline I want in my life!

Oh, I lied. I totally want Tom Watts and Dana whatsherface and End slash Alex Rollins and Mike McAllery back. Make it SVU, please! Oh and Jess SO DID THIS BEFORE... She kissed Sam so Liz would see bc she wanted to prove that he would cheat on her... so Liz ran away to London.

Okay I'm exposing way too much of high schoolness here. When does the actual book come out?


I think I had a crush on/wanted to be Lila Fowler. I especially remember thinking her name was so awesome and sophisticated. *sigh* She was so obviously a total biatch. But so pretty! And I am sure I identified more with her because she was not blonde (neither am I, and I had a hate-on for blonde popular chicks growing up because my sister and mother were both insanely tall blonde model-types, and I am short and brunette).


Sorry, but why so one sided against Jess? Sure, shes a sociopath, BUT SO IS LIZ!! You, much like Francie, seem to have forgotten all the terrible things Liz has done over the years; she is actually a far worse character than Jess because she pretends to be so saintly and pure. She cheated on Todd at every turn (the millions of vacations/summers that happened in a single year) yet Francie actually had the balls to say that 'cheating is something Liz could never do ' or some bullshit at the end of SVC. I know that's because she never read her own series (that was just one of the MANY glaring inconsistencies in this new edition) but her martyrdom of Liz really incenses me, and it seems that you agree. Also, the writing style and language Francie used to try and sound hip and modern was utterly heinous. Of course I bought it the day it came out!! Good times...nothing will ever replace the originals!!


Also, Jess and Todd already hooked up in high school, remember? it was revealed in one of the Secret Diaries, as was revealed that Liz and Ken hooked up too. Just sayin, the big scandal could have been something a lot better/juicier. I guess the diff is Liz never found out?


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