nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Kristy’s Great Idea

Originally I had planned to feature the next Fear Street book today, title The Surprise Party, but unfortunately I am having a hard time finding it. So instead, to mix things up a bit, we’re going to move on to another series that shaped my adolescence: The Baby-Sitters Club.

Nostalgic Reads

Kristy's Great IdeaTitle: Kristy’s Great Idea

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club

Blurb: Kristy thinks the Baby-sitters Club is a great idea. She and her friends Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Anne all love taking care of kids. A club will give them the chance to have lots of fun – and make tons of money.

But nobody counted on crank calls, uncontrollable two-year-olds, wild pets, and parents who don’t always tell the truth. And then there’s Stacey, who’s acting more and more mysterious. Having a baby-sitters club isn’t easy, but Kristy and her friends aren’t giving up until they get it right!

Review: I had forgotten just how good these books really are.

First, a little bit of history, since I did this with the first Sweet Valley High post. The Baby-Sitters Club first came out in 1986. The first 35 books were written by Ann M. Martin, the later books written by ghostwriters. There are 131 books in the original series, with spin-offs like the Super Editions, Mysteries, and the Little Sister series that focuses on Kristy’s stepsister, Karen.

This first book, Kristy’s Great Idea, sets everything up for our series. A group of friends come together to form a club in order to get baby-sitting jobs. Sure, there is the typical 80s thing where each character has their defining characteristic: Kristy is the outgoing tomboy, Mary Anne is the quiet bookworm, Claudia is the artsy fashionista, and Stacey is the fun city girl. Each book is told from the point of view of one of the girls, but we also get some stories from the other girls due to their notebook where they write down the details of their baby-sitting jobs.

So let’s talk about Kristy. She gets in trouble sometimes because she is very outspoken and doesn’t really have a filter. She is going through a but of a tough time. Her parents are divorced, her father is not really in her life, and her mother is dating another man, Watson. Kristy doesn’t want to accept another man in her mom’s life and avoids anything to do with him as much as she can, including refusing to baby-sit for his two kids.

Kristy gets the idea to start the Club after watching her mother try to find a baby-sitter for her little brother, David Michael. She was busy, her two friends Mary Anne and Claudia were also busy, her older brothers were busy, and their other baby-sitter was sick. Kristy felt bad that her mom had to waste time trying to track down someone and also that David Michael had to feel like a burden for her having to do so. The idea, that parents could make one call and reach a group of sitters, was actually a very good one and starts out pretty successful. Sure, they have some hiccups. Prank calls by Kristy’s older brother. Someone calling them for dog-sitting. They ended up at jobs with extra children they didn’t count on, who were all unruly brats.

The book ends with Kristy coming to terms with Watson and his kids, which is good since now Watson and Kristy’s mom are engaged. We also find out that Stacey, who has been acting odd about food all book, actually has diabetes and was afraid to tell anyone. The girls all get in a big fight, but are able to work things out. What I like best about this series is that even though the girls are stereotypes, like I mentioned above, they also feel very real. None of them are perfect, they have definite flaws, but they also sound like kids that I went to middle school with. That’s refreshing.

My plan is to flip back and forth between The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High ever ten books or so, with some Fear Street thrown in as I can find them. That will keep this feature from getting too stale.

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Nostalgic Reads – Wrong Kind of Girl

Nostalgic Reads

Wrong Kind of GirlTitle: Wrong Kind of Girl

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #10

Blurb: Jessica’s at it again!

Jessica Wakefield has sworn never to allow Annie Whitman onto the Sweet Valley High cheering squad. Annie may have the beauty, talent, and spirit to be a cheerleader, but she also has the worst reputation in school. She goes out with a different boy every night, and all the kids call her “Easy Annie” behind her back. Jessica’s pulling every devilish trick to keep Annie from ruining the cheerleaders’ image.

Only Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, knows what Annie’s really like. But can she change her sister’s mind before Jessica shatters Annie’s dreams?

