I pre-ordered the sequel to the Sweet Valley High books - 'Sweet Valley Confidential' - on Amazon weeks ago so it came as a surprise to find out last Thursday that it was on sale in Dublin (in case you're wondering, I found out from Claire Hennessy's wonderful Twitter feed - if you don't follow her, you should!)
I haven't been as excited about a book being published since the later Harry Potter releases so I ignored lukewarm reviews and ploughed into the story.
And I thoroughly enjoyed it!
I didn't read this book as a reviewer or critic. As soon as I started the first page I reverted back to my adolescent self, precariously living through the misadventures of Jessica while trying to emulate my idol Elizabeth (but OMG, Jessica really went too far this time, y'all...)
Funnily enough, reading 'Sweet Valley Confidential' taught me a lesson - I knew I could pick holes in it, as I'm sure I could have in the Sweet Valley High backlist I loved so much when I was younger. But who am I to do that? The Sweet Valley High books were adored by legions of teenage girls (and I know at least one boy who was a fan). They were hugely successful and created a genre of their own. That achievement is worthy of respect.
It's easy - too easy - to criticise so it was a relief to be able to read a book without jumping on its weak points for once. And it made me question the focus of my own writing: how can I create stories that foster the same excitement and joy in teen readers that the Sweet Valley High books fostered in me at that age?
It's so difficult being a teenager at times what with stresses such as exams, bullying or family breakdowns... sometimes a bit of escapism via a great book is the only respite available. That's why I owe the Sweet Valley High books a lot. And that's why you'll never hear me kvetch about them.