Wednesday, January 2, 2013

With the release of Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later, interest in the Sweet Valley series has been re-sparked. Indeed, I went out and scoured bookstores for the missing books in my collection. But looking at the books, I found I do not have the appetite to read the kids and twins’ books again (although I’m still on the lookout for College editions). I browsed through several forums and websites and realized that the Sweet Valley series has been getting a lot of flak. I think I understand. Going through the books again made me realize how crazy Jessica seems to be…or that the twins seemed to take the sixth grade for about five years. Or that their days are just so action-packed. It seems that the Sweet Valley charm has faded in my life.

But not totally.

 Today, I re-started cataloguing my books and I started with the earliest books I’ve ever read. Yep, you got that right – The Sweet Valley series. In fact, the first book I ever consciously asked for from my parents was the Sweet Valley Kids Super Special 02: Easter Bunny Battle (I had it signed by my parents and all). I had a bit of nostalgia as I recorded each book and I was swamped with memories – of how I liked a particular book, how I really didn’t like this one story, or how a new concept or historical fact was introduced to my young mind at that time.

Some of my favorite Sweet Valley Kids covers and/or stories.

The Sweet Valley series was even the one that got me started reading classic books, especially my perennial favorite, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have forgotten which particular book that was but I remember Elizabeth mentioning that she has read it and so I did. I also read The Great Gatsby at a young age because Lila Fowler mentioned reading it in one of the books.

Some other books that really interested me and introduced new concepts to me are:

  • The Charm School Mystery #64 – This book taught me that ‘charm schools’ do exist. The idea of a school where you are taught how to stand up straight, walk like a model, carry yourself with grace and bearing totally excited me. I remember wanting to enter charm school back then. Actually, upon reflection, I’d still love to!
  • It Can’t Happen Here #68 – This book has opened my eyes to the concept of Nazis, the Holocaust, the branding of Jews with hot irons. These were ideas that were not taught to us in elementary. I love the fact that this book has taught me something very new.
  • Elizabeth the Spy – This is also one of my favorites, partially because I love the cover, and partially because I was introduced to the concept of prosthetics. I didn’t know at that time that such things were even possible! (Bear in mind I was reading this when I was about grade three (age 8). Plus, I liked the mind twisters.
  • Elizabeth Solves It All #103 – This book has sparked my interest in the publishing industry. Plus, I was really curious as to how public education in the United States really is, because these kids just seemed so responsible! Or maybe this is all untrue. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. (and I ended up working for newspapers)
Now, looking back, Sweet Valley sounds a bit insane and unrealistic to my older mind. The twins just keep getting into scrapes! But my inner, younger self, still appreciates the series. Maybe that’s why I still find myself collecting these after all these years. Sweet Valley has opened my small, young mind to several concepts beyond what was being taught in school at that time. And I am so grateful for it.