My Big Sweet Valley News!
Since I started this series just last week, I have some exciting news to announce! I was contacted by the PR team for Sweet Valley Confidential, the re-launch of the Sweet Valley franchise, to see if I’d be interested in reviewing the brand new The Sweet Life novella ebooks coming out this summer. Since I’d been meaning to check out the re-launch for some time now, in a sort of nod to my childhood self, this is the perfect excuse to see what the Wakefield twins are up to now that we’re all about 30. Wow. I feel like I won some sweepstakes I didn’t know I even entered! Who knew nostalgic posts about books I loved as a kid could prove so worthwhile?
Watch for reviews in the upcoming weeks, then! And be sure to check out the books yourself if you were a fan as a kid like me.
And speaking of sweepstakes I didn’t even know I entered, this brings me to the first series I’ll talk about loving in middle school today:
The Baby-sitters Club by Ann M. Martin (and ghostwriters… What, I didn’t even realize a man wrote over 40 of them!)
The Baby-sitters Club was my pre-Sweet Valley obsession, which actually began when I was in elementary school. Unlike with Sweet Valley, I started with the younger reader spin-off books, Baby-Sitters Little Sister. (I’m looking at Wikipedia here for all of the odd grammatical choices in the titles, by the way!) And it was this book series that must have prompted me to enter a fan contest through the publisher, although I don’t remember doing so. I do remember that in autumn of one year, I got a huge box from Scholastic saying I had won the “Birthday of the Month” honors or something of the sort for fans… But my birthday was in April. In the included letter, they explained an oversight had resulted in the delay. My prize, though, was worth the wait: box sets of the entire Baby-Sitters Little Sister series out thus far, in addition to an autographed copy of the first book in the series. (Some of that may have been a bonus for the delay, if I recall.) Wow! The package definitely made my belated-by-half-a-year birthday!
I don’t remember precisely when I “graduated” to The Baby-sitters Club, but I was definitely into it by 5th grade, as I remember reading one of the books for a book marathon after school. I loved every girl in the series—whether because I felt similar to them (Mary Anne’s shyness, Kristy’s tomboyishness, Mallory’s geekiness, Stacey dealing with a medical condition) or because I thought they were radical and fun to read about (Claudia, Dawn and Jessi all had confidence and style). I actually never babysat a day in my life (unless you count helping a grandparent babysit a younger cousin… But on second thought, I was actually being babysat, too!), but I doubt it could have lived up to the adventures these girls had. I loved the (albeit short) TV series so much I could practically quote it. I enjoyed the movie version, too, but maybe not as much. I stopped reading sometime in middle school, but I have to admit I picked up the last book in 2000, despite being a senior in high school by then, because I never really stop loving the things I loved in my childhood!
I love all of that crazy ’80s and ‘90s fashion and lifestyle, too. I specifically remember that the girls met in Claudia’s room because she was the only one with her own phone line. Her own household phone line! It was a big deal. I imagine the updated version (which apparently exists? I did not know this) would have all of the girls with cell phones…
Goosebumps by R.L. Stine
Goosebumps. If you know me, you’d know how odd it is that I was ever into a horror series, however tame it might be. I avoid horror movies because I don’t like being scared or grossed out, thank you very much. I only recently sat down to watch the A Nightmare on Elm Street series and discovered they were pretty awesome (the second movie excepting…) and not terrifyingly scary like I was afraid they’d be. But tell that to my middle school self who couldn’t even look at Freddy Krueger without shuddering or who was haunted by a billboard of Chucky she saw at night while on a trip to New York in the ‘80s, and it’s a wonder I ever gave Goosebumps a chance at all.
The first one I picked up was Attack of the Mutant because the premise (it featured a comic book fan and a supervillain who comes to life) was right up my comic book-loving alley. I remember writing in my diary how surprised I was that I read a “scary” book without being too scared, as if this were something to document for perpetuity. (It wasn’t at all scary, now that I think about it. Hardly worth congratulating myself over!) I liked it enough to go back and pick up earlier books, and I spent a year or two reading the books in the series that struck my fancy. I particularly liked the Choose Your Own Adventure-style ones called Give Yourself Goosebumps. (And I admit. I’d “cheat” and go back and choose a better ending!) My love for the series led me to watch Are You Afraid of the Dark? on Nickelodeon back in the day, and yes, I watched some of the Goosebumps series too. (They did Attack of the Mutant! It was so cheesy…) I never really “graduated” to more sophisticated horror books, but the thrills and chills I got from these tame versions were just enough for childhood me.
Were any of you fans of Goosebumps or The Baby-sitters Club?