Sweet Valley: The one that started it all

I love to read. I can’t imagine my life without books. As horribly corny as it sounds, I don’t think I’d be the same person I am now if I didn’t read. I can’t say exactly how and why reading changed my life, but I’m sure it did. At the very least, I’d like to think it helped my writing and my vocabulary (feel free to contradict me, though. Hehe.).

And I still remember the first book I ever read. And by “first” I mean the first one I read at my own choosing, purely because I felt like it.  School books, fairy tale story books or book report assignments don’t count. This was the one that started it all:

I have them to blame for my bookworm-iness

I was in 2nd grade when I borrowed this book from my classmate and first ever best friend Frances.  Sweet Valley Kids #9: Elizabeth’s Super Selling Lemonade kickstarted my lifelong love of books, and I guess I have her and the Wakefield twins to thank for that. At 8 years old, I found the lives of the blond, blue eyed twins and their perfect parents (Alice and Ned), their typical older brother (Steven) and their friends (snooty Lila Fowler, tomboyish Amy Sutton) fascinating. I can’t be completely sure, but I think I read all the books in the Kids series.

You could say that I grew up with the Wakefield twins, because after the Kids series (where the twins are in 2nd grade like me), I moved on to the Twins series with the twins in middle school. There are more than 150 (!!!) of them and I think I read them all, including the special editions, the Unicorn Club series, and the two books where the twins compete in the California games. I think I owned the first 40 books, as well as a lot of the Unicorn books, but mostly I borrowed from my classmates or from the library. I even remember hiding the books behind other books in different shelves so that no one else could borrow them (bad, I know!), if I met the maximum number of books I could borrow at a time.

I also read the Sweet Valley Sagas, the ancestral stories of the Wakefields (both Ned’s and Alice’s sides), the Patmans and the Fowlers. I suppose the Bruce Patman’s and Lila’s families got Magna editions because they were the wealthiest in the town.

I stopped at Sweet Valley Twins though, as I dared not touch Sweet Valley High. With attempted date rape, manslaughter trials, parents having affairs and murderous dopplegangers, I figured the material was too mature for my 13 year old self. But the seed was planted and a book-hiding, lifelong bookworm was born. I didn’t just discover the Sweet Valley books, but through those frequent trips to the library, a whole previously undiscovered world opened up to me. I read similar, pre-teen fare like Nancy Drew and the Babysitters club, but also classics such as The Secret Garden, Little Women and A Little Princess. And I am still at it, almost twenty years later. The smell of the paper, the thrill of that first line, the feel of turning a page still enthralls me today as much as it did then.

And for that, I have a friend named Frances, a creator named Francine and twins named Jessica and Elizabeth to thank.

Which book started YOU on the journey of reading?

Photo of SVK #9 cover from Google images.


17 thoughts on “Sweet Valley: The one that started it all

  1. geez, since i am way much older than you are kat, i don’t remember my first book, but long before there was National Bookstore, my mom would leave me at the books section of the supermarket when i was like 3 or 4 so i could pore over all those books. but i also, am never without a book to read, plus i hoard books from sales too, so i have a long backlog of unread books! even if hubby gifted me with a kindle last year, i still buy books, nothing beats the smell of a new book! i am glad my daughter inherited our love for reading, and she herself is a voracious one, and a little hoarder as well! i also read to her when she was a baby & toddler. but i grew up on nancy drew, dana girls & hardy boys started reading them when i was around 7 i think. so gotta go, have to catch up on my reading! 🙂

    • Nice to have you back, Cheryl… And yes, nothing beats the smell of a new book. NOTHING. My Mom used to leave me at the bookstore, too, exactly in front of the Sweet Valley shelves while she shopped at the bookstore. She can leave me there and be sure that I’ll still be on the same spot when she comes back. And it’s wonderful that your daughter loves reading too. I’ve thought about that recently, that once I have kids of my own, I want them to love reading as much as I do. I will force them to read if I have too! Haha. 😉

  2. I was nine years old when I started reading the Middle School Sweet Valley High series. Their lifes were fascinating to me because they had So. Much. Freedom. I was pretty sure that the 12 years old in my country wouldn’t be allowed to go to a dinner on their own, and that none of the clubs formed was as official as the Unicorn Club, and look, Elizabeth could edit her school’s newspaper (my school’s newspaper came out once a year, if ever, and it didn’t feature real school news, but poems about God written by 2nd graders). That was it. I was hooked on the American Pre-Teen Dream.