Review: On a very special episode of Sweet Valley High . . .

Yeah, this is one of the ones that tried to take on some very serious subjects. Did they succeed? I would say that they mostly did. This book dealt with the dangers of gossip and bullying, and has a suicide attempt as a result of said bullying. As such, this is probably one of the more darker story lines in the series.

It’s also a case of Jessica being the world’s worst person, this time focusing her horribleness on Annie Whitman, a sophomore who is desperately trying to change her life. One of the ways she is doing this is trying out for the cheerleading squad. She is desperate. It is the key to everything. But Jessica, being Jessica, doesn’t think Annie is “good enough” for them. Annie has a bit of a reputation around school as being “easy.” She likes the boys. A lot. Often bad boys, including Rick Andover, the drunk who had nearly sexually assaulted Jessica in the first book.

Part of Annie’s backstory is that her mother was a teen mom and raised Annie by herself. Her mom is absent most of the time and often drinks heavily. She also has a live-in boyfriend who gives Elizabeth the creeps.

Let’s be honest. Jessica is no position to call any girl “easy” with the number of guys she’s pursued. In fact, one of the  guys that Annie nabs in this book was one that Jessica had her eye on for a while, which didn’t help the situation at all. Jessica is afraid that the whole cheerleading squad will be tainted by Annie’s reputation and proceeds to slut-shame Annie to the other cheerleaders so that they won’t allow her to join. Which is a completely hypocritical, because Annie is an amazing cheerleader! She’s also been trying to get better grades, after being tutored by Elizabeth, who also tries to convince Jessica to change her mind. Which doesn’t work.

When Annie doesn’t get on the cheerleading squad, she swallows a bunch of pills in an attempt to kill herself. The cheerleader’s manager, Ricky Capaldo, a somewhat geeky guy with a heart of gold, has taken a liking to Annie and, knowing how devastated she was, goes to her apartment to check on her. He finds her unconscious and calls the ambulance. He also calls the Wakefields. Jessica realizes how awful she is, for at least a split second, and spends several nights at the hospital, along with Elizabeth and Ricky, trying to talk to Annie and get her to wake up. Which she finally does. Jessica lets her on the cheerleading squad and everyone is happy again.

So does this book adequately tackle these issues? I think it does, in an 80’s/early 90s sitcom way. Because of the format, it does have to wrap up things pretty quickly, but it does impart the seriousness of the situations at hand, which I think is a good thing. This was one of the story lines I actually remembered from reading it back when I was a teenager. So I guess it was good enough to have stuck with me.

Set up for the next book includes the mysterious Suzanne Devlin coming to stay with the Wakefields. The daughter of an American diplomat, Suzanne has lived all over the world. In addition to that, one of the twins will get to stay in New York while Suzanne stays with their family. Which one will they choose?

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Racing Hearts

Nostalgic Reads

racing heartsTitle: Racing Hearts

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #9

Blurb: “Love on the run…”

Roger Barrett has always had a hopeless crush on glamorous, wealthy Lila Fowler. The only attention Lila ever pays to him, though, is to make fun of him in front of her friends. But why shouldn’t she, he thinks. After all, he’s clumsy and shy and works secretly as a janitor after school.

When Roger wins the qualifying heat for a big race, he becomes a school celebrity overnight. And to his surprise, even Lila starts to chase after him. But Roger knows if he runs in the race finals, he’ll lose his job. Will Lila still notice him when he’s no longer a star?

Review: This may be the first book so far where Jessica is actually not terrible! Hooray!

Roger Barrett is sad and awkward and totally crushing on Lila Fowler, the richest girl in school. Roger is also super poor because his mom is sick and his dad is a drunk. There is a big event coming up – a race called “the Bart.” Lila shames Roger into running, which he does, enduring ridicule from Bruce Patman for it. Bruce is also running and exists purely to be a jerk to anyone and everyone around him.

