Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sweet Valley... NO.


I have this friend Renee who is not a blog person but maybe should be. Because I could tell, just from her Facebook updates, that she's a writer. When I asked her to pretty please write a guest post the same way she writes Facebook updates, she looked at me like I was an outpatient. So I harassed her. She continued to look at me the same way. Then I gave up. 

Then she posted a Facebook update about what happened when she started rereading some of the Sweet Valley High books to see if they'd be suitable for her daughter. I called her her about 2 seconds later and I was like "WRITE THIS POST FOR ME OR I WILL HAUNT YOU AFTER I'M DEAD". So she did and here it is. 
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I came to the realization yesterday that Jessica Wakefield is the root of all evil for our generation. She’s the original meangirl.  I’m holding her responsible for Spanx, Weight Watchers points and Splenda. 
Let me start with a little background. We’ve reached that point in summer break where I’m straddling the fence between fearing and desperately praying for the first day of school. I pray for it because right after that big yellow cheese bus whisks my eight year old twins off to third grade,  a package containing My-Own-Sanity will be simultaneously delivered to my front door.  I ran out of the stuff the second week of July and I’ve been told it’s on back order ‘till September 3rd.    
But as summer starts to wane, I also begin to fear what my delightfully honest children will come up with when asked those standard  first day questions: “Tell me what you did this summer? Did you read any good books?”  
For the past few weeks, I’ve been jumping through hoops to find books to interest my kids. Read that: I’ve been searching for books more interesting than watching Teen Beach Movie for the 25th time or playing MLB2013 on Xbox. For my son this isn’t tough. God bless Star Wars.  I’ve now forgiven George Lucas for Jar-Jar Binks. And if Harry Potter and those Magic Treehouse kids weren’t a thing of fiction they’d all make my Christmas card list. 
My daughter is another story.  She’s reached that point where she’s too old for The Princess Fairies but too young for Hunger Games.  
To make myself feel like a super star mother I devised a plan to empower her to develop her own reading list.  That just sounds good doesn’t it? Anything that’s ‘empowered’ sounds trendy, right!?!?. 
One morning, while feeding her organic, whole grain packed, high fructose corn syrup-free toaster waffles, I cornered her with a blank piece of paper and asked her to write down what she thinks makes a good story.  “What topics interest you?” Imagine my horror when she pushed it back at me and said, “Mom, I think I’m just ready for a sweet romance.”  Oh god. Thank the lord her father wasn’t around to hear that. It’s better only one of us loses a couple years off our life. 
This is all my fault really. When I was her age, my mother tried bribing me to read ‘The Classics’.  All those books that you’re supposed to read so people think you’re smart. The Secret Garden, Little Women,  Anne of Green Gables, Little House.  I wanted nothing to do with them. I wanted a little romance. 
That is how I became a Sweet Valley High junkie. 
I’d walk a mile, uphill both ways, to the B. Dalton (remember local book stores?) every time a new installment came out. I’d spend an entire day camped out on my Laura Ashley bedspread literally unable to put the book down until I found out how Elizabeth would bail Jessica out of her latest shenanigan. 
Now, I know, Miss Third Grade Teacher isn’t going to be as impressed by the Sweet Valley twins as she’d be by that uber brave chick in Island of the Blue Dolphins, but isn’t any reading better than no reading at all? 
I swooped a couple Ebay auctions and a week later was once again the proud owner of Double Love. My memory of the books was a little hazy, so feeling like Super On Top Of Things Mom, I decided I better read the first book to make sure it was appropriate.  No one ever rounds second base in these books do they?
I have a whole year before sex education hits, so we haven’t had that talk yet. My kids still think babies come from storks and bases are white bags on a baseball diamond.  I can’t remember, did that Bruce Patman kid ever get too frisky?  I was already letting my daughter trade in Cricket In Times Square for pulp fiction, I needed to be sure I wasn’t going to corrupt her mind completely. 
I didn’t make it past the first paragraph. 
“Oh Lizzie, do you believe how absolutely horrendous I look today?”
“I’m so gross! Just look at me. Everything is totally wrong. To begin with I’m disgustingly fat…” With that, she spun around to show off a stunning figure without an extra ounce visible anywhere.
