Everyone has their guilty pleasure reads, and I am no exception. When I look at my friends, however, my secret reading fetishes are not like theirs at all. I have the romance novel friends (and yet I have never read something in that genre) or “Fifty Shades of Grey” (which I have also not read, or any other erotica novel for that matter). To be fair, I think one day I will read Fifty Shades, but it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my already-too-long reading list because there are so many books I need to read. Curiosity over hype doesn’t get a book very far with me (hello, the Twilight series).
If I could sum up my guilty pleasure reads it would simply be the phrase: Blast from the Past. That is because my guilty pleasure reads are the books that I read between the ages of ten and sixteen. I do not know why I cling to these books, particularly when I am aware of exactly what they are twelve to eighteen years later, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have to own them and read each series from the beginning and these are books that were published in the eighties and nineties so you know they have been out of print for awhile.
The first series is Fear Street by R.L. Stine. To be fair after three years of tracking down first print editions and ordering the best condition copies I could find, I still need six more to complete my collection (there are 114 books in all). When I was in fourth grade (the beginning of my ‘difficult time’ which centered on an unstable and toxic home life) I read R.L. Stine’s “The Ghost Next Door” and while I liked it, I figured out the ending halfway through and felt it was too easy and below my reading level. (The books were aimed at ages eight to twelve; I was nine.) So, I read “Ski Weekend” from the author’s Fear Street series next hoping for more thrill. (Fear Street was a young adult series geared toward ages twelve to seventeen.) I was not disappointed! Fear Street became the book I would devour in a single day and wait anxiously for next month’s book.
I read many of them (though not all of them) through high school and then studies and real life took over. I tried to get back to them when I was 22, but graduate school, relocating and the recession hit me hard, so that was quickly a bust. Then last year I saw a deal I could not pass up. More than half of the collection in pristine condition on eBay – you know I snatched them up like that. I didn’t even bother bidding; it wasn’t worth the risk of losing! I am now reading them in order of their publication dates and am on book #37 (hey work, my manuscript, and actual adult reads take up a lot of my time).
That being said, I need to make it a priority to finish the rest of the series ASAP. While doing some research on basic information on the series such as target age groups and the exact number of books including all of the ‘true spin-off series’ I discovered that Fear Street is making a comeback! I was so excited, I just about wet myself. Seriously, I made a sound similar to a squeal and yelled for my husband to come into the dining room (the dining room table is my writing desk while I am at home). Just before Halloween of this year R.L. Stine is going to release the first new Fear Street book published since the late 1990’s (with the exception of a trilogy published in 2005 that was a true spinoff as I call them). And this is an official relaunch where the author plans to write many new tales of ghosts and murder mysteries (oh my!) involving the town of Shadyside in true Fear Street form. I am beside myself. Seriously, I was having a pretty okay day, but this just made it stellar and I am sure this ‘stellar status’ will spill into tomorrow.
The second main series I count as a guilty pleasure read revolves around the town of Sweet Valley. Oh, you know where this is going (well at least some of you do… I hope). The first Sweet Valley High book I read was the super thriller “On the Run”. Then I read all of the super thrillers and those were the only books that I read from the series. Again, enter eBay, this time in 2010, when I decided to reward myself for being dialysis free, chemo free and apparently no longer considered a ‘terminal case’, with purchasing the first 100 books for about $130 (such a steal, but yes I have to rationalize spending money on myself, not so much on others – it is a problem).
There are 181 books and I finished up the collection in 2012 and I am currently on book #48 (again reading them in the order they were published and for the same reasons, so very behind). This guilty pleasure read is much heavier on the guilt than the first. The writing is cheesy or mediocre at best (though I do not blame the ghostwriters, after going through interviews, they seemed to be on a very short leash with the creator) and the plots ridiculous. Imagine a doctor thinking someone with a case of mono actually had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and diagnosed them with such, not catching the mistake for several months. Or the motorcycle crash that ended in a coma and upon awakening the good twin showed the bad twin how to really be bad.
Reading the entire series in order I cannot believe how I see these books now (not to mention get a better picture since before I only read thrillers where there was murder and mayhem afoot). There is Elizabeth (who I identified with in my limited scope) the compassionate, ultra-organized and responsible older twin who dreams of being an author one day and constantly overextends herself for a cause (hello, of course I identified with her). Then there is boy-crazy shallow Jessica who is all about boys, trends and gossip (also known as the girls I avoided). Blinders off: Elizabeth is incredibly codependent and cannot stand up for herself to save her life. She feels guilty about saying no and actually knows when someone is playing her, but feels like she has to give in because it is the ‘right thing to do’. (I have no idea how her skewed logic views it as the right thing.) Then there is Jessica who is nothing short of a sociopath. She is the girl who steals boyfriends, thinks when her evil schemes backfire that it is the intended victim’s fault, puts people in terrible danger to get a thrill and starts rumors that ruin lives (ah high school) because she thinks it will be the key to her homecoming campaign. Everyone is melodramatic (at times I think it would make many soap operas seem practical) and everything is do or die and every relationship is ‘forever’ and true and intense love… was this high school? If it was, then I apparently missed out or was too busy being an adult, because not every relationship I had was ‘true love’ (though of course there was one, but only one) and very few things were life and death unless they were actually life and death.
Despite the flaws, I can’t help but get sucked in to the ridiculous (and dated) universe of Sweet Valley’s twins. The series spawned several spin-offs including Senior Year, Sweet Valley University, and Elizabeth (all of which I have completely collected and have yet to begin reading). Other series that I do not own include Sweet Valley Twins and Friends, Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Junior High and several others (though if I ever got through my list, I would probably only collect the first one). Maybe, I will get to them some day?
Other miscellaneous guilty pleasure reads include Christopher Pike (my favorite is the “The Last Vampire” series), various works from L.J. Smith (I have never read “The Vampire Diaries” so not anything that has been turned into a television show), and various books about animals and dinosaurs. I was totally one of those nerds and to this day seem to prefer the books and materials I read on creatures past and present to be aimed at kids and young adults – maybe it is the illustrations? Also, I liked to read about vampires and witches before they were trendy, or as trendy, though hold the teenybopper love triangles – these books were about action and suspense.
So, now I have truly confessed to something worthy of judgment. Go ahead, judge me – I’ll just be sitting in the corner and digging into my next guilty pleasure book.