But hey! Roger wins! And Jessica convinces Lila that Roger will be popular now after his impressive run, so Lila gives him a chance, much to the disappointment of Olivia Davidson, Roger’s best friend who has been harboring a secret crush on him. The other problem is that Roger has an after school job to help support his family – he can’t spend time training for a race!

Roger enjoys Lila’s attentions, but can’t keep up the charade. He tells her he can’t run, along with the reason why, and she is none too happy about it. But wait! Somehow Roger’s mean boss, who Roger was sure would never give him the time off to compete, is now totally cool with it and called the school to tell them that. Yay!

Roger also realizes that Olivia is his true love, the one who has been there all along. Double yay!

The day of the race arrives and it’s a close one. Lots of competition from other schools, but Roger wins the day! He also wins a full scholarship to Sweet Valley College. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy. Of course, all the attention has perked Lila’s interest again. She convinces herself that Roger made up the story about having a job and a mean boss. She is shocked when Roger turns down the invitation to Lila’s after party in his honor. Roger loves Olivia and that’s that.

Our subplot is that Jessica has come up with the idea that she wants to get serious. She wants to work part-time after school at her dad’s law firm and be a lawyer when she grows up. The shine of a new job wears off quickly, but then Jessica meets Dennis, who works for his father in the same building. They hang out after work, but Dennis won’t take her anywhere else. Why? Turns out he’s only 15 and has been lying about his age. Jessica isn’t interested after that.

There’s also a thing about Coach Schultz, who the students think is retiring because he has cancer, but that rumor isn’t true. He’s fine.

The set up for the next book involves Annie Whitman, a girl known for being “easy” who wants to join the cheerleadering squad. Jessica doesn’t want her there. I guess we’ll see what happens next!

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Dear Sister

Nostalgic Reads

38601Title: Dear Sister

Author: Francine Pascal / Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #7

Blurb: Sweet Valley is stunned by the news: Beautiful young Elizabeth Wakefield lies in a coma, on the brink of death after a horrible motorcycle accident. Elizabeth’s boyfriend Todd is consumed by guilt; he was driving and escaped unharmed. He feels totally helpless. All he can do is wait for a change in Elizabeth’s condition–a change that might mean the loss of the only girl he’s ever loved.
But no one is more shattered than Elizabeth’s twin, Jessica. As she keeps watch over the silent body of her sister, she’s overwhelmed by despair. Without Elizabeth, can life go on?

Review: See, this is actually really funny, because the blurb for this book doesn’t really go into what the book is about at all. Elizabeth wakes up from the coma in the first few chapters and has relatively few side effects from being in a coma in the first place. What does happen is that Elizabeth starts acting a lot like Jessica – very flirtatious, very wild, shirking responsibilities left and right. Breaks up with Todd and stops hanging out with Enid because they are too boring. Jessica even thinks about how Elizabeth is now acting just like the wrong twin.

Oddly enough, Jessica is annoyed to all hell about Elizabeth’s behavior, even after noting this, but I am guessing that it won’t change how she acts at all in later books.

This is a classic soap opera amnesia story, although Elizabeth doesn’t really lose her memory, just her identity, which is restored with another hit to the head. It’s all a bit goofy, but it’s also really funny watching Jessica attempt to be the responsible twin. She doesn’t like it AT ALL. It’s also a bit funny watching Elizabeth fall head over heels with Bruce Patman, of all people, since she can’t stand him normally. And by funny, I mean really uncomfortable, since Bruce Patman is a terrible human being.

Of course, by the end of the book, Elizabeth is back to normal and makes up with Todd, who forgives her immediately for how she treated him when she was not herself. That sentence is a lot more confusing in a book about twins.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Dangerous Love

Nostalgic Reads

img_0620Title: Dangerous Love

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #6

BlurbThe end of the road for Todd and Elizabeth?