    When I gobbled up all the purple series, the only reading material in my school library similar to it was It by Stephen King.

    • I know! We were all hooked by the American Pre-Teen Dream, as you so nicely put it. Every aspect of their lives was fascinating to me, even the fact that they wore their own clothes to school (I wore a uniform most of my school years). They had so many adventures (now that I think if it, how did they fit ALL of that in in one school year?) and I suppose we all lived vicariously through them.

  3. Hi Kat! I started reading at 3rd gr with the Nancy Drew series. Short time after that I progressed to Hardy Boys, Sweet Valley High, etc. Like Cheryl I used to hoard books, not anymore, at least not physically. I’ve resorted to hoarding in my Kindle as they have free books from time to time that I find a good read. I love the smell of paper, the texture as I turn the page but I want to be environmentally responsible as much as possible hence the books on kindle and magazines on zinio for the iPad.

  4. I think mine was the Bobbsey Twins but I can’t remember the title now. I used to read Sweet Valley books as well but got tired of them when I got to high school. I think they reissued the Sweet valley High books a few years ago but the twins’ size 6 bodies distinctly shrank to size 4, to go with the times.

    • Bobbsey Twins! They sound familiar, but I don’t think I’ve had the chance to read any books from the series… I heard about SV being reissued, but I didn’t hear about their resizing, though. At least it was just to a 4, and not to a 2 or 0.

  5. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
    The Girls of Canby Hall
    I tried to read Sweet Valley, but it didn’t hold my interest.
    The writer of Sweet Valley High is writing a new book based on their lives as adults.

    • Yup. I read about that. I actually read the summaries posted online already, and it’s as campy and fantastically bad as you would expect. Hahaha.

  6. I can’t exactly remember the first book I ever read but I do remember owning a lot of books from the Goosebumps series and Babysitters Club novels during my elementary days (all of which were hand-me-downs from my aunt). There was also this vampire book that I really enjoyed reading but had already forgotten the title, but I assure you, it was nothing like Twilight.

    When I was already in high school (and was getting a bigger allowance), I started buying my own books and that was when I turned into a bigger bookworm. Penelope was the first book that I bought using my own money for which I saved for weeks because it cost more than 300 pesos. I still have the book with me!

    • Oh! Goosebumps! Thanks for reminding me! They had some of those in our library, too. And I read some Babysitters Club as well… Hmmmm. You got me thinking about the first book I ever bought with my own money. I think it was after graduating from college. I just realized I was lucky that my parents indulged my reading.

  7. I love Sweet Valley! My dad was the one who got me hooked on this. I was about 9 or 10,which at that age, I had no desire to read for some reason. My dad brought me to the teen ficition section at National in Greenhills. He told me to pick a book, any book as he was desperate for me to enjoy reading again. I picked an SVT book which was the one where the twins stayed at some sort of haunted house. After reading that first book, I was hooked on the series. I was at National every week with my dad in tow to buy a couple of books each time. Oh, wonderful memories! I bought a couple of SVH books but I never really enjoyed the teen angst content of those. SVT was fun, with all their cool adventures and mildly amusing clique drama. I saw the new SV book recently. Was so tempted to purchase it!

    • It’s cute that it was your dad who got you hooked! Haha. My dad was very indulgent with me with my book purchases, too. I don’t think he ever said no to me when I wanted to buy a book before I started earning my own money. Which is obviously not the case when I want to buy a toy or clothes or shoes. Hehe.

      I never really related to SVH. Even my high school self found the material too old for me. Unlike SVH, which was just pure fun and adventure. It’s crazy how much they were able to fit into one year of 6th grade, no?

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