the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Thoughts

Sweet Valley Confidential, the long-awaited “reunion” book for the Sweet Valley High universe, came out this week, a cause for much excitement for twenty- and thirty-somethings who grew up with Liz and Jess.

Shockingly to some, Sweet Valley was never my thing. I started with BSC at age six, and I think my mom felt that I was too young for Sweet Valley High, too advanced a reader for Kids, and dear god just look at all the spinny racks of Francine Pascal; I AM ALREADY LINING ANN M. MARTIN’S COFFERS EVERY MONTH. CHOOSE ONE. So I think the number of SV books I ended up reading adds up to less than ten.

I bought Sweet Valley Confidential anyway, because I needed some light reading on my Kindle, I’m running out of trashy celebrity tell-alls, and Meg Cabot’s new book isn’t out until the middle of the month. (SO excited for Abandon!) I actually haven’t finished reading it yet, because having never really been a fan, it’s just not as much as a page-turner for me as it for those who grew up wanting to be size six blonde beauties with eyes the color of the California ocean. Or alternatively, Lila Fuckin’ Fowler. Anyway, I am only like a third or so of the way through, which is unusual for me because in third grade my teacher called me a liar because I read faster than she did.

The question that SVC brings up for me, of course, is whether such a book would work for the BSC. We already have the The Summer Before, which I think works okay as a prequel, even though I don’t like how it messed with canon a bit. Ann has pretty much categorically denied that there will ever be a book featuring the Sitters after eighth grade graduation, but she also had, in the past, said that there won’t be ANY new books featuring the girls, and we got The Summer Before, so let’s examine the possbilities and the logistics.

A book like Confidential, with the girls aged ten years or so? I honestly have a hard time seeing it work, and wouldn’t even really want it. I like that we can explore our own ideas for the girls’ futures in fan fiction, and it’s not set in stone that so and so got married/divorced/had babies/came out/became an executive/became a ne’er do well who never moved out of his parents’ basement (Hi, Logan!). Also, frankly, I don’t really see Ann has an adult/chick lit writer, or even a writer for an older YA audience. I don’t think she’s really a writer who wants to deal with sex, drugs, alcohol, and more adult topics. I think she handled more “adult” storylines deftly in Main Street, but in a PG fashion. I just don’t see her wanting to introduce adulthood to the BSC.

I can see a Confidential-type book working, however, for California Diaries. It would be THE BEST THING EVER. Bring in Peter Lerangis to write it! The CD books were always more adult than BSC, and touched on issues in a way that would shock the shit out of Stoneybrook. So yes, bring on Palo City Confidential!

I do think that a BSC-in-High School book or miniseries would work. Maybe bring Stoneybrook up to Palo City-levels of issues beyond “Wow, why do all of the parents in Stoneybrook suck?” Bring in a little bit of sex and controversy, just not as much as in the adult lives as our Sweet Valley friends. This is, I think, the most likely scenario for any kind of BSC reunion book.

Ann has said that she has no plans to write a reunion book, and prefers that readers are able to imagine the girls’ future themselves. But she had also said that she would never write a new BSC book of any kind, and we ended up with The Summer Before anyway. Sweet Valley Confidential seems to be doing pretty well, if the excitement across the non-fandom blogosphere is any indication. Scholastic might take note of the possible very large dollar signs. The problem with The Summer Before is that it is very much a book aimed at middle grade readers. Parents who were fans as children might want to buy it for their kids, kids might be interested in it, and super diehard nostalgists might want it, but it’s not something that most adults would buy for themselves. Whereas Sweet Valley Confidential appeals to both teenage readers who weren’t around for SVH the first time around AND to readers who are now adults, who are ok with reading a trashy novel about people in their own age group. While a book about high schoolers isn’t quite the same thing, I can see people wanting to know what happened to the girls once they finally graduated from eighth grade, after a sisyphean thirteen-year run.

What do you think of the BSC’s reunion book possibilities?

In the 90s, I remember seventies stuff being pretty cool. That is how we ended up wearing bell bottoms and velveteen tops in 1997. The last few years have been all NEON! RAYBANS! LEGGINGS!, culling its sartorial influences from the 80s. There’s a 20-year cycle of fashion, when things have faded from memory just long enough to stop seeming hideously ugly.

