The Horrible Dare Challenge 2011 commences! And it. is. horrible.
I, along with many Gals of a Certain Age, cut my reading teeth on Sweet Valley (of the Twins, High, and University variety). But that was hrmmhrmm years ago, and I had forgotten things. Like how bad they are. And then a scant two years ago TY dared me to read Dear Sister AND I DID and it was So Bad.
Plus ça change, you guys. It’s not even page ten before we get to the physical breakdown LIKE YOU DON’T KNOW: aqua eyes, silky blond hair, rosy lips, perfect figures. Honey-colored tan left out perhaps as a nod to the dangers of the sun.
However! These are not your childhood Wakefields. By page six, Liz is all, Should I sleep with my boss, who is here on my couch with a glass of wine? I mean, the hell, right? He did do me the favor of hiring me. And I’ve only slept with one other person in the last eight months, where I (oh man) cried after every orgasm. FRANCINE PASCAL WHAT? You have sullied my mind. Where is the prim, insufferable Liz who needed a few glasses of wine and a serious head trama before she would let Bruce Patman touch her boob?
Ok so while on the one hand Pascal is all nostalgia, right, on the other she is out to gobsmack you. Liz and 1BRUCE1 are now besties, because Bruce is actually a Chill Dude, and Jess and Todd are ENGAGED even though Liz and Todd were PREVIOUSLY ALMOST ENGAGED LIKE EIGHT MONTHS AGO! Serious dramz, guys.
So Liz is in New York plotting vengeance and Jess is in California moaning about how she loves Todd but Liz will never forgive her and you feel like you’ve been Freaky Friday’d because since when is Liz vengeful and this goes on for pages and Liz drones ON and ON about how much she hates Jess and Todd, those betrayers, she hates them SO MUCH because they are horrible and betrayed her and oh how she hates them.
And for a while the dramz (aside from the whole Cheating On Your [Seriously Very] Long-Term GF With Her Still-Married Twin Sister bizznach) are pretty sad-sack shenanigans (ok you know what? Even the Cheating On Your etc is kind of lame, because any actual cheaty times happened, like, five years ago, and now all Todd and Jess do is eye each other and emote).
But anyways, I’m pretty sure ye olde SVT/H/U had more legit crazytimes than this – motorcycle accidents and comas and semi-paralysis and intentionally-set forest fires and false accusations of statutorial rape and girlfriends with leukemia who actually die and REMEMBER THAT TIME LIZ WAS KIDNAPPED?!?! Much less excitingly, Jess and Todd dwell on feeling ‘like they were safe; they felt certain that Elizabeth would never come to Grandmother’s dinner.’ Little do they know that Liz is plotting to…come to Grandmother’s dinner! With a date! How diabolical.
(Vengeance is clearly a new Liz-trait, because she has been scheming up revenge scenarios for months and when her playwriter friend is all, Bring back a hot dude and Jess will fall for him and Todd will be like, WTF, Liz is all, This very basic revenge strategy has never crossed my mind [subtext: because I am Still So Virtuous].)
But eventually Pascal clicks into Soap Opera Roulette. Steph/ven (who is married) turns up gay and Winston (who is
Bruce Patman a rich douche now) turns up dead and I’m like, Finally, there are a-doin’s a-transpirin’. Except that all the juicy bits are told in these weird, present-tense flashbacks and the final showdown-climax-flashback where Liz uncovers(ed?) The Deception And Very Stale Infidelity is exceedingly disappointing. May I spoil? Ok. Jess’ super-jealous still-husband shows up and immediately intuits for no reason that Jess and Todd Once Had A Thing, and tells Liz who takes his word AND INTUITION for it and is all You fiends! *storms to New York*
So that’s lame. Also and unrelated to the plot? Francine will say bizarre things like ‘Steven was struck by how heterosexual his homosexuality was’ (on account of he can banter with his partner like he could have with his wife) and it’s all very hinky.
And she makes Jessica say ‘like’ and ‘so’ a lot (like, a lot, but with a total disregard for how people actually use those words. I am so going to have cereal now. It like is raining today), but then she’ll remember that this is a book for grown-ups, so amongst the allusions to sexy times she’s all *scrabbles through dictionary* um, nascence! That’s a word, right? Todd and Jessica’s love has a lousy nascence. How about portenteousness? Or putative? Oooh, and now I can say swears. ‘Plain old shit guilt.’ That’s a thing people say, right?
Which, ok, subtlety was never a Sweet Valley Hallmark, but ten years of rolling in royalty cheques haven’t helped. Scads of novels have heroines who are beautiful and talented but come off brusque because they’re secretly vulnerable, but Jess literally says, I am beautiful and talented but I come off brusque because I’m secretly vulnerable. The exposition in this is amazing. This is what I am thinking. This is what you are thinking. This is what we are feeling, and how it differs from how we are usually feeling.
And Francine either doesn’t trust you, or she forgets and her editor is actually sleeping labradoodle, because she tells you at least three times that staying in Sweet Valley made things worse for Jess and Todd, but that Jess didn’t want to leave for professional and sentimental reasons. Like, every time one of their old pals is all *judgmental glance* or *disastrous party* Pascal thinks you must be wondering why they stick around, so she tells you again.
Also, it is updated, y’all. Liz listens to Beyonce, and Jess and Todd’s ‘hatred’ (which disguises their PASSION) is expressed by their not even being facebook friends. Dudes, that is why Liz Taylor and I aren’t facebook friends. Because of the hate (and secret passion).
And then for some reason everyone wears beige. In California, but also in New York. Khaki and beige, camel and beige. Mrs Wakefield’s dress is ‘cream highlighted with subtle threads of beige.’ BEIGE DOES NOT HIGHLIGHT CREAM HIGHLIGHTS HAVE TO BE DIFFERENT COLORS THAN THE THING THEY HIGHLIGHT.
Oh right, and then in the end Jess flies to New York to apologize and Liz realizes that she is the good and virtuous one now and always and them’s just the breaks, thend. Writing endings is hard, y’all.
TY!! You scalliwag. I was probably going to read this anyways, but now I have someone to blame (besides Francine) for how much dumber I am now than I was a few hours ago. I am so like dumb.
Three caterpillars, but only because I have certainly read worse.