We don’t have many rules in our house. But there are two words I don’t allow. Shut-up and Fat. Use of these ensures the Evil Mother Eye followed up with the ever dreaded loss of electronics, or what my husband refers to as ‘Amish Time’. 
After momentarily considering just tearing out the first page, I decided maybe we better just hold off on those angsty high school years and instead venture back to the blissful days of middle school.  Best Friends is book one of the Sweet Valley Twins series and with such a benign name surely it would be harmless. 
Things started out great. I got through the whole first page.  Elizabeth is mad Jessica has once again borrowed her barrettes without asking. Oh the horror! 
But then, page 2 happens. 
“Did you see Lois Walker in gym class today?” Jessica asked. “She was practically oozing out of her leotard. Fat everywhere. They shouldn’t let a tub like her take ballet.”
“Jessica,” Elizabeth said, “she can’t help it if she’s fat.”
“She can too,” Jessica insisted. “She could lose some weight and she can help looking so ugly...”
You have to be kidding me. 
Is it any wonder our generation has body issues? Jessica Wakefield sucks.  And, unbeknownst to us at the time, she spent our youth brainwashing us.  
We all loved this crap. This was 90210 before Brenda and Brandon left Minnesota.  In fact, before I wanted to be Kelly Taylor, I wanted to be a Wakefield. I spent most of my teenage years impossibly wishing I could trade my flat brown hair and pear shaped body for a 5 foot 4 inch frame with sun streaked blonde tresses.  
I even wanted to wear a lavaliere. Whatever the hell that is. 
I spent a lot of years trying to make myself look like Elizabeth while cursing God for sticking me inside Enid.
I’ve found peace with myself in recent years. Turns out you don’t have to pray for blonde hair, it can come from a bottle. I work out now because it keeps my cranky lower back from hurting, not because I have any illusions of being a certain size.  Cellulite happens. Stretch marks too.  My kids are eight, I finally stopped calling it baby weight last year.  It’s all good.  But it’s taken me 37 years to get here.  Comfortable in my own skin. 
Actually, strike that. That just sounds good. That’s what we tell ourselves out loud to try to make that little voice in the back of our head stop trying to coax us to look backwards in the mirror to see if our ass grew overnight because we let ourselves eat carbs yesterday.  I’m not even sure I’m comfortable as much as I’m just too damn tired and busy to really give two craps about what other people think I should look like anymore.  That’s where I am. Honestly. 
But I do still honestly care about what my daughter thinks. I care immensely about what she thinks of herself.   I want her to love her curves. I don’t want her plagued by the ‘F’ word like my generation was. I want her to look backwards in mirrors and say aloud, “I’m pretty.” 
I don’t want her to be a meangirl either. I want her to walk through life getting to know people from the inside out, not the other way around. 
I know I can’t shelter her from the ugliness in the world forever. There will be that high school locker room meangirl with a magazine-cover figure and never-frizzy hair. She will have her own 5th grade Billy Donnelly who tells her on the playground she has thunder thighs.  (Yes, I’m outing your name you MF’er! My self-esteem and I have never forgotten you!)
I can only hold the world at bay for so long. I can’t change everyone out there. I can’t turn off the voice inside her head. But I can make sure Jessica Wakefield never gets her foot in our front door. 
Reading stuff like this is what gives our little girls a predefined sense of ‘perfect.’ What if we don’t let that happen? What if, for as long as possible, we let them make up their own definition of the ‘P’ word. Or, better yet, what if we avoid the P world altogether and just let them know that Imperfect is how everyone on the planet actually lives?
I haven’t read Frances Pascal’s recent novel that updates us on how life turned out for the twins after those celebrated high school years, but I’ve heard from friends who have that life didn’t stay so perfect in the valley. Things got down right messy from the sound of it.  
Elizabeth should’ve punched her sister in the mouth when she found her barrettes missing. 
Maybe if Jessica had a FAT lip she couldn’t have spewed her elitist attitude and we would have all liked ourselves a little bit sooner.  Maybe if my daughter never meets her she will love herself a whole lot more. 
You’re going out with the trash Jessica Wakefield.  Even Elizabeth and Todd can’t save you this time. 

