Last week, I confessed some of my deepest, darkest secret reads to the world in Confessions Of A Bookaholic: My Guilty Pleasure Reads. All right, it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I would certainly incur many a sneer from some book snobs I know – but I don’t care. I don’t pretend to know or understand how hashtags work but #sorrynotsorry comes to mind. I have decided to take my guilty pleasure reads a step further by sharing them much more in-depth so people can see how right I am to be shameless in my devotion to these two book series of the past or how simple and unsophisticated my tastes are.
Perhaps I am posting this because I never have enough time and having this subseries of blogs justifies the time I continue to take to read these two series (I often find myself needing to justify my actions and use of time to my boss, who is a real bitch – and yes that bitch is me). But I like to think that even if that point has some validity, the main reason I am writing this subseries is what the ‘Confessions Of A Bookaholic’ series is all about: sharing my love of reading and what I love to read with others.
Each series has two ratings, the first where I put every book in that particular series against the same standard and rate the book. These ratings would not crossover to books outside the series because who can expect a 5-star YA thriller to measure up to a 5-star Pulitzer Prize winning novel? You can’t! The second rating is called ‘Pick Of The Bunch’ and it orders the books in first place, second place, and third place fashion. While I personally feel the need to read chronologically (and it is how I will do these books in this blog subseries) it is not necessary in either book series. I think it is helpful in Sweet Valley High to avoid spoilers, but in Fear Street each novel functions as standalone thrillers with a similar connection, so with the exception of sequels or the occasional miniseries trilogy any order will work.
(The First Three Books Of) Fear Street
Fear Street is a bestselling YA horror series by author R.L. Stine. It centers on Fear Street in the fictional town of Shadyside and all of the murders and supernatural occurrences that go on there. It sounds lame, but there is an entire lore there that I cannot get into without giving away major spoilers. Don’t worry, it will be featured throughout the series and several books are devoted to this lore and how the horror began centuries ago. Over 80 million copies have sold and it is considered one of the bestselling YA book series of all time. So, it must be doing something right…
“The New Girl”
Fear Street Scale: 3.5 out of 5 Fears
Pick Of The Bunch Rating: Third Place
Cory Brooks has fallen hard for the new girl at school, Anna Corwin. Her unearthly beauty and her need for Cory enthralls the star gymnast until he begins losing sleep, skipping practice and just acting plain weird. Everyone begins to notice, but only his friend Lisa knows what is really going on. Anna Corwin is dead and living on Fear Street. Cory is desperate to discover the truth, but he has already been warned by Anna’s brother to stay away. Is Anna Corwin really a ghost? Are the answers Cory seeks really worth dying for?
R.L. Stine’s first book in this series was decent. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t super and yet it still wasn’t necessarily the weakest link by far. I wonder if he knew he was going to begin a series with this book, because it works more as a standalone novel than it does the beginning of what Fear Street became. He definitely did not fully flesh out the backstory of Fear Street before he wrote this book (there are inconsistencies later in the series) but who could predict what this simple series of YA thrillers would become? Still, the book is creepy and the twist will seem unexpected to many readers. What more could you ask for?
“The Surprise Party”
Fear Street Scale: 4.5 out of 5 Fears
Pick Of The Bunch Rating: First Place
Meg Dalton wants nothing more than to have her best friends back. One year ago, Evan died in the Fear Street Woods and Ellen moved away while the rest of the gang went their separate ways. When she finds out that Ellen is coming back to town for a visit, Meg knows just what to do: throw a surprise party for her! But that is where the terror begins. The threats, phone calls and acts of violence all make something very clear, “Cancel the party – or else.” Someone wants this party stopped and will try anything, even murder. The answers to why rest in the Fear Street Woods, but can Meg discover them before she ends up just like Evan…
I enjoyed this book and it is certainly one of the best out of the first six or seven books in the series. The suspense and imminent danger is much more present than in the first book, with many twists and turns that make it impossible to figure out who, what, where and why until it is too late!
Fear Street Scale: 4 out of 5 Fears
Pick Of The Bunch Rating: Second Place
Della O’Connor isn’t disappointed when the advisor of the Outdoors Club can’t go on the overnight to Fear Island. What could be more fun than no adult supervision? And it doesn’t take much to convince her friends either. But it isn’t fun when Della gets lost in the woods, and is confronted by a dangerous stranger who drives her to a violent act. She and her friends make a pact of silence, but someone saw what Della did and now he is threatening them all. Trapped in a conspiracy of silence, the friends are forced back to Fear Island to find what they forgot to bury…
This book totally reminds me of “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (the movie, I have yet to read the book) in the sense that someone does something bad and someone else stalks the group of friends who decide to keep silent about what happened. This book was written after the novel “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1973) but nearly a decade before the movie was released. R.L. Stine makes this idea his own and I loved the different personalities within the group of friends, and of course the chilling ways these kids are harassed. The moral of this story is when you kill someone in self-defense after being attacked, call the police and claim self-defense or you might end up being the next dead body on the ground…
(The Beginning of) Sweet Valley High (Books #1-3)
Sweet Valley is a teen drama series that can best be described as a cheesy melodramatic (and completely ridiculous) high school soap opera centering on twin sisters and their friends. Some of these books bring to mind the saying “it is so bad, it’s good!” I hope you can learn to love the books, whether it is a hate to love or love to hate kind of thing – I sometimes go back and forth myself, like any soap opera it is easy to get sucked in and become addicted!