Thus, we have started to see a 90s revival, both in fashion and in entertainment. Beverly Hills, 90210 is back on air, as is Melrose Place. Of recent book releases, the book I’ve heard the most about is Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music by Melissa Meltzer, which has insipired even those who weren’t even alive at the time to listen to Bikini Kill.

It’s no surprise, then, that both the Baby-Sitters Club AND Sweet Valley are coming out with new books. (Yes, the long-awaited Sweet Valley Confidential is being released.) Had these books been released five years ago, only those of us diehards in the fandoms would have cared. The sales would have resembled those of the attempted revitalization of the series that was Friends Forever, if that. But now enough time has passed since the heyday of these series to mean that people who were readers the first time around might have kids of their own of BSC/SV-reading age. Those who don’t have kids might check out the books just out of pure nostalgia, and old enough now to not be embarrassed about being seen buying them Teachers and librarians, also of the first generation of readers, can introduce the books to the kids they work with. When the graphic novels came out, I think it was just slightly too early for all of this. Only the hardcore fanbase seemed to be interested, for the most part, and I don’t remember as many writeups across the internet. Jezebel, for one, has been following the reissues/prequel story for as long as the fandom has.

While ten years ago, Ann said she was simply “done” with the characters, perhaps the real implication of her words were that, outside of her hardcore and aging fanbase, the public was done. They were a relic, overshadowed by new phenomena like Harry Potter. Even a graphic design upgrade and less focus on baby-sitting couldn’t obscure the fact that their time was over. They were innocent books without anything supernatural. But now twenty- and thirty-somethings seem to all be infected with a sense of early 90s nostalgia.

Maybe Ann saw the marketing opportunity and seized it, or her editors gently suggested it to her. Or perhaps, she, too was nostalgic for the BSC’s heyday, and wanted to revisit these characters.

I have a sister who just turned ten, and is thus part of the target demographic of the Main Street series. Unfortunately, she is a not a Reader. For her, reading is something torturous forced upon her by evil parents and teachers to interrupt her computer and television time. She would rather, I think, do math problems than read a book. (My little brother, however, is following the example of his other siblings and reads voraciously and far above grade level, so that is some comfort.) So despite the fact that I do have an “in” to this age range, I don’t really know much about what kids that age like to read nowadays apart from Hannah Montana novelizations.

A question that the upcoming BSC prequel/reissues raised for me is what it all means for the fate of the Main Street series. Now, I like Main Street. I like how it focuses on the lives of both and the adults and the children. You rarely got insight into the adult world in the BSC–it was all about the fantasy of thirteen-year-olds leading independent lives. The girls in Main Street are fairly independent for their ages as well, considering that most parents nowadays wouldn’t let a fifth grader go more than a one-block radius from home without an adult present, but adults in Main Street are not just there to be parents who need their lack of parenting skills to be supplemented by some eleven and thirteen-year-olds who pretty much know everything about child-rearing. No, in Main Street they have their own problems and lives and interesting plots. Mim and Mr. Pennington, hot stuff, right?!

Yet I’ve always wondered, ever since I first heard of the series, about how well it is possible for Main Street to sell. Girls who hang out at their grandmothers’ sewing store? That does indeed sound like something that Ann M. Martin would fantasize about, but perhaps not something that would interest preteen girls. The books, while they do deal with heavier issues than the BSC, retain a kind of slow, old-fashioned pace, kind of like Mayberry RFD. Perhaps I am just buying into marketing hype, but that doesn’t seem to me to be the kind of thing that KIDS TODAY! would be into. I would have been into it, but I was also a loser with no friends who sat in my room making weird crafty things.

Anyway, the fact that the focus seems to be shifting back to the BSC makes me wonder if this is somehow a bad sign for Main Street. On Amazon, the most recent Main Street book came out at the beginning of last month. It’s ranked around 10,000, which seems pretty respectable to me. There are no listings for a next Main Street book, though. Perhaps it just means that Ann has been busy with the prequel and the presumed editing of the reissues to write another Main Street book. If the prequel does well, it could be feasible that Ann would do more with her BSC characters, which I think would not bode well for Main Street.