One of the strictest rules in the Wakefield house is “No motorcycles.” Ever since their cousin was killed in a crash, Elizabeth and Jessica have been forbidden to go near them. So when Elizabeth’s boyfriend Todd drives up on a shiny new Yamaha, she knows there’s trouble ahead. She can’t ride Todd’s bike, but other girls can and do. And sight of those girls riding with their arms around Todd is making Elizabeth crazy with jealousy. Todd tells her not to worry, but Elizabeth’s scared of losing him. Will Todd’s new bike drive them apart?

Review: This one is actually a bit tricky for me because I grew up around motorcycles. My parents were part of a motorcycle club and went on rides all the time. My dad had a few different bikes while I was growing up and I got to ride with him many times. I will say that it was a bit scary, especially since I was so small at the time, but my dad was a very good driver and always made sure we were safe.

Did I also know about friends of theirs who got in terrible accidents? Of course. We couldn’t drive by an accident where a motorcycle was involved without worrying that it was someone we knew. I have a cousin who was in a bad motorcycle accident and has been in a wheelchair ever since. But it also bothers me when people just vilify motorcycles all together. Elizabeth even points out the fact that yes, motorcycles can be dangerous, but so are cars – how many people die in car accidents? – and no one gives that a second thought.

But after having a death in the family, it does make sense for the Wakefields to feel super cautious. I get that. It was a tragedy. And Todd is understanding, although I really didn’t like the fact that now he’s offering rides to every other girl at school practically. It makes Elizabeth feel like she can be replaced at any moment.

Oh, and this rule about motorcycles? Pretty much the only rule Jessica actually agrees with. So there’s that.

There’s a ton of drama where Elizabeth gets jealous of girls riding with Todd, but Todd gets jealous when Elizabeth catches a ride with another guy. Seriously, dude, what is she supposed to do? Finally, Todd decides to sell the bike because he doesn’t like it coming between them, which leads Elizabeth to the decision of taking one ride with him. She’s stranded otherwise, or has to wait for Jessica to pick her up. Here’s the thing though – Todd doesn’t have her helmet with him. Didn’t think he’d need it. So they take off, her with no helmet, and that is so unbelievably stupid. You never, never, never do that.

Because these books are super predictable, they in an accident with a drunk driver. Ironically, the same guy Todd was going to sell the bike to. This is the first SVH book that ends on a cliffhanger. Elizabeth is in a coma in the hospital. Her parents initially blame Todd for everything, which Todd does as well. They all come to the conclusion that the choice has been Elizabeth’s to make and she can be pretty headstrong about things. So no one is angry anymore. Just worried that Liz might die.

So this book is taking on a pretty serious situation, one that could have long-lasting consequences. It marks a bit of a change to the silliness and frivolous nature of the previous books.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – The New Girl

Nostalgic Reads

The New GirlTitle: The New Girl

Author: R.L. Stine

Pages: 176

Genre: YA Horror

Blurb: The new girl is as pale as a ghost, blond, and eerily beautiful — and she seems to need him as much as he wants her. Cory Brooks hungers for Anna Corwin’s kisses, drowns in her light blue eyes. He can’t get her out of his mind. He has been loosing sleep, ditching his friends…and everyone has noticed.

Then as suddenly as she came to Shadyside High, Anna disappears. To find a cure for his obsession, Cory must go to Anna’s house on Fear Street — no matter what the consequences.

Anna may be the love of his life … but finding out her secret might mean his death.

Review: Now for something a bit different! A quick departure from Sweet Valley High, we’re taking a trip down Fear Street! I loved these books as a kid, mostly because they were trippy and freaky as hell. A couple of them really spooked me when I was younger.

One thing you can almost always count on with Fear Street is some sort of crazy plot twist. The nice thing about this series is that they are not a continuous story. Each one stands on its own, for the most part, all just taking place in the same small town. There are a few spin-off series (Fear Street Saga, Fear Street Cheerleaders, Fear Street Nights, etc.) that are more connected stories, but for right now we are sticking to the original run.

