Over at The Hairpin, yesterday, an essayist complained that Sweet Valley High had utterly screwed up her expectations of high school. I hear that, though really I feel the document which most warped my expectations was Saved by the Bell. (The book nerds are never friends with the popular girls. It just doesn’t happen.)
While I certainly agree that there was something insidious about Jessica and Elizabeth — Jessica, to be honest, always seemed like a mean girl to me — it seems to me that Sweet Valley barely scraped the surface of weird ideas in YA lit. Imagine framing your life around many successful books, and there the nightmares start. Consider, for example, The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
What always set The Hunger Games apart from the others was its overwhelming sense of dread, as well as a distrust of authority so profound there are basically no good guys in the books. Which, in the wrong hands, will turn into a persecution complex and inability to make any human connections. At the end, it suggests just giving in to your lover and having his kid even if you’re super-ambivalent about it. Go numb, Katniss instructs, go numb.