What do you think? Has Main Street been a success? How do you think that the upcoming BSC excitement will affect the series?

This is old news by now, but the REISSUING of BSC books will begin soon. This is not surprising, as you’d hardly expect that they’d go through all the trouble of releasing a prequel when they couldn’t capitalize on either the new fans of the characters that the prequel will bring, nor bring the nostalgia bucks that the old fans whose collections were sold off in garage sales and donated to thrift stores by well-intentioned parents would be willing to spend, once the prequel jogs their memories. Rather than being completely blindsided by surprise (as I was by the news of the prequel itself), it was simply confirming what I knew would happen all along. Sure, they have the graphic novels, but as I learned when I tried to get my stepmother to buy them for my sister–some people just don’t want the comic format, and the four-book option already ended. It’s cheaper just to take the old books, reprint them with a new cover, and send them out into the marketplace.

I have my doubts, though, that the texts will remain untouched. Thinking of other reissues-Sweet Valley comes to mind, although I heard that Saddle Club was reissued as well–as well as updated versions of old classics like Judy Blume books, I am pretty sure that the BSC will not escape modernization. Perms, flop socks, even iconic pieces like Mary Anne’s “Famous Cities” skirt–it’s hard to fathom that they will be allowed into the homes of today’s children, despite the fact that the clothes right now are pretty damn eighties and nineties to begin with.

An interesting cultural shift that begun after I left childhood behind was the idea that kids are really, really stupid became in vogue. Yes, the whole sanitary belt thing in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret confused me, but I understood that it was a story of the early 70s and things were different then, and I wouldn’t have wanted all of the slang and fashions updated. One of my favorite things about Harriet the Spy is the Mad Men-era Upper East Side locale, which is one of the main reasons why I absolutely hated the movie starring Nona F. Mecklenberg/Regina Sparks. But apparently nowadays even things like 1BRUCE1 are just too hard for the kids to understand, too unrelateable. You’d think it’d be the opposite, because now kids can just google that shit. Perhaps this lack of faith and push the modernize things is what made the SVH reissues not very successful: perhaps if they had just retained the corny, tacky, vintage feel that we all know and love, they’d have been more successful. Because I am sure that now it just reads like a less-scandalous Gossip Girl. Would today’s kids live in fear of trying cocaine after what happened to Poor Regina Morrow? Maybe, maybe not, but if it were framed in LOLEIGHTIES! it might seem less lame.

I think that now the entire concept of the BSC is outdated. Even in 1986, it was hard for the girls to compete with the Baby-Sitters Agency, which had older sitters. I can’t see any contemporary parents I know leaving their children in the care of an eleven-year-old, even a levelheaded one like Mallory. Claudia’s voracious appetite for junk food that never results in weight gain would definitely be frowned upon. And obviously, with cell phones, Claudia might even be stripped of her title as vice-president! The books are so firmly steeped in a pre-cell phone, pre-internet, pre-THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!!!!!! culture that it is hard to see how, exactly, they’d be able to modernize it without basically having to redo the entire concept. I mean, this stuff DOES enter the series, but only at the tail end, and I doubt that they will even get to the ghost-written books in terms of reissuing the series.

So perhaps, if we’re lucky, they will just leave them alone and reissue them as they are, as a relic of the 80s and 90s.

Yes, I know that it has been about two months since I last posted. What have I been doing? Well, I moved. I moved to a place where I could not take my BSC books. I have been quite distracted by my real life, and in all honesty have not been thinking much about the BSC. My mind has been occupied by things like, “How can I pay my tuition if I can’t get a student loan because my university has no association with the US banking system?” and “Oh fuck my head hurts from this hangover.” I had a few topics I wanted to write about, but I just never got around to forming the ideas to the point where I could write a meaningful blog post about them.

