OK, guys. I’m coming out of my year and a half long blogging retirement to tell you, no BEG you to read this book.
Several years ago, I had the brilliant idea to turn this old blog here into book. I was going to separate the books I had re-read by category (Series, Sibling Rivalries, Bad Parents, School Drama, Romance, etc) and post my thoughts on them, but also connect them and write a little history about the genre. I got my intro written, and got a basic outline done.
Anyway, because I suck at finishing things I start, I never finished it.
Which is fine, because Gabrielle Moss came along and did it SO MUCH BETTER than I could ever dream of doing. This book is exactly what I had in mind all those years ago. And I’m not jealous of her. No, not at all.
It’s good. It’s just so so fucking good. Moss is absolutely perfect at balancing what makes these books great and what makes them so cringey. Listen, it’s no secret that there’s a diversity problem in Sweet Valley, as well as in 99% of the other books of these decades. But does that make them a complete waste of time for the young girls who read it? No, because as Moss points out, “..a book can be culturally pioneering and not very good at the same time.” She also says that these books turned us into readers, “No because we embraced all the values the books implicitly endorsed, but because they gave us space to explore our identities, dream of the future, and, when the time came, engage in growth and rebellion by turning our backs on them.”
This book is such a fond trip down memory lane, but it’s also more than that. It’s a real history of the genre, and serious look at why these books were worthwhile despite some problematic elements.
A couple things to note. There were two books that I didn’t remember the titles or the authors of that I spent years searching for while writing this blog, and she brought up both of them in this book, which almost made me weep with happiness, and will also make me get those books and re-read them. The first is Finding My Voice by Marie G. Lee, and the other is Cousins by Virginia Hamilton. I can’t wait to spend my summer at used book stores looking for these.
Another thing is that it’s no secret that poor Mallory was Ann M. Martin’s least favorite babysitter. Moss knows that (she actually brings it up in the book) and I got a good laugh at the two-page spread of BSC covers. Because guess who was left out?
I really love how many different books she was able to include in this. One of my very favorites was Norma Klein, who I thought never got quite the attention she deserved, but here she does. So many books that I read that I didn’t think other people had (Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book, Invisible Lissa, and the Cheerleaders series) are in here, which makes me happy that I didn’t just imagine these books.
I don’t know, man. I just can’t begin to explain how much I love this book and how much it means to me.