August 2011 archive

Sixteen and perfect: my friends from Sweet Valley

In my ‘Flotsam and Feminism’ column for this month’s Farrago magazine, I talked about Sweet Valley High and my other literary friends…

I spent most of my childhood reading books instead of connecting with real people. I don’t mean that in a self-pitying way—I guess in hindsight I might have been a bit lonely, but I loved reading so much that I don’t think I really noticed. As a kid the best part of my week was when my sister was at ballet classes and my mum would take me to Albert Park library. I’d pick out a small mountain of books to take home and devour. So, I guess that might explain a bit about the way I am—why I’m comfortable spending time alone, why I have friends but not really any super-close BFF-type girlfriends, girls I would just call up in the middle of the night. But it’s never even mattered, because if I needed someone, I’ve always had the girlfriends in my books.

Like many girls growing up in the ‘90s, The Baby-Sitters Club, and their younger version, Baby Sitters Little Sister, made up the bulk of my reading. Then there was Sweet Valley High, and the spin-offs, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley University, and countless other versions of the same thing. Probably more than anyone else, it was those perfect blonde twins, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, who saw me through tough times, and who I had the most fun with. I loved both girls, but Elizabeth was (predictably) my clear favourite. She was exactly the type of girl I wanted to be when I was older—studious, super-smart, editor of the school newspaper… but you know, also completely gorgeous and popular with a cute, basketball-playing boyfriend.