BUT THEN SOMETHING TOTALLY UNEXPECTED WAS DISCOVERED YESTERDAY, THE BIGGEST NEWS SINCE THE YEAR 2000 WHEN THE SERIES ENDED. If you care enough about the BSC to follow this blog, then you probably about know about it. Adri posted this yesterday in the BSC livejournal. I haven’t read the comments yet, because I wanted to write this post completely unbiased. But anyway, A NEW BSC BOOK IS COMING OUT APRIL 1ST. It is a prequel called The Summer Before, which takes place the summer before seventh grade. You can read the summary in the link to the BSC lj.

What are my thoughts on this? I have many.

  • Is this the start of a series of prequels? Will we have books that take place when the sitters are even younger? Or is this a one-off thing?

  • Perhaps, instead of a bunch of prequels, we’ll next have The Summer After, which would take place after Graduation Day. Now, I have mixed feelings about the idea of a “reunion book” in general. I kind of prefer us all being able to imagine what happened to the girls ourselves.
  • While a prequel is exciting, we do all know, say, what happened to Stacey the summer before seventh grade. The Claudia plot, though, intrigues me.
  • How will it be written? I imagine it will be more like Main Street than BSC. I doubt we will have, say, a Chapter Two.

  • Speaking of Main Street, I wonder how this will affect Ann’s Main Street effort. Will she abandon it in favor of more BSC? Or is this, as I noted above, just a one-off thing and will not affect Main Street at all? Does anyone know how well Main Street has sold?
  • This is perhaps the most important question of all: Does this indicate a potential, at least partial, re-release of the series? It’s hard to imagine having a prequel released for a series that has been out of print for years. Although the graphic novels are still in print, and the book will only be about the original four, so perhaps Scholastic doesn’t deem a re-release necessary.

    I will go more in depth about my various thoughts about this news in subsequent postings. But I just wanted to get something up here, and just bang out a few of the reactions floating around my head. What reactions do you guys have to this news?

  • One of the major themes of the series is thirteen as a turning point, the age where one is Grown Up. You can baby-sit at night. You can go steady. You don’t ask your parents for help in 95% of the cases where you really, really should. Mallory and Jessi see thirteen as the magic age where they will get sparkly sweatshirts, contacts, and nose jobs. Shannon Kilbourne even titles the essay that frames her portion of the The Baby-Sitters Remember “Thirteen,” which is a sort-of coming of age story.

    Apart from the whole “no sitting at night” thing, Mallory and Jessi actually have a fair amount of autonomy for eleven year olds, especially by today’s Helicopter Parents standard. How many eleven year olds do you know, for instance, who go to New York City to visit a boyfriend? How many eleven year olds are allowed to spend a weekend baby-sitting their siblings? (Sorry, Jessi, but I have to agree with Aunt Cecelia on that one. That’s just plain illegal.)

    So one would assume that, despite all the whining from Mal and Jessi, that being eleven in Stoneybrook doesn’t really suck that much. Parents are more than lenient. Despite the fact that the Pikes have nixed the nose job idea, Mallory has more independence than would be considered prudent by commentors on parenting blogs, even the “hip” ones. But the same cannot be said for Mallory and Jessi’s peers. It is, in fact, one of the great mysteries of the BSC.

    When we are first introduced to their characters, Tiffany Kilbourne is a sitter and Ben Hobart is Mallory’s Australian doppelganger/boyfriend. (Kind of creepy, if you ask me.) Yet somehow, over the course of the series, they are both on the receiving end of maturity downgrades. Rather than being pissed that the BSC has stolen her and Shannon’s sitting “territory,” Tiffany becomes part of the territory and becomes a BSC client. And Ben shows up at events that the BSC are running/involved with, and there is no mention of the fact that Ben and Mallory go out sometimes.

    Sometime after December 1994 (Ben and Mallory have a fight about carolling in SS12), Ben and Mal’s relationship fizzles out. Perhaps all of the fighting about carolling and card catalog usage got to him. He shows up at the Greenbrook Club bathing cap contest. He plays an innkeeper in the church Christmas pageant and pisses off Mallory because he adlibs some Faux-stralian flavor into his lines. There is never any mention that hey, at one time, Ben and Mallory might have looked deeply into each other’s glasses and held each other’s sweaty palms. No, all has been forgotten–the scars from those card catalog/carolling fights go too deep. He is excised from Mal’s Chapter Two segments. The first cut is the deepest, indeed.

