ellaminnowpea

The Sweet Life - Francine Pascal When I was a kid, I lived a very sheltered life in a very rural area and liked to imagine that most of the bigger world around me was accurately reflected in pop culture. I wanted to go to school in what I saw as the idealistic world of TGIF, TNBC, and, yes, Sweet Valley. Something about the relative autonomy of the teenagers, the constant excitement of even the most mundane activities, and the easy access the teens had to almost anything was very romantic to me.

That's probably why I also got swept up in soaps operas as an adolescent. Something about the world they were in struck me as very romantic, even though I could, by that point, acknowledge that the ways in which the characters approached that world – and each other – was batshit. Days of Our Lives was fun to watch, dammit. I knew I shouldn't take it seriously even as I was perusing Geocities fan sites describing in detail stories of devil possession, amnesia-ridden royalty, and Swamp Girl.

Falling somewhere between Desperate Housewives and Real Housewives, you'll find the grown-up reincarnation of Sweet Valley. The stories that sprang from that simultaneously quaint-yet-opulent LA suburb contained the same philosophies as my beloved soap operas - you've always gotta be strategizing but destiny always wins out. The books were campy, trashy in a harmless way, rooted in who-likes-whom gossip. While they weren't attempting satire, they certainly weren't mean to be taken seriously.

Remembering that balance is important to approaching this book - a series of six e-book follow-ups to the original follow-up strung together in long-form. The truth is, you are only going to enjoy this is you were a fan of the original series or if you understand it's not meant to be taken seriously. There's nothing unique or revolutionary about it. It's not even particularly well-written and it seems evident that Pascal was making it up as she went along. It's just over-the-top, campy fun. It literally (literally!) takes the world of a classic teen series and turns it into The Real Housewives of Sweet Valley. And yet - somehow - that never really feels like a ridiculous turn of events.