Monday, October 10, 2011

Guest Post: TOP FIVE: PRE-TEEN GIRL SERIES FROM THE 90s


About guest poster Megan: I'm a bookworm, aspiring author, daydreamer and music lover from Adelaide, Australia.

I blog about my obsession for books at Storybook Love Affair (link to http://storybookloveaffair.blogspot.com/) where I share reviews, reading and writing events, author interviews and bookish products.


Blog link - http://storybookloveaffair.blogspot.com/

Facebook link - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Storybook-Love-Affair/148548541901670

Twitter link - http://twitter.com/#!/search/storyloveaffair




From a very young age I have always loved to read. Remembering back to my youth, many of the books I devoured were part of a series. I did read the occasional stand-alone novel as well but it’s always the series books that hold the fondest memories for me and transport me back to a period I would love to revisit.

Luckily for me, I get to journey back to those years with this very fun guest post!

Here are the top five series that occupied much of my reading time while growing up in the 90s:

1. Sweet Valley High

Love them or loathe them, sixteen year old twin sisters Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield were a huge part of my life growing up. Unless you had also read the series, it probably wouldn’t hold any appeal to you, but for me the series has an intense nostalgic appeal.

The twins live in a town called Sweet Valley and are described as picture-perfect in every way, from their blonde hair, blue eyes, size six figures and All-American good looks. They are the popular students at Sweet Valley High where Elizabeth is the serious twin who writes for the school newspaper, and Jessica is the fun-loving cheerleader who flirts with boys and loves to party.

Life in Sweet Valley isn’t always idyllic though and between them the twins have been kidnapped, stalked, held hostage and attacked multiple times. Amazingly, through all this emotional drama they were never affected by anything and always managed to bounce right back into life with enthusiastic zest. As you do...

The books have been criticised for their unrealistic portrayal of teenage life and also for the lack of cultural diversity within the stories. Most characters come from privileged white backgrounds, have no zits or other typical teenage body issues, manage to have loads of cash without part-time jobs and drive cars that not even forty-something professional men could afford.

Although containing many inconsistencies (how can the same girls be 16 years old for 15 odd years??), the storylines in the early parts of the series were a whole lot of fun. They featured around the twins and their friends and often held a moral significance behind the story such as drug use and drink driving.

Later on in the series though the storylines became extremely ridiculous (I remember one in particular where somebody became so obsessed with the twins’ mother Alice that they tried to steal her face through a transplant?!).

The early books were definitely worth reading - it was fun to escape into the world of Sweet Valley and immerse myself in the quintessential American high school life. But the later books deserve a miss - unlike the vampire craze currently sweeping the world, these stories were boringly unrealistic.



2. Girl Talk

This was a series for teenage girls telling the school adventures of four American teenagers (Sabrina, Katie, Randy and Alison) in junior high school. The series produced a range of spin-off products including a board game and special edition books. I had the board game and absolutely loved it!

The books were known for one chapter being devoted to phone call conversations between the girls as well as offering descriptions of the hilarious 90s fashion they wore at the time (remember happy pants anyone?).
The books were written in the first person narrative with each character taking turns. Many of the books focused on the rivalry between the girls and another group of girls - Stacy the Great (the Principal’s daughter), Eva, B.Z and Laurel.

I loved reading Girl Talk simply because of the focus on friendship it had. The girls were such good friends and retrospectively thinking they were probably A LOT more mature than the average 13 year old in real life, but despite this they represented positive role models to all girls, particularly in terms of their relationships with their friends.





3. Nancy Drew

I started to read Nancy Drew books after another old mystery series I liked called Meg had ended (after only the sixth book!).

Nancy Drew is a young amateur detective who loves nothing more than to solve a mystery. There’s over 100 books in the complete series, and although I didn’t finish every one of them, someday I hope that I can!

The books first appeared in 1930 and the character has evolved over the years to suit America’s changing cultural tastes. But despite numerous changes, she’s always been depicted as wealthy, attractive and amazingly talented. Apparently this is the norm for preteen characterisation.

I guess the aspect that made Nancy so likable to girls was her ability to have traditionally feminine attributes such as good looks and a variety of clothes while at the same time encompassing traditionally male traits such as having the freedom and money to do as she pleases and living to solve mysteries rather than participating in family life.

In essence she was a contradiction, which made her all the more intriguing and ironically a bit of a mystery herself.



4. The Baby-Sitters Club

I wasn’t as into The Baby-Sitters Club as I was the other three series mentioned above. However, I did spend a lot of time reading the books and I think I came pretty close to completing the whole set.

The series is about a group of middle school students who run their own baby-sitting club. The members of the club are all best friends, however they go through numerous conflicts throughout the stories. The books came in many different versions including super specials and mysteries.

I remember swapping the books with other kids in my neighbourhood when I was young and we even tried to set up our own baby-sitters club at one point. Not surprisingly, our own club didn’t work out quite as well as the club in the books. Turns out parents were appalled at the idea of us (just babies ourselves) trying to take care of their kids! Oh the nerve...



5. V.C Andews - The Dollanganger Series

Flowers in the Attic was one of my absolute favourite books growing up. The five books in the series focus on the Dollanganger children who are imprisoned in an attic by their mother and monstrous grandmother.

The first book Flowers in the Attic tells of their incarceration and subsequent escape while the rest of the novels pick up the story after their escape.

The V.C Andrews Series books have copped a lot of flack over the years for being trashy. I certainly wouldn’t describe them in this category though. To me they are a combination of a brilliant gothic horror and family saga genre. The novels are famous for their family secrets and forbidden love (frequently involving scenes of consensual incest between a brother and a sister). It still amazes me today that these books are actually aimed at a younger audience. The themes are so remotely adult and have even been quite controversial over the years leading to the book Flowers in the Attic actually getting banned at one point from schools.

The storyline presents a shocking portrayal of child abuse and is at times very dark and extremely sad. The series truly is a gripping read though and offers an extreme example of the influence of money and how the pursuit of it inevitably always ends in nasty greed.

8 comments:

Shannon said...

I loved The Babysitters Club books when I was a kid. I think I started reading them when I was around eight or nine. Good times!

Melissa Pisan said...

THe VC Andrews book is from the 70s. Nancy Drew was from the 30s and continued, but oits popularity wasnt in the 90s. You're missing the Karen Brewer books, about Kristy from BSC's little sister who had adventures of her own.

Megan said...

@ Melissa - These are the books I read growing up in the 90s which is the point of the post - not when the books were published.

Also, I didn't read the Karen Brewer books, never heard of them sorry.

Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

www.storybookloveaffair.blogspot.com

Kim said...

I loved Sweet Valley High. I read the books and watched the show when it aired on tv. Nancy drew was great too. They got me into mysteries.

Some other books I read when I was a kid was the "Beverly Cleary" and "The Boxcar Children" books.

JennyAZ said...

I love VC Andrews. To this day I'll still read her books, I never thought of them as trashy! My favorite series were the Casteel series.

Marian said...

haha I used to go into the library every week during summer and check out a stack of SVH or BSC Books. Good times. I was a lot younger than the main characters at the time that I was reading the series, and I always thought their lives seemed so glamorous. :/

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