February 13th, 2010

Lilly Kane, confident

Sweet Valley Confidential

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are all grown up. At least, they will be in 2011, when St. Martins releases Sweet Valley Confidential, an all-new novel by Francine Pascal which takes place a dozen years after the Wakefield twins' graduation from Sweet Valley High.

To quote The Guardian, which, in turn, quoted the publisher, the book will see "the real world intrude after a perfect childhood."

Will it, though, acknowledge everything that happened in followed SVH? In other words, will this book mention events from Sweet Valley Senior Year, Sweet Valley University, and the short-lived Elizabeth series?

Will a year be mentioned? Sweet Valley High began in 1983, so if the new book takes place 12 years after the books began, that would be 1995. If we put it 12 years after the publication of the final book in the Sweet Valley Senior Year line, Sweet 18, that would be 2015. Will it, perhaps, be 12 years from now, or even later? We shall see. In the meantime, I'm amused by the idea of Elizabeth and Jessica being From the Future, making friends with Jenna Fox (from The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson) or perhaps riding on hoverboards with Tally Youngblood (from the Uglies books by Scott Westerfeld).

Something else to consider: The book's potential audience. It will be about adults and shelved in adult fiction. Will it attract teens, or mostly just the adults who read the original series growing up? Will new readers (and Gossip Girl and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants readers and watchers) feel the need to pick up the old series after reading the new book?

When the publisher re-released some of the early SVH titles in 2008, they didn't just put new covers on them -- they also updated some of the text to reflect brands, technology, and trends that had changed since the books' initial publication twenty-five years earlier. I did not read the new editions because the press release emphasized that they had made the girls skinnier. Yes, you read that correctly: They changed the girls from "a perfect size 6" to "a perfect size 4." See the chart of changes from the official press release. I was appalled. From then on, I launched into a "Just be healthy!" rant every time a customer picked up these new editions.

Also in 2008, series creator Francine Pascal mentioned her hopes of opening Sweet Valley High: The Musical in the fall of that year. The musical has been in the works since at least 2002, when it was tentatively titled Fastbreaks. I wonder if they are still working on it. It would be interesting to see how it was done, and if they made it serious or a delightfully self-aware comedy, both teasing and respecting the original novels.

More from the recent article in The Guardian: "A film based on the Wakefield twins' high school years is also in the works, written and produced by Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody." I wonder how much of it will be from the original books, or if it will simply be loosely based on the series. It could be like the TV series Sweet Valley High, which had the same main characters and occasionally used some basic plots from the books but incorporated new stories, elements, and characters as well. Again I say, we shall see, and acknowledge the fact that Gossip Girl fans would be drawn to that movie.

Want a sneak peek at Sweet Valley Confidential? Visit http://www.sweetvalleytenyearslater.com/

Which Wakefield twin did you prefer, Jessica or Elizabeth?
Leave your response in the comments below!

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Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Fans of alternate history and steampunk will delight in Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, a re-imagining of the events leading up to and taking place during The Great War, which was later known as World War I. The novel follows the lives of two young people, both of whom must fight for their lives and their countries: Aleksander Ferdinand, the prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Deryn Sharp, a girl posing as a boy in order to join the British Air Service.

After his parents are murdered, Alek goes on the run with two of his mentors, Otto Klopp, master of mechaniks, and Wildcount Volger, his fencing master. They board a Cyclops Stormwalker, a two-legged metal engine of war, which Alek has a hand in piloting. Meanwhile, Deryn (aka Dylan) becomes a midshipman on the Leviathan, an airship made of a genetically engineered whale. The Leviathan and its human passengers rely on other fabricated animals for power, defense, communication, and defense. (Move over, messenger pigeons: Devyn has messenger lizards who scurry around and parrot urgent news and orders to recipients.)

Leviathan is a mix of history and invention, with an afterword by the author which clarifies what is fact, what is fiction, and how he blended things together. For example, while Alek did not exist, Archduke Franz Ferdinand did have children, and the assassination of the Archduke and his wife was the casus belli for World War I. Another heavily-featured character, scientist Nora Barlow, was a real person, though her vocation and actions were altered for the sake of this story, naturally.

Throughout the book, main characters and important events are captured in wonderful black-and-white illustrations by Keith Thompson, most of which are full-page images complete with captions. The endpapers offer a map of European nations entangled in the war, detailed with animals and weaponry to show which lands are Clanker powers (meaning they use steam-powered machines, like Alek), which are Darwinist (they use fabricated animals, like Devyn), and which are neutral. The eye-catching jacket design and illustration are by Sammy Yuen Jr., with the mechanical wing illustration by Keith Thompson.


Leviathan was the book of the month at readergirlz in March 2010. Please join us at the website www.readergirlz.com and the blog readergirlz.blogspot.com to discuss the book with other readers and with the author himself!

The next book in the series, Behemoth, was published in October 2010.

I would love to have a message lizard. I miss Auryn.

Check out my companion post, Definitions from Leviathan.

This book prompted me to research Tasmanian tigers. The fact that these beautiful creatures are extinct makes me want to cry.

Do not confuse this with Leviathan, the second book in The Fallen series by Thomas E. Sniegoski. I urge you to read that series as well!

Favorite Lines

"Oi, beastie!" Dylan cried, and one of the ropes seemed to move in response, curling like a cat's tail. - Page 267

"I suppose I've had an unusual upbringing." - Alek, page 280

In a way Dylan was the sort of boy Alek would have wanted to be, if he hadn't been born the son of an archduke. - Page 327

Devyn remembered after Da's accident, her mother and the aunties trying to turn her back into a proper girl - skirts, tea parties, all the rest. As if they wanted to erase the old Devyn and everything she'd been. She'd had to fight like mad to stay who she was. - Page 377

Related Posts at Bildungsroman
Interview: Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
The Midnighters trilogy by Scott Westerfeld