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Middle-Grade Books From the '80s That Are Still Worth Reading

Share part of your own childhood with these classic books from the '80s

Tina Cha

Published on: October 16, 2020

Middle-Grade Books From the '80s That Are Still Worth Reading

Book cover: ‘Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love’ by Francine Pascal

‘Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love’ by Francine Pascal

The Sweet Valley High series boasts over 150 million copies sold and has been published worldwide, so no matter where you grew up in the ‘80s, there was a good chance you read or knew someone who read the series. The franchise details the trials and tribulations of blonde-haired, blue-eyed identical twins and their friends who attend a high school that draws both the super-rich and those from the “wrong side of the tracks.” The books were published at a frenzied pace, and were beloved by tweens around the world. I remember I owned a few different volumes and swapped them with friends who owned others. We read and reread them until the cheap paperback spines cracked. I loved Elizabeth (so sweet!) yet couldn’t’ get enough of Jessica’s antics (so wicked).

It should be noted that for the purposes of this trip down literary lane, I reread the very first book in the series, published in 1983. The series ran until 2003, and one has to imagine it continued to find relevance throughout its 20 years in publication. (Those kids were in high school for a very long time!) Rereading the young romance novel that kicked off a 150+ book series (and countless spinoffs), my quick summation: SVH does not stand the test of time!

Jessica Wakefield, a conniving narcissist, is willing to lie to get what she wants, and that includes her twin sister’s crush. Elizabeth accepts being gaslighted by her sister and continues to stand by her when she really should instead stand up for herself. Also, the entire cast of characters is — how shall I say this? — very white.

My recommendation: Leave SVH in the past and suggest instead a newer franchise, such as “The Princess Diaries.”

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