Serial novels… or why we love the BSC

A long time ago, in a far away land called Michigan, I was a child. And I, as a child had a subscription to Entertainment Weekly. I remember vividly an article titled “Why we love TV”. (Paraphrased, actually. I can’t be sure of the title. I was a child. My brain now processes information differently, leading to potentially false memories).

Before I went off on a tangent about brains and how they function, I was talking about an article I read a long time ago. For some reason, that specific article stayed with me all these years. That and how they predicted that Titanic could hit or miss but probably hit as it had Leo and was about this thing that everyone has been interested in. BTW, I hated that movie a lot. No offense. But it was Looooong and Leo is kind of annoying. Oh, right, so anyway, this article that I read talked about why people like TV so much, especially serial shows, like Frasier. Hey, it was the example in the article. Why I remember that, I have no idea. I’ve seen, like, two episodes of that show.

I think the reasons they gave are similar to why we love books like the Baby-Sitters Club or Sweet Valley, Saddle Club, The Gymnasts, Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, and whatever serials that people are reading now. I actually only know of one, that I really love. Sammy Keyes. The reasons that I can remember have to do with characterization, familiarity, the feeling that you “know” the people involved, etc. I offer up one other option. They lace the books with an airborne form of heroin so that children crave them. So maybe that’s not the real reason, but there has to be some sort of a reason, right? Millions of books aren’t sold without some sort of hook.

One of the things that Sweet Valley did that isn’t as obviously present in their books is the lead in to the next book. Sure the BSC has some subtle (and not so subtle) foreshadowing, but they never blatantly tried to sell more books by leaving us on a cliffhanger. I rather enjoy that the BSC wasn’t so blatant with their schemes to dominate the YA Level 4 serial novel market for girls. I don’t know why we first read the books as kids, but something made us start. And for most of us, something made us stop.

So, then why is it that we, as adults, are coming back to the BSC? Why is it that children today are swarming the internet looking for used bsc books? Is it the plots? (probably not) the locations? (judging by the diversity in fandom, probably not) The characters? Possibly. Everyone can identify with one or more of the characters. I personally can be bossy and overbearing like Kristy. (I hate to admit this to myself though). I played a lot of sports in school. (Because I was told thats what you did, not because I actually enjoyed them) Like Claudia, I have a tendency to procrastinate. I took a lot of art classes in hopes that one day I would be talented, like Claudia. I actually quite liked her when I was growing up. She had a happy family and liked mystery novels and junk food and she was excellent at something that I was simply awful at. Mary Anne was shy and studious, nothing like me really, but I liked her enough. SHe had a boyfriend. Stacey was the smart, popular, pretty, fashionable, mature sitter. The one we all wanted to be like. I think she might be the reason that I’ve wanted to move to New York City for as long as I can remember. Why I love cities and being around busy people so much more then anything else. Jessi was a ballerina which I thought was great fun. My mom pulled me out of ballet and stuck me in gymnastics when we discovered that I lack grace and elegance. And Mallory. Well, I never really liked Mallory, but I liked her family. I’m basically an only child, and having a bunch of siblings seemed like great fun when I was 7 through 12.

Was our generation just trained to read these books, which is why in turn we love our scripted dramas? Not that I dn’t veg out infront of a tv watching big brother once in a while (shhh, don’t tell), but it seems like both the decline of scripted dramas and serial printed novels is happening at the same time.

Well, that gives me something to think about.

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One Response

  1. Part of the allure for me was that if you liked a couple of books in the series, you could be more or less guaranteed that you would like the others. I’ve always loved to read, but my book-buying budget as a child was limited, and the nearby library sucked at that time. So when my mom was willing to drive me half an hour to the nearest bookstore, I agonized over spending my money on a book that would be good. Now, granted, I didn’t absolutely love every book in the series that I read (BSC, Sleepover Friends, Treehouse Times, Fifth Grade Stars, Satin Slippers). But they certainly had very little risk of being a total dud.
    I agree that it was good to not have cliffhangers in the BSC. It’s nice to be able to pick up a book anywhere in the series and not be totally lost if you haven’t read the one before. Also, no risk of what happened to the Girl Friends series, where we were left with a cliffhanger that was never resolved. Ever since the next book never came in 1994, I’ve been wondering if it was Cassandra’s boyfriend or his brother who was killed.

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