    Ben has a chance to redeem himself after Mal’s Spaz Girl nervous breakdown, however. He is seen saying that he has tried to reach out to Mallory, but she doesn’t seem very receptive. No, Ben, your flames of love died out long ago. It happened while you were decorating your bathing cap to look like a shark attack.

    Tiffany Kilbourne never gets a similar shot of redemption. She becomes a client and stays a client. Sometimes, I think, her age is even downgraded to ten. She’s eleven in The Complete Guide, but I swear she’s mentioned as ten in some places. Anyone with a citation, hit me up in the comments.

    Then, in Claudia and the Recipe for Danger, we actually have a twelve-year-old pretty much being sat for by the eleven and thirteen-year-old sitters. He is the second Tyler in the Kids Kitchen thing, and no one ever really notes WHY there’s a twelve-year-old there, and he doesn’t do much. But it’s still alarming.

    My conclusion is that really, Mal and Jessi seem to be the only eleven-year-olds in Stoneybrook who are afforded such responsibility. Perhaps if Ben had been smart like Logan (never thought I’d type the phrase “smart like Logan,” BUT SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME, GHOSTWRITERS?!), and become an associate member, he could have kept his lady and his adult-ish status. It seems like being in the BSC is the ticket to maturity, and will help you avoid all of the potential pitfalls of adolescence, like acne, gum-chewing, trying cigarettes, and hiding those tiny bottles of wine in your flop socks. Look at what happened to Stacey and Dawn once they leave the comforting bosom of the BSC for Bad Girl-ism and California! Would Dawn have gone to a restaurant that served “more than just tea” (AKA HEAD SHOP IN THE BACK, DUDES) if she were still living with Mary Anne? Of course not.

    The time warp works in mysterious ways. It can make you age so that you seem ahead of your years (everyone in the BSC). It can make you age backwards (Tiffany and Ben). Stoneybrook, Connecticut. An idyllic suburb of Stamford, a convenient train ride away from New York City straight into the heart of… THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

    UPDATE: Not even bodily injury can stop Ashley from sharing her vast BSC knowledge. Thank you, Ashley!:

    From #70, Stacey and the Cheerleaders:
    Shannon nodded. “She missed the Terrible Twos. Instead she’s having the Terrible Tens. Even her teachers are complaining.” (p.23)
    Tiffany is a ten-year-old version of Shannon – physically, at least. (p.60)

    But in #112, Kristy and the Sister War, Tiffany is 11 again, though she is still getting sat for.

    There are certain things which happen with regularity in children’s series about middle schoolers aimed at young girls that do not really happen in real life all that often. Here is a but a short list, culled from readings of The Baby-Sitters Club and GirlTalk. Other tropes or other series/tv shows in which these things happen are welcome and encouraged in the comments.

    Since there is usually at least one main character who breathtakingly beautiful (while also being intelligent and modest), modeling is a good, exciting plot to turn to. Because what young girl doesn’t want to be judged solely on her looks? GirlTalk blew this wad early, in the third book of the series, The New You. Allison Cloud models after being selected in a Belle modeling search. She could have gone on to have a real modeling career, but the she wouldn’t have time to read 100 books over summer vacation.

    Stacey was so pretty that Scholastic felt justified in using this plot twice. The first was in the tv show, where Stacey was selected to model for Bellair’s and also could have gone on to have a big career, but chose baby-sitting instead. Much more glamorous. Then in Stacey and the Fashion Victim, she participates in Stoneybrook’s Fashion Week. Yeah.

    Another important plot point is that the only other girl in the modeling group that your modeling character knows is the sworn enemy of the series’ main clique. Stacy Hansen in GT, Cokie Mason in BSC. They’re bitches, and they’re beautiful.

    A fun twist to this plot is that in Stacey and the Bad Girls, Stacey is rejected as a model, for being “too commercial.” What, perms aren’t edgy?!

