Wednesday, 12 Dec 2018
Entertainment

'Sweet Valley High' and 'The Baby-Sitters Club' were more than mere fluff

Literary children of the 1980s and '90s will remember the days of the morning of the morning. a popular series was the epitome of Friday night cool.

In "Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and' 90s Teen Fiction," Gabrielle Moss pays homage to the pastel-tinted golden years between Judy Blume and J.K. Rowling. She takes a nostalgia-heavy tour of "Sweet Valley," "The Baby-Sitters Club" and dozens of other titles 30-somethings were weaned on. They are dismissed as superficial fluff, these are the girl-centric books that are taught about BFFs and frenemies, first kisses and near misses. Here are Moss's insights about six of the most beloved and influential now-relics that a generation of schoolkids

"Wildfire," multiple authors

Young love may be as old as time, but YA bed was late to the party. By the mid-'70s, Harlequin was publishing about 150 million copies of adult romances a year, but few such titles existed for teens. Scholastic decided to make a move, and in 1979, published "Wildfire" No. 1, "Love Comes to Anne," the first volume in the first YA romance series. Multiple authors contributed, including YA legends Caroline B. Cooney and Ann M. Martin, and more than 2 million copies of the books had sold by 1982. The series continued through 1986, girl falls brother, girl must overcome shyness to tell cute boy she loves him. There's nothing too risk here, though – on the awkwardly cheesy covers or in the pages.

"The Baby-Sitters Club," Ann M. Martin

Claudia can thank Scholastic editor Jean Feiwel. In the mid-'80s, she noticed that it was a good idea to read about it. She directed children's book editor / author Ann M. Martin to create a miniseries about a group of babysitters, with specific instructions that each should have a unique trait or problem – and the rest is YA history. In 1986, we put Kristy (the driven, money-smart leader), Claudia (funky fashionista), Stacey (boy-crazy New Yorker with diabetes) and Mary Anne (shy club secretary with a strict dad). Only four books have been prepared, but that proved insufficient – so, more than 250 books. As Moss points out, "BSC" was not just frivolous reading: The series "shaped how a generation of girls conceived of our careers and ourselves."

"The Face on the Milk Carton," Caroline B. Cooney

Moss suggests, and just savor the bed-up eyes and rush of fond memories. Caroline B. Cooney's "The Face of the Milk Carton," in which 15-year-old Janie Johnson realizes the missing child on the side of her milk carton is, in fact, herself, was the gold standard of books about kidnapping. And there was a lot: Stranger danger was a rising concern in the '80s and' 90s following a rash of highly publicized snatchings, and YA reads capitalized on that fear. "Milk Carton" was meant to be a stand-alone, but it was such a hit that Cooney's publisher convinced her to turn it into a five-part miniseries.

"The Girls of Canby Hall," Emily Chase

What is better than a school? When "The Girls of Canby Hall" by the pseudonymous Emily Chase debuted in 1984, it became one of many dramatic narratives set in the classroom. The 33-book series follows "The New York Boarding School" The New York boarding school has the hijinks, boy problems and occasional kidnappings of your typical 80s YA series, "as Moss puts it. So, fairly mundane. Purpose "Canby Hall" was unusual for YA bed during those years of one of its heroines, Faith, was African American. Faith experienced at a mostly white school, or.

"Sweet Valley High," created by Francine Pascal

Those identifying a Jessica or an Elizabeth can agree on this: The Wakefield twins remain the "first siblings of '80s teen fiction," as Moss describes the California drama-prone blondes. YA novels before her brain wave, Francine Pascal opted for a "ghostwriter" for "Sweet Valley," reasoning that her previous work had been "sophisticated" and she wanted the new series to be accessible to all. "Sweet Valley" was not intended to be realistic – clearly, given that somehow Jessica and / or Elizabeth was kidnapped by a cultured, lost at sea or involved in a doppelganger murder plot. But the absurdity worked so much that the intended six-book series ran for 143 volumes, plus a few spinoffs, a television version and a board game.

"Fear Street," R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine has been terrifying kids – giving them goosebumps, one might say – since the '80s. The King of Creep became a household name with the "Fear Street" series, which debuted in 1989 and chronicled the lives of Ohio teens who were stalked by murderers and courted by ghosts. It was the first blockbuster horror series of the era. In 1992, Stine's next megahit, "Goosebumps," the one with the psychedelic covers, continued turning the paranormal into the normal. Getting lost with a cursed mummy, running into a headless ghost – it's all for the race. Both of Stine's series helped the stage for "Twilight," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and other stories about the "misunderstood creatures of the night" that would play prominently in YA, Moss says.

Angela Hauptis a writer and editor based in the District.

PAPERBACK CRUSH

The Totally Radical History of '80s and' 90s Teen Fiction

By Gabrielle Moss

Quirk. 256 pp. $ 22.99.

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