Excuse me while I get self-referential for a bit.

Thanks Serena for leaving this comment, and it really made me think and want to give a direct response. I really appreciate you posting this- and I don’t know what sort of trouble you could get in (maybe I’d spike your punch with vodka?) and I’ve actually only deleted one comment in this blog’s lifespan…because it contained really hateful and racist language for the sake of being hurtful. And along with all the porn spam. But anyway, essentially:

Because Francine’s publishers are contacting all the Sweet Valley recap blogs and treating them like straightforward “fanpages” (instead of mockery done by critical readers who may remember the series with some fondness as a part of their childhood but aren’t blind to it’s faults) and giving bloggers free swag to give away in contests/asking them to promote her upcoming book…

You guys are gonna lose your edge! Please don’t sell out and cut back on the snark, especially when it comes to the new book (which the majority of first-chapter-readers seem to think is crap…except for people who were invited to meet the publishers — ooh, ahh! – to get a sneak peek and not-so-surprisingly only have positive things to say.)

I understand bloggers may be excited to be in touch with an author/publisher, and get free merch, yada yada. But the danger is that you’ll start thinking, “oh, they’ve been so nice to me…I don’t want to not-be-nice back! I’ll cut them some slack and give their product a more favorable review.”

That is a totally valid and astute observation. I was contacted by St. Martin’s press and asked to link to the Sweet Valley Confidential Website, which I did (and just did again). I wrote back when they asked me and said “Have you actually read my blog? Are you sure you want me to be associated with your product?” She wrote back and essentially said what Serena mentioned- they are considering these blogs as fanpages. To be fair to the publisher, it is their job to promote this book and get publicity- maybe even going with the idea that “any press is good press.” I can see why they are going with the plan to connect with people’s childhood memories instead of social commentary… ultimately, they need to sell books, right?  I’ve also spoken to many people about SVH (I’m often introduced to friends of friends as “someone who blogs about Sweet Valley High”) and most people remember it, but not everyone wants to talk smack about it. Legit. They would rather have it as a piece of childhood nostalgia and not deconstruct it for its social implications. Totally legit, although it does frustrate me. But I’m someone who alienates 85% of the population because I’m always looking at pop culture through a sociological lens instead of “just stop taking everything so seriously….and just enjoy it”. The way I do enjoy things IS looking at it through a critical lens and understanding the social implications. Don’t get me started on Avatar. However, it makes sense for the publisher to go this route because their goal is to sell the book. Which, last I checked, is the goal of a publishing company. So I’m at peace with that.

Did I agree to link to the first Chapter? Sure, because it was of great interest to me and to my readers. Am I grateful that this blog is linked on the website? Sure, but it’s not like it has brought me a plethora of new readership. In fact, to demonstrate my own free will to be critical: wtf is with that “website”? Can it even be called that? St. Martin’s press, please splurge for a web designer. Or a class in Dream Weaver.

Was the first chapter “good”? HELLS NO. It was a living cliche of bad romance novels and trite writing. Did I enjoy it? Yes. In much of the same way I enjoy Dear Sister (not that they are even in the SAME LEAGUE of badness (goodness)). And this opinion had nothing to do with any freebies (I’ve also yet to see any freebies). A “Team Elizabeth” or “Team Jessica” t-shirt which probably doesn’t fit my body type anyhow doesn’t impress me much anyway. I actually think that is trite, overdone marketing idea. I promise you all that I’m still thinking for myself….OR AM I? I mean, I once fell for the allure of a shitty co-op and a hot cult leader from Good Friends after the tragic occurrence of my family making fun of my cooking skills. So, you never know.

And let this be considered an OPEN INVITATION TO FRANCINE PASCAL if she ever was willing to do some sort of interview or something. I’d of course be nice to her as a person (maybe), but feel no hesitation in offering a “critical response” to her life’s work. Francine, BRING IT ON!

Serena, you rock, thanks for bringing this up, and making me think more about my motivations. I am so going to nominate you for Pi Beta Alpha.

9 thoughts on “Excuse me while I get self-referential for a bit.

  1. Serena says:

    I appreciate the fast and friendly response!

    Thanks for understanding where I’m coming from and not reacting defensively. Not that you seemed like an unreasonable person who’d smack down or censor anyone who disagreed/questioned you…but it’s the internet, so I’ve learned to be wary. 😉

    Nope, there’s nothing wrong with advertising a book your readers would want to know about. It hasn’t reached an obnoxious level of crass commercialism. I’m just wary of corporations becoming affiliated with (or outright buying) fansites with their convenient built-in communities that are so easy to sell to. I like critical analysis. And sincere recommendations.

