My Teenage Dream – to be a Ghost Writer for Sweet Valley High

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The covers and titles are so familiar that I can still recite them… How is it that I retained nothing I was taught in Year 12 chemistry but still remember the ins and outs of the lives of the Wakefield twins?

There’s been an article kicking around Twitter over the past few days by Amy Boesky, a ghost writer for the hugely successful Sweet Valley High series. It has been re-tweeted a million times and I’m only making mention of it here because otherwise I’ll bookmark it and never be able to find it again.

Boesky’s insights into the success of Sweet Valley High series are fascinating –

“It was their interconnection that worked, Elizabeth’s well-intentioned efforts to quash Jessica’s antics, and Jessica’s clever designs to evade Elizabeth’s restrictions that gave the series its energy. To my mind, as the writer-who-read and the reader-who-wrote, that deft touch made the clockwork of the series spring to life. It went right to the core of adolescent identity—the same/different axis around which so much yearning and affiliation spin themselves out, one generation after another.”

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The books changed publishing for teens – the concept of a series produced quickly and priced at a point that kids with a bit of pocket money could afford was new. And it worked. Pascal (et al) got a large chunk of my pocket money during the eighties.

“After almost a decade of new realism offered to teen readers by Judy Blume, whose heroines had scoliosis or weight problems or pimples and worried about getting their periods and struggled about whether or not to believe in God, Sweet Valley High offered a pastel, romantic antidote: a world of action instead of contemplation, a world in which bodies were seen soft-focus, free of the slightest blemish or appetite.”

Boesky was there for the SVH glory years. Search for Sweet Valley High books now and there are all sorts of other editions and add-ons – the Sweet Valley Sagas, Sweet Vally Confidential, Sweet Valley Kids and Twins prequels, Sweet Valley University, super editions and a television series. There’s also an ‘unofficial guide’ – If You Lived Here, You’d Be Perfect By Now by Robin Hardwick. However, there were 143 books in the ‘original’ series, published between 1983 and 1998. If you’re trying to recall your favourite, you can see a full list of Sweet Valley High titles here. I began reading the series in 1984, obviously starting with the first book, Double Love. I was twelve, going on thirteen. I read the first 30-40 books. Wish I still had my original editions.

In the parlance of today’s youth, was I ‘Team Jessica’ or ‘Team Elizabeth’? I think I would have liked to have been Jessica but was probably more Elizabeth (didn’t hit my Jessica years until uni).

So, this has been a very elaborate way to bookmark an article… But I have enjoyed some happy reading memories. Beware, I feel a Sweet Dreams post coming up soon.

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