Before Gossip Girl or Twilight, there were the 16-year-old twins of Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High. Pretty, popular, and with perfect California tans, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield were icons for a generation, breaking all sorts of publishing records and inspiring many young girls to read. They are back this month in Sweet Valley Confidential, a grownup version of the earlier series that Pascal hopes will ignite a nostalgia bomb for women reared in the 1980s. There are plenty of 1980s blockbusters that hold a special place in our heart, of course—from Judy Blume's Forever (about a girl losing her virginity) to V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic (about a brother and sister's incestuous relationship) to the mild-mannered middle schoolers of Ann M. Martin's The Babysitters Club.
So in the name of equal-opportunity nostalgia, a look back at some of our favorite teen novels from the era of acid-washed jeans and fluorescent scrunchies.
One of the few series that's managed to remain relevant to both mothers and daughters, Nancy Drew first hit shelves in 1930, but has been consistently revised to fit the tastes and mores of the times. Ghostwritten under the pseudonym Caroline Keene, the tales of the 16-year-old amateur detective were repackaged into the Nancy Drew Files in the 1980s, which featured a more "mature" Nancy and romantic plots.
Anne of Green Gables
The tale of a scrappy young orphan, Anne of Green Gables was made into a four-hour television series in 1985, based on the original 1908 novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.
Judy Blume's controversial 1975 novel—subtitled "A moving story of the end of innocence"—was the book a generation of teen girls kept hidden under their mattresses, determined to read without letting Mom and Dad know. Banned from libraries for its detailed descriptions of teen sex, the book follows Katherine and Michael, two high school seniors who fall in love and, after lengthy discussion, decide to have sex. Considered the first in the YA genre to deal with teen love and pregnancy (Katherine goes to Planned Parenthood for birth-control pills), Blume's novel remains as popular today as it did when it first hit shelves in the late 1970s.
Go Ask Alice
It came out in 1971, but through the years, Go Ask Alice remains a rite of passage for many young women, in spite of questions about its authenticity. Originally promoted as a work of nonfiction (and published under the byline "Anonymous"), the book is presented as the real diary of an anonymous teen girl who becomes addicted to drugs, loses her virginity while on LSD, is raped, worries she may be pregnant, and ultimately dies of an overdose just weeks after her 17th birthday. Seven years after the book was published, a Mormon youth counselor by the name of Beatrice Sparks took credit for being the book's "editor."
Flowers in the Attic
The 1979 blockbuster by V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic was the twisted tale of four children locked away in an attic by their wealthy grandmother, and a sister and brother who develop an incestuous love affair. Highly controversial (as you might imagine), the book has remained a teen favorite for precisely that reason. It was adapted into a film in 1987.
Jacob Have I Loved
This 1981 Katherine Paterson novel, the winner of the Newbery Medal, is the story of twin girls, the beautiful, talented, doted-on Caroline, and the sister who is always in her shadow, Sara Louise. Set on Rass Island in Chesapeake Bay in the 1940s, the book tackles themes of sisterly jealousy, isolation, and betrayal, which includes a secret love affair between Caroline and Sara's best friend.
Ramona Quimby Age 8
An elementary precursor to many of these teen novels, Ramona Quimby, Ave 8, by Beverly Cleary, was a knockout favorite among young girls in the early 1980s, the sixth installment of the Ramona series. Aimed at first- to third-grade girls, the series followed Ramona and her big sister Beezus through the everyday adventures of school and play.
Sweet Valley High
Often mocked by serious literary voices, the Sweet Valley High series of 152 books, which debuted in 1983, ultimately became a case study in how to get young girls to read. Centered on the twin 16-year-old protagonists, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the books spawned seven spinoff series, a television show, a board game, even dolls—all through their captivating adventures of boys and bras.
The Babysitters Club
The blockbuster Ann M. Martin series came on the market in 1986, the story of a group of fictional suburban Connecticut middle-school students who run a business that helps parents find babysitters. The series went on to sell 187 million copies, launching a prequel, a sequel, a younger series, and even a feature-length movie. The books were reissued last year.