(c)Herding Turtles 2009 - 2013

114 comments:

  1. "Amish time"-- killed me. I will have to use that! haha

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    1. AMEN! too funny!

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    2. I immediately added that to my mom lexicon.

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    3. Love it. Can't wait to throw it out.

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    4. Yep, this has just officially made it into our family lexicon.

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    5. Haha, love it!

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    6. amish time. hell. to. the. yes.

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    7. My kids are really going to hate "Amish Time" now that it has a name.

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  2. I loved the Sweet Valley series. I didn't realise that I was subjecting myself to this crap.

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    1. My thoughts exactly. If my mother had known, she would have hit the roof!

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  3. Wow, I do not remember those books being so hate-filled. I guess that kind of talk was acceptable back then.

    And still, reading this reminds me that I really want to read the "Sweet Valley Confidential" series, about the twins all grown up.

    Don't judge me.

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    1. Did you ever read the Saga? It's all about their family history- i remember really liking it (but then, I love historic fiction). I might keep that one and get rid of all my SV books- i have a whole box, but i don't know, if I have a girl ever, i don't want her reading that either. I never realized what I was subjecting myself to! I have just boys now, but you never know. Sigh.

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    2. The Saga was awesome! I thought I still had it somewhere but I can't find it :(

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    3. The saga was the BEST of that whole series! I love the fantasy/scary/mystery versions (Super, Magna, Super Chiller, etc), but I never got as much into the main ones. I think it also depends on who the writer of each book is--the Sweet Valley series had several ghostwriters who alternated books (2-3 primary ghostwriters who took turns, I believe), and so it's inevitable that some bleh variations occur in the material. Try not to write them off entirely, though:)

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  4. I agree, but wish it were as easy as throwing out a book or two. That's a great first step for all of us, but it's just so prevalent. I rarely watch true TV. We are pretty happy with Netflix and the DVDs of TV shows that come in the mail (yes, a year late, but I'm fine with that.) But when we do watch television, I'm always just sickened by the commercials. Every woman is perfect in every way, and all you have to do is buy this one thing to make all your troubles go away. Commercial after commercial after commercial. Even in the shows, every woman is a stunner, even those in their later years, unless she's the mom of the bad guy. Then, she's usually overweight and homely. Even the "bad" girls are good looking. The detectives race through alleys fighting off evil in 4 inch stiletto heels, gorgeous silky hair swaying with every move, and while I'm amused at the lack of reality, there's a part of me that just finds it all so off putting.
    I want so badly for my 7 year old daughter to love herself as she is, freckles and all, and want to protect her from this attitude that beauty is the most important thing. But with the entire culture working against me, it'll be an uphill battle. She's a reader, too, so thanks for the warning about those Sweet Valley books. None of those for us!

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  5. I loved these too! It's kind of like going back and watching the looney tunes (or any 90's movie really) and realizing how much innapropriate material was in there.

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    1. My husband lets our 5-year-old daughter watch the Animaniacs whenever I'm not home. I hate coming home to see her watching a bunny rabbit throw hand grenades at nuns, for example. That is just not appropriate for children. My husband thinks it's ok because he watched it when he was a kid. My mother-in-law doesn't have the same definition of appropriate that I have. How do I explain that to my husband?

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  6. I remember reading these!!! Yeah, they are pretty terrible. I do remember one where Bruce got frisky because I felt so naughty reading it!!! Have your daughter try "The Baby-sitters Club". Much better books, and they still have a little romance (the cute kind though).

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    1. YES!!! I was going to suggest The Baby-sitters Club! A little sweet romance(who could forget Mary Anne and Logan), a little mystery, lots of fun and hard work! I have all of my books still, including the super vacation novels and the little sister series, featuring Karen, Kristie's younger step-sister. In fact, I think I should pull them out for my 8 year old daughter...

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    2. I was going to suggest the Babysitter's Club books too! I *think* they are more wholesome, and probably more age appropriate! But I don't remember the Sweet Valley Twins/High books being so hateful. I'm pregnant with a girl and this stuff scares the bejeezus out of me!