    Beauty Pageants.
    When I think of beauty pageants, I think of Delta Burke and Bravo’s series Toddlers and Tiaras. And the South. But in middle grade girls’ fiction, geography knows no bounds. Every town has a beauty pageant, and every girl wants to enter. Now, since sometimes the BSC takes on a feminist slant, in the BSC beauty pageant plot, it’s clients who are entering, and Mal and Jessi form the beauty pageant opposition.

    But in the GirlTalk book Beauty Queens, Allison and Sabrina both enter and it’s a big fucking deal and stuff. I don’t remember what Allison’s talent was–reading? I think Sabrina gets Miss Congeniality. Whatever. I haven’t read that book in ten years.

    Synchronized Swimming.
    Have you ever done synchronized swimming? No? Well, in middle school book girl world, schools have synchronized swimming teams. Wtih costumes. And underwater stereo systems. Perhaps there were editors out there with Esther Williams fantasies. Again, it’s our Allison who does this sport, in Allison, Shape Up!. Jessi, our ballerina, gets this plot in Jessi’s Gold Medal. Of course, these girls take to “synchro” (that’s what the cool kids call it) and win medals and shit. But because it’d be too boring a plot to include in chapter 2s, no matter how good at synchro-ing your heroine is, it’s always a one-book deal.

    Horseback Riding.
    According to movies and tv shows and books, before girls love boys, they love horses. Randy, because she likes to be surprising, had this plot in GirlTalk. Surprisingly, it was a multi-book arc for her. The other girls tried it, but sucked. Mallory also tried it, and naturally sucked. Mallory and the Dream Horse is easily one of the most snarkable books of the series. Who can forget Mallory, dressed like she is from the 1965 Sears and Roebuck catalog, hanging out at a cool rich kid’s birthday party where everyone else is dressed like they are auditioning for “Kids Incorporated”?

    Poor Mom, Rich New Dad.
    Is your mom a harried, overworked, lonely single mother? Have no fear, because soon a really rich dude will walk into her life, marry her after like a week of dating, and soon you will all be moving to an awesome mansion, which you will have to share with your new stepsiblings. If you’re a main character in a middle grade book series, at least. Both Katie Campbell and Kristy Thomas watched as their moms were swept off their feet, and soon they had to leave the little houses they had known all their lifes for mansions. Oh noes. Katie’s new stepdad’s mansion is way cooler than Watson’s, if you didn’t read GirlTalk. It has an elevator, an indoor pool, and is fully staffed. I want to go to there.

    The Baby-Sitters Club is rife with examples of glaring violations of child labor laws. Logan works as a busboy at the Road Spud. Laine poohs baby-sitting in favor of working as a cashier at Flowers and Bows, the boutique on the Upper East Side (or West? Please, someone with Stacey’s Ex-Best Friend handy, let me know!). Stacey works at Kid Center in Bellairs.

    But in later books, someone seems to have sent Scholastic a memo saying, hey, THAT IS ILLEGAL. Sunny says that Ducky is the only friend of hers who can work at Winslow Books, because he is sixteen. Maureen Spencer says that none of Stacey’s friends can work at her new, as yet unopened store, since they’re not old enough. While in many ways the series got more unrealistic as time went on (oh hai princess in Stoneybrook and field trips to Europe), when it got to be CA Diaries/FF time, things seem to have become more realistic. Nothing in the plots of either series are as outlandish as things often found in later BSC.

    Another thing I noticed in my reread of Stacey’s Problem: Samantha is one glamorous woman. She is a former model turned fashion photographer. Now, this kind of woman is not going to date just some normal guy. I would imagine that she would probably end up with someone high-powered and rich, because that is the kind of person she would come across in her work. We’re told over and over again that Watson is Very Rich, yet Stacey buys all her clothes at Bloomingdales (which is not cheap–Stacey is rocking the cost equivalent of Marc by Marc Jacobs in eighth grade), she went to a fancy private school in Manhattan, they had an apartment overlooking Central Park, Ed takes Stacey to fancy restaurants and Broadway plays all the damn time. So how come the obvious was never stated, that Stacey is very wealthy as well, in addition to being sophisticated? It seems odd to mention Kristy’s wealth in every Chapter 2 and not say anything about Stacey’s.

