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The Ghost Writes Back

The writer reflects on her old part-time job—ghostwriting the Sweet Valley High book series:

"Sweet Valley High set its fables of 'same and different' in a 1980s world of new wealth and upward mobility, latching on to an innovative publishing reality: create a mass-market paperback series for young female readers, keep the price point low enough that it could be absorbed by a middle-class allowance, and use the books themselves to advertise each other by 'seeding' the plots of each subsequent book in the final chapters. After almost a decade of new realism offered to teen readers by Judy Blume, whose heroines had scoliosis or weight problems or pimples and worried about getting their periods and struggled about whether or not to believe in God, Sweet Valley High offered a pastel, romantic antidote: a world of action instead of contemplation, a world in which bodies were seen soft-focus, free of the slightest blemish or appetite. Mysterious illnesses aside, this was a disembodied world, where corporeality was hinted at solely through actions: the twins 'sped' in their shiny red Fiat Spider convertible; 'dashed' to the mall; or 'raced' upstairs to phone a friend. Rhetoric mattered here as much as action—the books were filled with dialogue, and talk was everywhere—gossip, confidences, promises, avowals, protests, demurrals. I never knew, before I started writing for Sweet Valley, how many synonyms there were for the verb 'said.' The twins by and large didn’t 'say' things—instead, they chuckled and giggled and whispered and murmured and sighed. They 'gasped' over good news or bad. They lived in a fantasy world, these girls, and as long as I was writing about them, to some extent, so did I."
AUTHOR:Amy Boesky
PUBLISHED: Feb. 25, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5173 words)