It’s taken me over 72 hours to find the words to explain what happened on Thursday.
Thursday started out like most any other day — peanut butter, apples, a little work, a little bit of “Roseanne.” But then the afternoon came and while trolling through the Google Reader I tripped over a link to Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later. Oh, that fateful link where you could sign up to have the first chapter of the book e-mailed to you. How could I resist?
If there were a time machine I’d give everything I own, even my autographed Cat’s Cradle for a chance to go back to Thursday morning and cut-off my clicking finger before it hovered near that link.
Because on Thursday morning Elizabeth Wakefield was nothing more than a sort of imaginary, fictional Barbie-doll-like character who populated a lot of my adolescent fantasies of what teenagedom was like. She was the bubbly, blonde, bookish newspaper reporter who was kind of nerdy and still beautiful. She was, of course, everything I wanted to be, (rich, blond, thin, 5’6″, popular, loved, Californian) and in my head, in my imaginary best version of myself I was just like her except taller and Minnesotan.
As you know, I obsessed over Sweet Valley High when I was younger, which is why I had to click the link. I had to, SVH is the very foundation of which my booknerdery is built on.
On Thursday afternoon, Elizabeth Wakefield turned from beloved childhood idol to an unbelievable, coy character with awful taste in music in a poorly-written romance novel who, apparently, cried whenever she had orgasms.
Yes, not only does Elizabeth Wakefield have sex, she has sex where she climaxes and has had enough sex that orgasms trigger some sort of memory that turn her into a teary mess.
Bittersweet Valley, I guess.
I tell myself, as a way to process this event, that I could have handled the Lizzie orgasms if the writing were better. Maybe if the point of view didn’t randomly jump into another character for a sentence before bouncing back to Elizabeth, the orgasms wouldn’t have been such a shock. Maybe if she seemed like an actual person who had lived through something, crying through orgasms would make sense. But it doesn’t! It doesn’t, it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
The whole thing makes me a sad. Sad because the people behind Sweet Valley Confidential are, literally, picking up where they left off — cardboard, unbelievable characters in improbable situations. Don’t they realize that over the last, oh, 25 years, the audience for this book might have developed a little bit of taste? It’s not like I’m expecting Amy Bloom here, but come on.
I would love to read a book where Elizabeth and Jessica and the rest of the Sweet Valley gang are developed into actual characters with stuff at stake. Perhaps, I want too much. But it’s Sweet Valley’s fault because it was that series that truly ignited my passion for books. It would be nice if they recognized that. Not just for me, but for the entire generation of women who grew up with their hearts and imaginations in Sweet Valley.