Warning: spoilers ahoy.
*pours a cup of Maxwell House into a Styrofoam cup, then takes a seat*
ME: My name is Kathryn, and I am a Sweet Valley High addict. It has been four years since my last Sweet Valley High book.
EVERYBODY: Hi, Kathryn.
ME: Actually, I should clarify that it’s been much longer than that with the original series. I last read a Sweet Valley High book when I was about…damn, I want to say fifteen but it could have been earlier. When I finally started to wean myself I took to checking for new releases at Waldenbooks and skimming the contents so I was at least caught up with the general story before moving on to the Stephen King and VC Andrews stuff.
*a murmur ripples through the room, and it’s clear others have done the same.*
ME: It’s actually been four years since I read Sweet Valley Confidential, which was of course pure garbage. An obvious attempt to reboot a once successful cash grab, and it might have worked if somebody had A) gone back and researched the original stories to ensure continuity, and B) made everybody in the present timeline likable. After I finished that I was convinced I had finally licked the habit for good. I’ve stayed away from the reboot series.
Now I see the first ten or so Sweet Valley High books have been reduced in price in eBook format.
*heads jerk upward, eyes bulge, hands tremble and droplets of coffee rain on shoes*
ME: I know…I know one can point out any number of grievances with this series. You could say Sweet Valley idealizes the teen experience. Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are perfect: blonde and slim, no acne, popular and they have a car. Their friends seem cut from the same cheesecloth, with each one personifying the spectrum of adolescent stereotypes to the hilt. Todd the sensitive beta boyfriend, Lila the vain elitist bitch, Bruce the asshole jock, Winston the bespectacled nerd who never got his own book because who wants to date a nerd in the 80s?
I shouldn’t have been able to relate to any of these characters because I wasn’t like them. But I tore through these damn books like Cookie Monster raging through a Nabisco factory. I don’t know why – the series tended to touch on far-fetched issues (though not quite to the Flowers in the Attic extreme) and lacked the diversity of The Girls of Canby Hall, but as I finished each book I had to reach for the next one to find out what happened next.
So these books are available digitally now, and I have a lot Amazon credit left.
ME: I tell myself, come on. These stories are surely outdated. You don’t want to re-read how asshole Bruce bullies the only fat girl in Sweet Valley and trigger your own bad middle school memories, right? You don’t want to re-read Kidnapped and wonder about your safety. Every time I see that 1-click button I take a breath and recall the storylines so I don’t have to re-read:
When Love Dies, the older brother’s girlfriend has a disease. Just as well, since he turns out gay thirty years later.
Wrong Kind of Girl, a non-blonde girl is labeled a tramp because she dates a lot, even though she hasn’t slept with any of these guys. She’s a walking Taylor Swift song.
Power Play, Jessica is a fat-phobic jerk. Bruce is an asshole who only sees value in women after they’ve shed pounds.
All Night Long, quite possibly the creepiest cover in the whole series:
I didn’t realize Jessica dated Ron Swanson back in the day.
I have already committed to two reading challenges this year, and that’s outside my goal of reading the Pulitzer and Viking Top 100 books. I still have six Game of Thrones books on the pile. I don’t have time to relive teen reading habits, so you can understand why a $2.99 price on Sweet Valley High books tempts me. These books are more my daughter’s reading level, and yet…
*reaches for Kindle to a chorus of gasps*
ME: My mistake, the first twelve books are on sale. Damn it.