So this book is pretty short, but it also gets all over the place. The main character, Cory, is a little weird, to be honest. He gets super obsessed with this new girl at school in a relatively short time. The new girl, Anna, is super mysterious and keeps disappearing. Her brother, Brad, is also very strange, and keeps saying that Anna is dead. Cory and is friend Lisa both get threatening phone calls. Lisa even gets a nasty surprise in her locker – a dead cat with a threatening note on it. I don’t remember if I read this particular one as a kid, but that would have really freaked me out.

Some of the Fear Street books have supernatural elements and some are just creepy mysteries. You do spend a good amount of time in this book wondering if Anna is a ghost, if that’s her secret. I’m not going to tell you if she is or isn’t – you’ll have to read the book for that – but the book was actually still pretty enjoyable. It’s funny how dated a lot of this stuff is – Cory makes a call to information to get the phone number for the Corwins’ house. When was the last time a teenager had to do that!

My current plan is to intersperse Fear Street books within my Sweet Valley High readings, just to spice things up a bit. Sweet Valley High is a super long series, so it’s going to take a really long time to get through them all.

Anyone else out there read Fear Street as a kid? What did you think of them?

 

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – All Night Long

All Night LongTitle: All Night Long

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #5

Blurb: “Has Jessica gone too far?” Elizabeth Wakefield knows her beautiful twin can handle almost any guy–most boys are just no match for Jessica’s seductive charms. But Scott Daniels, Jessica’s latest love, is more of a man than a boy, much older and much more experienced than anyone Jessica’s ever dated.

When Jessica sneaks off to a college beach party with Scott, Elizabeth’s afraid of what could happen. And when her twin sister isn’t back by morning, Elizabeth’s fear turns to alarm. Why has she stayed out all night long?

Review: I think the day that Jessica Wakefield is actually completely honest about something is the day that the world will come to an end. Seriously, it would be one of the signs of Armageddon. That girl lies about so many things! Now she’s lying about dating a college boy because she knows her parents would not approve. Of course they won’t approve! You’re only sixteen! And Jessica has the nerve to be all kinds of indignant when Elizabeth has a problem with it all.

How on earth did I ever like this character? She is so awful! Also, can we just take a moment and comment on that impressive, snarky mustache on the cover? Is that what we thought screamed “older guy” back in the 80s?

Jessica even admits to herself that she might be in over her head, that some things about Scott make her feel uneasy. Even the college girls they hang out with warn her that Scott might be too much to handle. Warning signs! Red flags! This won’t go well!

The title comes from a party that they go to where Scott refuses to take Jessica home because she won’t have sex with him, this after he brought her to an abandoned boat house and, well, you know what he tried to do. Um, dude, she’s underage. Seriously. Do you want to go to jail? Everyone at the party is hooking up, drinking, smoking pot, and generally making Jessica feel extremely uncomfortable and she’s pretty much stuck there.

Elizabeth is still a doormat, covering for her sister because she just can’t say no to her, ever. She pretends to be Jessica around their mom so that their mom doesn’t suspect that Jessica isn’t there. She even takes a test as “Jessica” at school. It all ends up with her having a big fight with her boyfriend, Todd, over the whole situation because he really doesn’t like Jessica either since she tried to sabotage their relationship from the beginning.

Jessica finds her way back and is so happy at how well Elizabeth covered for her and made her horrible time sound like she came out on top. So Jessica is thrilled and Elizabeth is miserable. As usual. She does get upset because Elizabeth failed the test that she took while pretending to be Jessica, but she gets over it pretty quickly.

The side plot for this one revolves around a surfing competition. Because California. There is a rivalry between Sonny Callahan, the reigning champ, and Bill Chase, who has disappeared over the few days leading up to the competition. Turns out he was just skipping school to practice with his new board, which he had bought from Todd, and ends up winning the contest, with Sonny coming in close second.