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    3. yeah...Bruce got frisky in book 3. He untied Jessica's bikini top in the pool and she felt the 'cool water swirl around her bare breasts'. That was what my friend Tara's mother read when she picked up the book and no more SVH for her! I had to sneak them to her and she read them at school. We were in 6th grade.

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    4. Yes, Babysitters' Club was the best. I started reading them in third grade and didn't stop until 9th grade or so! They are much more wholesome, without ending up boring.

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    5. I read both the Babysitter's Club and the Sweet Valley Twins Series, and I agree, the Babysitter's Club is much better! I even thought so as a kid, and read way more Babysitter's Club nooks than Sweet Valley Twins books. I even had a Babysitter's Club necklace, and wanted to start a Babysitter's Club of my own! I also liked Nancy Drew books. I got Anne of Green Gables when I was 8, but didn't like them until I was 10, at which point they became my favorite books! :-). I also read The Secret Garden and Island of the Blue Dolphins, but I was a voracious reader, and would read anything I could get my hands on. We had no TV and no computer when I was in third grade, which I think really kick-started my love of reading. I wish I could do that with my daughter, but my husband is addicted to technology and would never go for it.

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  7. The key is to guide your kids to better things... I obsessively read Sweet Valley books, too, but at some point I was aware of the crap that they are, but no one guided me toward anything different and the YA section of my growing-up library was non-staffed and had no YA programming. (That was 20+ years ago now. That's likely changed!) Don't discount reading Young Adult books yourself so that you can try to place books that aren't so horrid in reach of your kids...

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  8. I never envied Jessica. In fact, I saw her for the b***h she was. I thought that was the point, that she was so over-the-top obviously mean in the book that when someone said something like that in real life, you were able to recognize it. Elizabeth helped prove that not all good-looking people were mean, that you needed to judge people by behavior, not looks.

    But then again, I haven't read these since Junior High, and if I had a daughter, I probably wouldn't want her reading it at 8 either. And it has been long enough that I've probably long forgotten the impression it left on my junior-high brain.

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  9. your daughter may enjoy books by Janette Oke if she is looking for a 'sweet romance' and I truly mean sweet, real love.

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    1. No to Janette Oke! It is like trashy romance novels for Christians. I would sneak those out of the donated book piles that people would give to my mom and read them because they were "bad" stories.

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    2. LOL!! You must have had a sheltered life if Janette Oke was "bad". When I was a kid, Janette Oke was the good books... I found worse stories in the BIBLE. Actually, I still like Janette Oke. A little cheesy sometimes, but they had a huge part in bringing me to the Lord.

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  10. Anyone read Trixie Belden as a kid? I had no idea they were written in the 40's/50's when I originally read them, because I could relate to the overall innocence of the time (thank you parents for such a childhood devoid of drama and pain.)

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    1. I found the series in the back of my sleepover camp's lodge and devoured them. I found a few copies the other day! I named my hamster Trixie after her. She was pretty cool. I was a fan too, and it was out of my generation as well (I'm 35 now!)

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    2. I loved Trixie Belden! And Babysitters Club, and Sweet Valley High. Try for some of the old fashioned TB or Nancy Drew books!

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    3. My grandmother shipped me almost the entire Trixie Belden series when I was about 10 or so and I tore through them all at breakneck speed. Afterward, I decided that I would write a sequel about grown-up Trixie running her own PI service with Honey as her office manager/sidekick. I never finished my story, but I loved those books!

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    4. Loved Trixie Belden! Read them in the late eighties and still have the whole series. Best of them all (couldn't stand SVH)!

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    5. My ten year old daughter LOVES Trixie. She also loves Nancy Drew but "only the original, because the new Nancy is not great."

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    6. I loved Trixie Belden! Still do! I've always imagined Trixie as a FBI agent when she grew up.

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  11. GREAT POST!!! I read these books as a kid and also loved them. You have just save me from re-reading this myself to see if its ok for my 8 year old. Thank you!!!! Love your closing line! HEHE!!

