Though if I were to encounter them now, I would be annoyed and bored to tears, the reliability and formulaic construction of most of the book series’ I read growing up were some of the things that kept me coming back for more. There was comfort in the set-up, the fact that somewhere in the first couple chapters of a Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley or Nancy Drew book there was going to be a description of Claudia Kishi’s bedroom with candy hidden all over it, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield’s blue-green eyes and long blonde hair or Nancy Drew’s titian hair and blue Mustang convertible.
The characters were so set in their ways that you knew you could count on them. There was a certain style, demeanor and personality that you could immediately attribute to each one, and to an eleven-year-old girl, that really made each of them feel familiar and more like friends than products of a factory of ghostwriters pumping out a book a month (and believe you me, if there wasn’t a new one of each on the shelves each month there was a really disappointed little Rachel scrutinizing that shelf just one more time).
Not only are the descriptions repetitive for the sake of connecting the books together, they are detailed. There could be no mistaking the outfits or physical features of any of the main players, which, it turns out, I have more fun with now than I ever did then. When Buzzfeed posted this article today detailing some of the favorites of the YA series world (okay, plus Harriet the Spy) I couldn’t help but giggle at the lengthy, perfect descriptions. However excessive seeming, I’d like to think they were and still are necessary to evoke the same connection to the characters and tone of the series as a whole.
An older blog, What Claudia Wore is another gem, and I had to scramble to find it today to present it to you. Paragraph-long depictions of Claudia’s zaniest outfits are posted, and though I remember being envious of her “funky” and “cool” style, I’ll admit that it was Dawn who I always wanted to be the most. A blog for her outfits would be far less entertaining, alas, but does lead me to my final thought on the subject.
The uniformity in style and personality left no room for interpretation, which, I think, works really well in the books’ favors and why they became as popular as they did. The girl you pictured in your head was the exact same as the girl your friend pictured, too. It was always so easy then to definitively say which babysitter, which Wakefield twin you not only wanted to be, but were (especially important since there are few people more self-involved than teenage girls).
I always went with Dawn and Elizabeth, but that’s just me.