    I’m glad the publishers aren’t putting pressure on you and seem to accept the blog as is – or didn’t take the time to read the recaps carefully… whichever. 🙂 Of course, if they demanded you stop writing anything negative that might hurt Francine’s feelings/book sales, it would be easier to rebel and maintain one’s integrity. It’s the insidious allure of… free t-shirts! I’m relieved that you wouldn’t be seduced by such things, or even a chance to talk to Queen Francine herself. She’d probably only agree to a softball interview though, so feel free to pretend to suck up and then put her on the spot. 😛

    I totally agree with you about the “Team” thing being lame. Sweet Valley was a successful long-running series, before Twilight was a *sparkle* in that Mormon Lady’s eye. Way to be proud of your history and not look like a desperate tagalong wannabe LOSER, Francine&HerMarketingPeople. Sheesh. (Wait, did I just imply that Sweet Valley High is something to be proud of? When it comes to sending bad messages to young girls, I’m not sure which series wins that contest. Team Sweet Valley, I guess.)

    I’m another one of those who can’t help but look through a critical lens (very near-sighted, so extremely thick lenses…*badum tish!*), and can’t stand those “turn your brain off and enjoy it!” people. Sociology IS fun! And if you turn your brain off for too long, you won’t remember where the on-switch is. 🙂

    Anyway, much of my concern was preemptive, and would be better aimed at other Sweet Valley blogs out there. As you say, you haven’t gone nuts with the contests and freebies. Your chapter review wasn’t overly gushy. But I guess your positive-ish endorsement inspired me to finally articulate my unease, because yours was the first SVH blog I found, and it’s still my favorite. Don’t wanna lose you now! And that’s not just the vodka talking.

  2. Annie says:

    I feel like I should state, for the record, that I am not involved in any blog/media outlet, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter (which I read a few weeks ago, before it was even posted here). I thought it was horribly written and kind of awful, but I loved it and can’t wait to read the whole book.

  3. Miss Moppet says:

    I think bloggers can have a relationship with authors or publishers without selling out – as long as they make it clear that the author/publisher is not guaranteed a good review in return for a free book or T-shirt. I mostly blog historical fiction rather than YA, but to take a parallel example, Philippa Gregory’s publishers have made a huge effort to get advance copies of her latest book out to bloggers – including those who haven’t always reviewed Gregory’s novels favourably in the past. Some reviewers liked the book, others didn’t. The publishers got the book’s title out there and readers got to read honest – not necessarily positive – reviews. So everyone benefits.

  4. Vanessa Saxton says:

    I was one of the first to start a “fan page” on facebook “All of Life’s Problems Can Be Solved by Reading a Sweet Valley Book.” Yet no one contacted me for a free tee shirt. I agree with IHW that it probably won’t fit my body type either. But I still want one.

    • Magpie says:

      You probably won’t see this now – but I’m in that facebook group and I’ve commented in it quite a few times! I joined because I thought the name was awesome.

  5. Whallie says:

    Some other SVH sites have fancy pictures of the twins on their home page. Heck, they may even offer you a triple bacon burger just for commenting. But we all know that the love of snark and IHW’s writing charms will never top that of what’s on this site! I’m a fan for this blog site’s life!

  6. em says:

    While I definitely agree that the first chapter of the 10 year later SVH book was outstandingly horribly written, not to mention all the writing and storylines of the original series can heavily be criticized as equally, if not worse – that doesn’t mean I didn’t just spend hours combing through archives of the novels just because it brings back the childhood.

    I’m pretty sure while I was young and reading these books (and I’m talking – all the series spin offs) I was scoffing at storylines in disbelief and mockery. But, it was my childhood. I’m laughing my head off at these recollections of the novels and yet I can’t wait for SVH: 10 years later to come out just because it brings me back to that childhood once again.

    I watch The Game on CW purely because Brittany Daniel will always be Jessica Wakefield to me, and that’s that. I think it’s extremely wise for the publishers of the new book to contact all blogs and mockery blogs of SVH because these are the people who are going to buy the books. We’re not getting new readers of SVH nowadays. Now, they want blood, vampires, New York socialites and the like. I’ll take my ridiculously perfect family and off-the-wall plot scenarios over that any day,


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