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  12. There are a ton of great series out there for kids that are more positive. I can vividly remember being brainwashed by SVH and babysitter's club. argh.
    Try Barnes and Noble. We've had luck there. Our son (7) really enjoys this series of comic books about influential people like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, written by CampFire publishing.

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  13. That is such a hard age for books; just a little older or younger, and there's tons of stuff, but not so much at that age. Have you tried the Gail Carson Levine books? Those are fun. The later books in the Anne of Green Gables series have some romance, but I think they're more suited to girls just a little older than 8. :/

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    1. Yes, Gail Carson Levine is great for girls about that age. I loved Ella Enchanted. I also liked Nancy Drew--the ones with the yellow and blue covers. Oh, and I devoured the Dear America series and The Royal Diaries (they are historical fiction diaries).

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  14. In every way possible this is AWESOME. Just saw the comment above, and I LOVED Trixie Belden. Just stared the Babysitter's Club with my now 4th grader, and they are EXACTLY like I remember...in a good way!-Ashley

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  15. I remember loving Nancy Drew when I was around 8, too. :)

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  16. I never read these books growing up. They sound dreadful. wth.

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  17. The timing on this post is a prophetic (and maybe a little creepy!) . . .just yesterday I found all of my SVH books and my 8 year old asked if she could have them. I said, "no, you're not ready yet". After reading your post she will NEVER be ready! Thanks for saving us from the horrible Jessica Wakefield!

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  18. I was obsessed with those books...yikes! Hilarious post!!

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  19. What about The Babysitters Club? I remember those books as more "wholesome" than Sweet Valley, which was really just a way to get some vicarious drama in.

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  20. I have never seen "shenanigan" used in the singular. I am impressed.

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  21. I read so many of those - but I don't remember all the fat talk in them. I guess that shows how different it is to read something through the lens of a mother.

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  22. OUCH - that's a tough age! I vividly remember reading the "Clan of the Cave Bear" series in Jr High - I blame many issues on that! :)

    Try this book: "Poison" by Bridget Zinn. Kind of a cross between Harry Potter and sweet romance. It is about a master poison maker who tries to kill her best friend - the princess. Age appropriate, a little romance (there is a cute prince after all....)funny, and hey there is a pet pig named Rosie.

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  23. Loved this! Also giggled at "Amish time"! I was pretty sheltered growing up, so I didn't read these books, I did read stuff from Jeanette Oke, though. There was romance in a way it was ok for younger girls to read.

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  24. I recommend "The Baby-Sitters Club" series too. They even have "The Baby-Sitter Club Little Sisters" series. Those books would be perfect for an 8 year old. I read them all when I was a child. It is wholesome fun without being boring.

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    1. I still have a bunch of mine from both sets. Anybody want them? ;)

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  25. Lydia, you have the best judgment and taste in friends! Thanks for sharing her.
    Love,M

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  26. but doesn't the fact that Jessica Wakefield is "the bad guy who gets taught lessons" kind of counteract her fat messages. It's like they show her as who NOT to be like and Elizabeth as the admirable one.
    It's not like her calling people "fat" is accepted in the books. It's depicted as the bad way to be, which is the lesson for girls. Don't tolerate other people judging you on your looks and don't do it yourself. Be the Elizabeth.

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  27. "Amish Time." Ha!

    Recently while cleaning out for a yard sale, I came across a bin of all my favorite teenage reads. The entire SVH series was in there, or at least most of it - I loved those books. But yeah, in hindsight they were horrible. For all the reasons you said and more. I won't be saving them for my daughter to read.

    But also in the bin were my Couples series books. It was a lesser known series, but I remember loving it and so I started revising my old books. They're a great alternative to SVH. The series focuses on a crowd of high school from a Washington DC suburb and their various romances and break-ups. But it's not all about romance - the kids are likable, popular (for all the right reasons), actively involved in school and community projects, and way more insightful than your average high school junior or senior. And the books are well-written and stand the test of time (except for when they talk about typing papers on carbon paper). I've loved skimming through them and will definitely be saving them for my daughter.

    Also, Bruce Patman totally got Liz drunk once and felt her boob.

