It’s almost too perfect that I only now got around to reading Roxane Gay’s phenomenal Bad Feminist now, 2.5 years after its publication. After all, it’s a move that precisely embodies the title concept: yes, I consider myself a feminist, but the truly irreproachable feminist move would have been to read this book when I first saw it in hardcover at the LA Times Festival of Books in Spring of 2015. What can I say?
If you’ve read the book, you can likely guess why I’m mentioning it here on my poor, neglected child of a Sweet Valley blog. In the essay “I Once Was Miss America,” Gay rhapsodizes on the appeal of the perfect Wakefield twins, even for a young woman whose life and self resembled theirs not at all. "I read and re-read the books countless times. The drama, recycled plots, and ludicrous circumstances spoke to me, profoundly," she writes. "Some experiences are universal. A girl is a girl, whether she lives in West Omaha or Sweet Valley."
While I had to take issue with Gay’s claims that the only interracial relationship ever to occur in Sweet Valley was between Steven Wakefield and a girl named Cheryl (#94, Are We In Love?) — devout reader as she was, she seems to be forgetting about the well-meaning but epically cringeworthy #42, Caught In the Middle — I adored her overall analysis of both the original series and the deliciously bad Sweet Valley Confidential (which, full disclosure, this blog and its author were involved in promoting). It’s interesting to me that Gay focused in on the perfection and happy-endings that, undeniably, feature prominently in the Sweet Valley novels, while my (adult) reading of the series revels in the tragedies and disasters (cocaine overdoses, attempted stabbings, etc.). Both Gay’s description of “escaping” into her Sweet Valley world and my obsession with its wilder moments are a major part of the appeal, and are two sides of the surreality that is this series.
If you, like me, have been putting off reading Bad Feminist for no conceivable reason, do your Sweet Valley-loving self a favor and pick it up.