    You could make a lot of points about Twilight and why it sucks. You could focus on the use of words like “chagrin” and “dazzle.” You could talk about the series as “abstinence porn,” or raise the question of Edward Cullen as an abusive control-freak. None of these things really bother me, though. I can overlook all of it for the unadulterated DAZZLE.

    Something was bothering me, though. It bothered me when I read an excerpt of Stephenie Meyer’s Vogue profile, thinking the whole time, “Why the hell is this woman in Vogue? Oh well, at least it’s not a Plum Sykes feature.” There was something nagging me about the whole Twilight phenomenon, something that was just… off.

    It only became clear when I somehow ended up at the Forks, WA website. There is a interactive map feature, where you can look at all kinds of different places in Forks which are featured in the book. Like the Thriftway.

    I was kind of surprised when the map came to La Push, though. I had always assumed, for some reason, that the Quileutes were not a real tribe, because I would imagine that they wouldn’t appreciate their culture being co-opted to create a mythology of werewolf vampire killers for a series of books for teenage girls. But La Push is real, and First Beach is real, and their website makes no mention of the Twilight connection. (Although I guess on the bright side, they’ve raked in a lot of money from increased tourism.) Even the stores and restaurants that Bella goes to in Port Angeles are real places.

    In fact, if you want, you can participate in a six day, five night trip to Volterra, which luckily includes wine tasting. I shudder to think how much wine it would require to make me forget that I spent 2299$ on a Twilight tour in Italy.

    It seems strange that Stephenie Meyer didn’t make up any locations for her books except for, I am assuming, the houses of the characters. Isn’t part of the fun of writing fiction is that you can make up your own locations, settings, and objects and manipulate them to suit the story? It reminds me of Mallory Pike in Mallory Pike, #1 Fan, where she thinks that fiction must be truth and have a counterpart in life. No, that’s why it’s FICTION. If you want to give a Cullen a fast car, you don’t need to consult someone on a year, make, and model number, unless you’re searching for an endorsement deal. You can make up your own goddamn superfast car.

    In the series, Stephenie Meyer failed to create her own mythology, the way JK Rowling did or even Ann M. Martin and Francine Pascal. Stephenie Meyer couldn’t even be bothered to think up something as basic as The Dairi Burger. It seems like a strange decision to have to set everything in real places. If you want to set a story in New York City or Paris or another big city which already has a mythology in the collective consciousness, that makes sense. It’s a specific decision that is made to convey a ready-made meaning. But to set your series in a small remote town which no one has ever heard of–well, it wouldn’t make a difference whether Forks was real or not, because it doesn’t already have a meaning attached to it for 99.9% of the people in this world. She could have made up her own town on the Olympic Peninsula and given it stores and other locations as she saw fit.

    It’s decisions like these which really mark Stephenie Meyer as an amateur, I think. It shows that she didn’t have the self-confidence to create an entire world for her stories. Now, I thought some of the things she did make up, like the Vampire Wars of the South, were pretty interesting. So I’m just not sure what her problem was and why she decided to hold herself to the Mallory Pike Rules of Fiction as Inspired By a Made-up Ernest Hemingway Quote.

    Did you know that Lois Lowry has a blog? So does Meg Cabot. Meg’s blog is very relatable, because she talks about things like the latest episode of Gossip Girl. Tuesdays (or Wednesdays, depending) are often reserved for serious discussions of CHUCK BASS around these parts.

    What other middle grade/YA authors do you know who have interesting blogs?

    Speaking of Lois Lowry, I have been rediscovering Anastasia Krupnik lately. I think one of the things that make Anastasia books so enjoyable–besides the fact that they’re laugh-out-loud funny, so much so that my mother has commented on it while I was reading on the couch–is that her family just seems so cool. You read it and think, “Now this is the family I should have had!” (Not that I don’t love my family or anything.) Harvard professor dad, illustrator mom, cute and smart little brother… all witty and understanding. Plus, they live in a really cool Victorian house with a study full of Great Books.

    Who is your favorite fictional family?

    Also, I feel a little harsh in my treatment of Dawn Schafer in my recent post. So soon I will write about what I like about Dawn. She was, after all, my favorite character for a while in my childhood, and there are certain ways in which I really relate to her now.

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