the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Palo City

Sweet Valley Confidential, the long-awaited “reunion” book for the Sweet Valley High universe, came out this week, a cause for much excitement for twenty- and thirty-somethings who grew up with Liz and Jess.

Shockingly to some, Sweet Valley was never my thing. I started with BSC at age six, and I think my mom felt that I was too young for Sweet Valley High, too advanced a reader for Kids, and dear god just look at all the spinny racks of Francine Pascal; I AM ALREADY LINING ANN M. MARTIN’S COFFERS EVERY MONTH. CHOOSE ONE. So I think the number of SV books I ended up reading adds up to less than ten.

I bought Sweet Valley Confidential anyway, because I needed some light reading on my Kindle, I’m running out of trashy celebrity tell-alls, and Meg Cabot’s new book isn’t out until the middle of the month. (SO excited for Abandon!) I actually haven’t finished reading it yet, because having never really been a fan, it’s just not as much as a page-turner for me as it for those who grew up wanting to be size six blonde beauties with eyes the color of the California ocean. Or alternatively, Lila Fuckin’ Fowler. Anyway, I am only like a third or so of the way through, which is unusual for me because in third grade my teacher called me a liar because I read faster than she did.

The question that SVC brings up for me, of course, is whether such a book would work for the BSC. We already have the The Summer Before, which I think works okay as a prequel, even though I don’t like how it messed with canon a bit. Ann has pretty much categorically denied that there will ever be a book featuring the Sitters after eighth grade graduation, but she also had, in the past, said that there won’t be ANY new books featuring the girls, and we got The Summer Before, so let’s examine the possbilities and the logistics.

A book like Confidential, with the girls aged ten years or so? I honestly have a hard time seeing it work, and wouldn’t even really want it. I like that we can explore our own ideas for the girls’ futures in fan fiction, and it’s not set in stone that so and so got married/divorced/had babies/came out/became an executive/became a ne’er do well who never moved out of his parents’ basement (Hi, Logan!). Also, frankly, I don’t really see Ann has an adult/chick lit writer, or even a writer for an older YA audience. I don’t think she’s really a writer who wants to deal with sex, drugs, alcohol, and more adult topics. I think she handled more “adult” storylines deftly in Main Street, but in a PG fashion. I just don’t see her wanting to introduce adulthood to the BSC.

I can see a Confidential-type book working, however, for California Diaries. It would be THE BEST THING EVER. Bring in Peter Lerangis to write it! The CD books were always more adult than BSC, and touched on issues in a way that would shock the shit out of Stoneybrook. So yes, bring on Palo City Confidential!

I do think that a BSC-in-High School book or miniseries would work. Maybe bring Stoneybrook up to Palo City-levels of issues beyond “Wow, why do all of the parents in Stoneybrook suck?” Bring in a little bit of sex and controversy, just not as much as in the adult lives as our Sweet Valley friends. This is, I think, the most likely scenario for any kind of BSC reunion book.

Ann has said that she has no plans to write a reunion book, and prefers that readers are able to imagine the girls’ future themselves. But she had also said that she would never write a new BSC book of any kind, and we ended up with The Summer Before anyway. Sweet Valley Confidential seems to be doing pretty well, if the excitement across the non-fandom blogosphere is any indication. Scholastic might take note of the possible very large dollar signs. The problem with The Summer Before is that it is very much a book aimed at middle grade readers. Parents who were fans as children might want to buy it for their kids, kids might be interested in it, and super diehard nostalgists might want it, but it’s not something that most adults would buy for themselves. Whereas Sweet Valley Confidential appeals to both teenage readers who weren’t around for SVH the first time around AND to readers who are now adults, who are ok with reading a trashy novel about people in their own age group. While a book about high schoolers isn’t quite the same thing, I can see people wanting to know what happened to the girls once they finally graduated from eighth grade, after a sisyphean thirteen-year run.

What do you think of the BSC’s reunion book possibilities?

As promised, here are my thoughts on Dawn and the We <3 Kids Club.

Dawn was my favorite member for quite some time. I liked her LOOOOONNNG white blonde hair. Being a platnium blonde myself, I envied her, as my mother didn’t let me grow out my pageboy until fifth grade or so. I also was what my boyfriend calls an “aspiring vegetarian.” And California seemed even more glamorous to me than New York City. Finally, I, too, wanted to be seen as a laid-back individual.

As we all know, Dawn is rarely actually a laid-back individual. This book is indeed one of those times where she defies her chapter 2 characteristics and is anything but laid-back.

This is a Dawn-in-Palo City book. I happen to enjoy reading about Palo City a fair amount. I am a big California Diaries fan. Thus, this is a book I reread fairly frequently. There are so many crazy things in this book, starting with the laid-back lack of school bells! OMG! I went to school on the East Coast and never had bells either, but I digress.

First moment of craziness–the W<3KC gets famous! They are in the newspaper and on TV! Dawn has a laugh like pealing bells! Kristy gets really jealous. Oh, Kristy. Kristy is pretty annoying in this book, so I don't want to focus on this part too much. Basically, despite the fact that the BSC has more business than they can handle, Kristy wants to equal, if not better, the W<3KC media attention.

But the W<3KC can't handle it! They are too disorganized! Dawn steers them in the right direction, starting with an appointment book for the CORRECT YEAR.

In this book we also get to spend more time with Carol Olson. Dawn’s newfound respect for Carol from California Girls! flies out the window when Jack and Carol announce their engagement. Dawn sees it necessary to steal her dad’s credit card, book a flight to Connecticut out of LAX, and rechristen herself “Marisol.” Lo and behold, she is not welcomed with open arms in Stoneybrook. Dawn=delusional. Mary Anne=rocking an LL Bean nightgown.

If I had done this at thirteen I would have been in such deep shit. If I did this at 22 I would still be in deep shit. All Dawn has to do is work back the cost of the plane ticket–a nice large sum, to be sure, but still.

Dawn’s punishment, however, is not mentioned in any subsequent book. It’s possible she worked it off fast, what with all the extra baby-sitting jobs the W<3KC got after their media blitz, but still.

Dawn’s actions also cause Jack and Carol to break off their engagement. Poor Carol. I would feel so bad if my future stepdaughter flew across the country to get away from me.

But don’t worry, she always pulls herself up to the top of heap. I still don’t really understand what that means. Jeff doesn’t either.

So yeah, this book pretty much encourages children to steal from their parents if they don’t like their future stepparents. After all, the punishment won’t carry over into the next book and you’ll totally get what you want: a break up! Yay!

For next time: Mallory Pike, #1 Fan.