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  28. This is a great book idea resource: http://www.amightygirl.com/books

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  29. Your friend must start a blog IMMEDIATELY. This post was pure genius and I couldn't love it more. In fact, I want to be her BFF.

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    1. Yes. If we petition you to start blogging, would you? Please? Or maybe join another blog where you don't have to carry the weight on your own. I may just know of one... ;)

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  30. This is some amazing writing. Why doesn't this woman have her own blog?

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  31. This is so true. I read these books and I too, couldn't wait until the next one came out. Do I blame the books for my lack of self-esteem? No, but they did give me a great escape from the constant bullying I endured as a child. Maybe I just accepted what Jessica said because it's how most people treated me. Who knows... but I'm not overly distraught that my daughter never picked up these books. I try to keep encouraging my kids and keep their self-esteem high as long as I can, but Ayden already had issues last year. We can't shelter them forever, but we can tell them how much they are loved and how everyone in the world is imperfect. ♥

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  32. Can I please have Renee's contact info....
    I'm pretty sure we were separated at birth.... Or she most definitely should be my best friend.
    I have not laughed like that in a while and completely agree with every word she typed as if it was pulled from my own brainwashed mind. I myself am 36 years old and have 4 children.. My 13 year old is absolutely the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, literally!! I feel completely at ease saying it because she is the female version of her dad which frees me to do so... Possibly :)
    Sadly I'm actually rethinking the way I should be raising, her. Personally I was the 13 year old trapped in an 8 year old boys body with very little confidence until early adulthood... Partially I'm sure due to books/television..media but also because I didn't receive as much self assurance I (a very insecure and shy little girl) needed from home.
    So as a mother I have told my daughter from the day she was born how beautiful and amazing she is, to the point when she was 3 year old and a stranger would comment on how pretty or "cute" she was... Kara would respond "I know...... I'm beautiful".
    Oops!! So apparently there has to be a medium.. Not too much not to little!!!

    Having 2 very easy going happy and seemingly self-assured boys (aged 15, and 10 years old) makes me think that boys are 10x's easier than raising girls.
    But than again their personalities are primarily what have helped to naturally curve them that way.

    I feel like my girls (ages 13 and almost 3)were born with boxing gloves and blow horns and possibly a purse they stole from Mary Poppins but refilled it with their own vices ready to pull out at any moment.

    Thank you again for sharing and Renee please write some more... I am now part of your fan club :)

    Sharee Schock

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  33. Superb post! Now if every mother would care like her and many of us commenting...we wouldn't have to dread the drama of mean girls.

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  34. You know what's sad? I haven't picked up a SVH book in what? 20+ years? And I can still quite clearly remember that the Wakefield twins were described as being a "perfect size 6." Yeah.

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    1. Yes, I totally remember the "perfect size 6" that was used to describe them in nearly every book. Gag.

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  35. This was a GREAT article; loved it!

    Except...I'm sorry, but punishing your daughter for using the word "fat" in your house is not going to miraculously save her body image, or change how she lets today's standard of beauty affect her and who she interacts with.

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  36. First off, you're right - Renee should definitely be a blogger :) Second, wow - I never realized I was reading such crap at a young age :(

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  37. I love this post! I also have the perfect book for Renee's daughter to read... Wonder by RJ Palacio is beautiful and funny and happy and sad and poignant, and it will open the door for a parent to begin a dialogue with children about the differences between our society's definition of physical beauty and true beauty of the soul. I highly recommend this book for EVERY HUMAN BEING, ages 8 and up. My oldest is 7 years old, and this book is #1 on his summer reading list for next year (he's a great reader, but as an oldest child is still a bit sheltered - some might even say immature - so he's not quite ready for Wonder's themes just yet).
    Happy reading!!

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    1. 'Wonder' should be a required reading book starting in Intermediate/Middle School. I read it together with my 9 year old this summer.

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  38. This might be a bit old for an 8-year-old but a super good fantasy series with a female heroine!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dealing_with_Dragons

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  39. I was always/will always be the fat girl so the SVH novels were just my way of peeking inside the perfect world of the beautiful people who drove red convertibles in the California sun ;) I always hated that beeyotch Jessica Wakefield, though! (here in the Upper Midwest there is a company called Wakefield Pork and I snicker every time, hoping that means Jessica discovered a love of bacon and got fat-fat-fat!)