Sweet Valley Scale: 4.5 out of 5 Twins
Pick Of The Bunch Rating: First Place
Meet Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Both girls are beautiful (and every book pointedly reminds the reader of this) with blonde hair, blue eyes, matching dimples and slim model figures. On the inside, however, they are as different as two girls can be. Elizabeth is friendly, outgoing and dependable while Jessica is snobbish, conniving and self-centered. Elizabeth really likes Todd Wilkins the star of the high school basketball team, but Jessica decides she wants him for herself. And as the back cover states: “What Jessica wants, Jessica usually gets… even if it ends up hurting her sister.”
The first book does a great job of introducing us to the world of Sweet Valley and the more importantly the twins the series focuses on. Unlike Fear Street (at least the impression I got) this series was fully mapped out several books down the line. This makes this book a much more effective vehicle to introduce all of the characters, the town and the school.
If you think the plot seems boring, think again. Jessica literally steals Todd away from Elizabeth with several antics including but not limited to, Jessica posing as Elizabeth and sullying her reputation by going into a bar, and doing other things as Elizabeth, while telling Elizabeth horrible things about Todd such as him being aggressive and fast so she can have him to herself. Why go through all the trouble? Because Todd is also into Elizabeth and went to Jessica for advice on asking Elizabeth out. The book is full of antics including gossip that brings Elizabeth to tears about her ‘barroom behavior’ and Jessica getting what she wanted all along… Todd. The book does a great job of showing what a sociopath Jessica is and how codependent and annoyingly good and trusting Elizabeth is. The ending saves this book, however, when Elizabeth finds out what Jessica has done and plays a horrible prank on her sister, causing Jessica fleeting public humiliation.
Read this book to see where it all started, and if you feel any nostalgia for eighties soap operas. Dallas and Knots Landing seriously come to mind!
Sweet Valley Scale: 3.5 out of 5 Twins
Pick Of The Bunch Rating: Third Place
Jessica Wakefield is determined to be queen of the fall dance, but views Elizabeth’s best friend Enid Rollins as competition since she is dating someone on the dance committee. What’s a girl to do? In Jessica’s case it involves sneaking around, digging up dirt and spilling said dirt to anyone who will listen. Boring, responsible, sweet Enid has a secret, wild past she has put painfully behind her and once Jessica discovers what that past is she makes sure everyone else does too. Enid’s life is quickly ruined by gossip as she loses her reputation and her boyfriend. What could be worse? Well, Enid believes Elizabeth is the one telling her secrets since no one else knew any of them and cuts Elizabeth off. Can Elizabeth save Enid from Jessica’s latest plot when Enid won’t even speak to her?
This book was all right, but the phrase sophomore slump comes to mind since it is probably the weakest out of the first twelve books (book #8 is the only one that gives this book a run for its money for that distinction). Elizabeth forgives Jessica in the end without Jessica even sincerely apologizing for what she has done to Enid (stolen her boyfriend and ruined her reputation) and believes that rigging the dance’s king and queen vote is payback enough. Jessica is still crowned the queen of the fall dance, but the king, who Jessica has to dance with, is the biggest geek in school, Winston Egbert.
This is the book that reminds you of all the reasons not to miss high school!
“Playing With Fire”
Sweet Valley Scale: 4 out of 5 Twins
Pick Of The Bunch Rating: Second Place
Jessica Wakefield has gotten her way again! She has finally landed the most sought after senior at Sweet Valley High, Bruce Patman. But Elizabeth is worried that her sister may be in over her head with Bruce, who is insanely wealthy and handsome, which of course means he is an arrogant douche who doesn’t like the word “No.” When Jessica begins to change, dropping everything to be with Bruce and following him around adoringly, Elizabeth knows her sister has gone too far. Can Elizabeth save her sister from getting seriously burned?
This book was almost my top pick out of these first three books – it was incredibly close. I don’t like Jessica, or I should say I don’t like how Jessica is portrayed in the early books. Perhaps it is because I only read the thrillers in high school or perhaps I was much more oblivious (I hope not!) but while Jessica was always shallow and self-centered before, in these books she is pure psychopath. So, I was tempted to think how Bruce treats her in this book as karma and enjoyed it at first, but there is something about watching a man treat his girlfriend (or boyfriend) terribly that really rubs me the wrong way. Bruce is a scumbag and even a psychopath can do better (and actually deserves better, cringe at the thought). With Elizabeth’s help Jessica finally does snap out of it and when she does the payback makes the somewhat painful (she did what for him!?) scenes completely worth it. If there is one thing Jessica does well, it is getting even.
A great high school, bad boyfriend book without any violence.
Going forward, I am going to devote each Guilty Pleasure Edition to one series and alternate them, covering five books in each post without all of the explanation and backstory. For this first one, I wanted to cover a smaller set of both series, mainly because I could not decide which series should be featured first – it was like trying to choose between two children and caused me unnecessary anxiety. 😉
I would love feedback, even if it is critical. I want to blog about things that at least someone finds somewhat interesting and if this is taking up space, tell me. I’ll still write them because I love revisiting old friends (the books of course) but I don’t have to post them. And if you want more, let me know so I know how soon to post the next edition! For edition #2 the question remains: Fear Street or Sweet Valley High? Don’t make me be the one to choose, please…