chapter  2
26 Pages

A Political Map of Sweet Valley, California: The Ideological Content of Francine Pascal’s Series

In the 1980s, young adult literature seemed to revisit its own past as the popular novels in this literary category shifted focus from realism to romance and publishers produced series of stand-alone romance novels in the junior novel tradition. Critics of the new, popular romance novels argued that the oldfashioned content of these books reproduced a conservative fantasy of American family life that-unlike the realistic young adult fi ction of the previous decade-ignored contemporary social problems affecting teens as well as both the struggles and accomplishments of the civil rights and feminist movements of the second wave. Appearing at the height of this popular romantic “turn” in young adult fi ction, “Sweet Valley High” can be considered beside the publishers’ romance novels it resembled and from which it clearly drew inspiration. As the popularity of publishers’ romances waned and the “Sweet Valley High” series continued, Pascal’s novels moved away from the romantic fantasy plots associated with the publishers’ romances and began to address some of the social issues affecting youth during that period. This shift-from purely romantic to more realistic content-provides for opportunity to examine both what Peter Hollindale calls the ideological “commonalities of an age” refl ected in both the romance novels and the Sweet Valley series as well as what the critic calls the “intended surface ideology” of the texts-those beliefs or “lessons” the author or literary producer might wish to impart to readers and which appeared with greater frequency once the series began to address social issues directly.