    Totally agree with the awesomeness of Babysitters Club, Trixie Belden (a gift from my momma - still have her old novels that are hardcover & stinky & wonderful!) and Nancy Drew (same - still have my mom's old hardcovers) - can't wait to pass them on to my little goober girl. My sister loved The Boxcar Children around the age of 8. I also adored the Little House on the Prairie series (who didn't want to be Laura Ingalls Wilder?!?!).

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  40. Have you tried The Mysteries of Nancy Drew? Its no romance novel but its a very intriguing series

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  41. Have you tried AMightyGirl.com? Awesome resource for finding positive stories, music, etc.

    ~Nicole

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  42. A great post, she should have her own blog! I used to love those books and now I'm glad my daughter never got into them!

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  43. Thank you for this post. I have recently been remembering that time in my life. As awful as it was, it's sad to realize just how pervasive this stuff was and how it probably was part of the general negativity of the time

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  44. Loved it, must get her to post weekly. Please. This was fantastic!

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  45. I read all of those books too. Another option that I loved growing up was a few of Judy Bloom books. I know some of her things aren't age appropriate but a lot of them are like "Superfudge".

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  46. This post was awesome. Hilarious and heartfelt and right on. She is SO a writer!

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  47. I'm SO GLAD I read this post! I have twin daughters, and always thought it would be cute and fun for them to read SVT/SVH, so I saved mine to pass on to them. Definitely not anymore after this eye-opener! I have a much more wholesome memory of the books for some reason...but now I'm totally believing I was brainwashed. I started reading my sisters' hand-me-downs sometime between the ages of 7 and 9 (my daughters' age...yikes) so I can only imagine how this crap warped my vulnerable tween mind! Looks like it'll be Babysitters Club for my girls in a couple years...and the Little Sister series anytime.

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  48. This is why I was a Babysitter's Club kid, I hated Jessica after the first book and stopped reading them.

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  49. So freaking hilarious. Amish Time? I die.

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  50. My 10 year old daugher loves Janet Okie books! Just the right amount of romance :)

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  51. I remember those lines from the books so clearly! And yeah, I'm sure I was just a bit envious.

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  52. What about the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry? For more up-to-date recommendations, why not check with the children's librarian at your public library?

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    Replies
    1. I wanted to be Anastasia Krupnik! I haven't thought about those books in years, might have to go to the library now.

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  53. The Grimm Sisters series! A little romance, lots of adventure

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  54. I hope you do another post with what you found that Will actually empower your daughter AND give her that sweet romance she craves!

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  55. Oh, my GOSH!!! YES!!! I read a few of them (mostly SVT) but they were so BAD!! Besides the obvious mean girl antics, they were just badly written! LOL Also, Jessica was a meanie head even in second grade.....Sweet Valley Kids.....oh, yeah, the horribleness was everywhere!

    I loved the BSC, too, and Anastasia Krupnik. Ramona books are good, the American Girl books, too. I also loved Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess. ;) I prefer historical fiction. Oh, and check out The Secret Language (Ursula Nordstom, I think) and Charlotte Sometimes.

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  56. Oh! Also try Ella Enchanted (WAY better than the Anne Hathaway movie version) and anything else by Gail Carson Levine. She has some re-worked fairy tales and some originals. Very fun!

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  57. I loved Sweet Valley High books too and had totally forgot about them, ha!

    At 8 years old though I was obsessed with Baby Sitter's Club - maybe your daughter would like those? They do have boyfriends and crushes but as I recall it's all VERY innocent...anyway thanks for your post!

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  58. I sobbed through the Little Princess and Secret Garden, although they were great books. My daughter has found Bindi Irwin's books. I am not sure how much romance there is, but she loves them. Plus, Meg Cabot (think Princess Diaries) has a series for tweens called Allie McFinkle, I think. Nancy Drew has a new series out, which is marketed for kids. Plus you have Trixie Belden and the Boxcar Kids. I bet she would love Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, as well.

    Loved your post, by the way.

