Glancing Over My Shoulder: Books I Read Growing Up

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Nowadays, all the rage seem to be about dystopian societies. My book world was so much simpler while I was growing up and my classmates seemed to agree, because we all gave our general nod to Francine Pascal’s “Sweet Valley Kids” series. I was in third grade when I started reading it and immediately fell in love with the stories set in — you guessed it — Sweet Valley (a fictional town somewhere in California). I remember the rush of thrill I’d get when my father would take me to the bookstore and buy me a book or two. Here is the first one I have read:

Sweet Valley Kids -

I was crazy about this book. I suddenly wished I had a twin sister and imagined all the fun we both would have. My favorite was always Elizabeth. I began buying them (thanks to my parents) until it grew into a collection. I remember now: The first story I have ever clumsily, poorly written was what people nowadays would call “fanfiction.” I wrote it with a ballpoint pen, in a yellow pad paper. I forgot how long it was but I’m pretty sure I never finished it. (Story of my writing life. Oh haha.) Years passed, I grew older and my faith remained in the book series. Only this time, when I was 10 or 11, I started reading “Sweet Valley Twins.” Elizabeth and Jessica are now in Middle School and their world has gotten just a big bigger, what with the school newspaper, the boys, and their vacations outside Sweet Valley. (My favorite was when they went to Hawaii and they thought Janet, Lila’s cousin, was the reincarnation of a local princess. I forgot the title, though.) The Twins series did not disappoint. They had something I really, truly loved: A scary edition.

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My favorite is still Elizabeth and thought Jessica was still too impulsive and rash, but lovable enough to get away with it. Also, who could ever forget the Unicorn Club? I remember my bestfriend that time, how she and the other popular girls in our class formed their very own club with the same name. I got invited to join but I declined. And like the tweens that we were, that one did not go over well. I mean, who refuses an invitation to what others deem as an elite membership, right? Eventually, I started reading “Sweet Valley High” and “Sweet Valley University.” All throughout the years, my collection grew and grew until I simply outgrew them one day. My mom thought I had too many books crammed in my bedroom and suggested I give my Sweet Valley collection to my cousin, who was in fifth grade. I agreed, knowing my cousin liked to read, too. At least with her, my books would be appreciated. One fateful day, I placed all the Sweet Valley Kids, Twins, High, and University books in boxes. It was a bittersweet moment but I know I was ready to give them away, knowing they will be loved and taken care of. And at the back of my head, I wished my cousin’s life would be made more colorful because of these books. I wished that she would experience the same rush I felt, as my eyes leaped from page to page, my mind unfolding as the characters conversed with each other, unfurling a new world and new discoveries the more pages I read. Reading is exhilarating and rewarding. As a child, it left me in awe when it gave me the sense of being in another place, another time. As an adult, that awe is still there every time I crack open a new book and start reading.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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