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  59. I was yet another kid obsessed with all SWT/SVH books. Thank goodness they’re so hard to find in print these days! I just gave my 9 year old niece the first Babysitter’s club book, and hope she loves them. I also remember loving the Nancy Drew Series (good Lord there are hundreds of Nancy Drew books between the classics and the updated versions!)

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  60. If they liked Harry Potter, try Rick Riordan. His Olympus series are great (there's 2) and another one based on Egyptian mythology. There's also the 39 Clues if you're looking for adventure.

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  61. I remember loving the Babysitters Club and Babysitters Club Little Sister books as a kid! Not sure how much "romance" they might have but they are fun to read! :) We had the Sweet Valley High books too but I don't recall any body issues from reading them. I think if you have a discussion with them before and after about it should be ok. My Mom used to read chapters from the Little House series to us before bed every night too! She grew up in MN so she always loved those books too! :)

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  62. My mom would never buy me the sweet valley books and now I understand why. I'm glad I missed them. Goosebumps, Junie B Jones, Nancy Drew, Ramona & Babysitters club are all way nicer and more appropriate for her age.

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  63. American Girl Books, great historical fiction with 10-year-old female main characters.

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  64. What about good old' Judy Blume? I reward those in 5th and 6th grade.

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  65. Awesome post!! Please harass her into blogging again. :-)

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  66. Try the Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler, A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle, Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, Half Magic by Edward Eager, The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, The Goddess Girls Series by Joan Holub, anything by Eleanor Estes, Catwings by Ursula LeGuin, Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood, anything by E.D. Baker, anything by Sharon Creech, Ida B by Katherine Hannigan, Savvy and Scumble by Ingrid Law. My daughter is nine (going on thirteen) and I know how difficult it is!

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  67. Baby Sitter's Club for life! I love this piece, it's fantastic. Thanks for forcing her to write it!! She needs a site!

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  68. If you're looking for something similar to SVH, but without the mean girl aspect, you might try the Pratt Twin books by Cynthia Blair. I remember reading them when I was roughly that age. They definitely have the romance, but the girls are smart and neither of them is a Jessica.

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  69. I loved this post! I don't have kids yet but most of my friends do. I use this site as a buying guide for a lot of gifts for all "my" little girls. http://www.amightygirl.com/books?age_range_filter=5 I promise it has TONS of awesome ideas!

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  70. So many things make sense now. I loved these books growing up. I'm so glad that I can make sure my daughter never reads them! THANK YOU!!

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  71. The Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard are fantastic as well :)

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  72. Nancy Drew! She has the cool car and the cute boyfriend. And nothing sexual ever happens in those book if I remember. :D

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  73. I read this blog with interest as I read the three Sweet Valley series (yes, all three) growing up. While I vehemently agree that describing another person using terms like "fat" and "blubber" are not kosher, I disagree with the idea that prohibiting a child from reading the series will make them a more compassionate human being. Why not use the books as an opening for a discussion about the characters? I remember reading those books along with The Bobbsey Twins, the Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, R.L. Stein, Christopher Pike and in the fifth and sixth grade I could be seen with my nose in a Danielle Steele or Stephen King novel. My teachers didn't have a problem with it and, as far as I know, neither did my parents. They were glad that I was reading. Yes, I went to a public school. Yes, I was raised and am still a practicing Catholic. No, I wasn't promiscuous. No, I didn't go on any diets in high school or refer to others as fat. Did you know that several Judy Blume books are banned from many schools and libraries across the country (Are you there God? It's me, Margaret and It's not the end of the World, possibly others). I realize that I'm not a parent, but I am an Aunt. And I love my nieces and nephew more than anything in the world. And I want them to read anything and everything they want.

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  74. Does anyone remember the Choose Your Own Adventure series? I loved those around that age...

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  75. I never read many Sweet Valley High but I was beyond obsessed with The Babysitters Club and Nancy Drew (the ones from the 80s and 90s, not the really old ones). Both series are still kind of air-headed and lacking in whatever it is that makes Little Women a classic, but I don't remember main characters calling people fat, or anybody doing anything other than kissing. At least I don't think so...

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