1. Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
Perhaps the most iconic of all boarding school stories, we grew up with Darrell and friends as they competed in hockey matches, crept out of their dormitories for midnight feasts by the rock pool and played tricks on the poor French mesdemoiselles. Oh, how we longed to be one of the gang with a trunk of our very own to pack before term started. We might have circled boarding schools in the Yellow Pages once or twice too, in an effort to drop hints to our parents.
2. Judy Blume Books
From our very first battered paperback, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, we were hooked on Blume’s honesty and respect for her readers, as well as story-lines and characters that we could really relate to. She wrote about buying your first bra, periods, dealing with the divorce of your parents and bullying with such wit and warmth, you always felt as though you had a friend in her books, no matter what you were going through. Also, we all have a copy of Forever that falls open at the precise moment Katherine is introduced to her boyfriend Michael’s penis, which he calls Ralph, right?
3. Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal
They were ‘perfectly lovely California blondes with stunning size six figures, blue-green eyes and matching dimples’, but that was where the Sweet Valley High sisters’ similarities ended. There wasn’t a teenage girl around in the 80s and 90s who didn’t have a favourite Wakefield twin; whether it was outgoing, party-loving Jessica or sensible, down to earth Elizabeth (we modeled ourselves on high school newspaper editor Elizabeth, naturally).
4. The Baby-sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
Another slice of nostalgia for children of the 80s, the fictional Baby-sitters Club was founded by Kristy Thomas, Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, and Stacey McGill to provide a childcare service for local parents in Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Not only did these books, which sold a whopping 170 million copies, make us long for the American teenage dream of softball, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Saturday shopping mall sessions, we relished in the the girls’ friendships and relatable drama too.
5. Goosebumps by R. L Stine
Did you ever feel so terrified while reading a Goosebumps novel, you threw it out of your bedroom window late at night in a fit of panic? We did. R. L. Stine’s spine tingling stories were completely addictive nonetheless. Each of the 62 titles focused on a character who found themselves in a scary situation. Undead children, half-human, half-plant hybrids living in the basement and cursed mummies were just some of the plots we shivered through late at night.
6. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Boxcar Children tells the story of four orphaned children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, who create a home for themselves in an abandoned train car in the forest. The series saw the children taking to amateur sleuthing and solving various mysteries, but it was the idea that kids could live so independently that was fascinating to us when we were growing up. We might have tried it ourselves had we not been so attached to Saturday morning TV and Cheerios.
7. The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
Lashings of ginger beer, boiled eggs, jam tarts, meat pies and sardine sandwiches; the descriptions of food in the 21 Famous Five novels alone were enough to keep us turning the pages as we tucked into the usual fish fingers at the dinner table. Throw in treasure hunting, smugglers, mysterious moors and lots of suspicious goings on, we followed the adventures of Julian, Dick, George and Anne as faithfully as Timmy the dog.
8. The Sweet Dreams Series
This is what the young adult genre looked like in the 80s. Not a sparkly vampire in sight, just good, old-fashioned teen romance. One of our favourite was P.S. I Love You, which features wannabe writer Mariah, who is forced to spend her summer house-sitting with her mother in snobby Palm Springs. Rich boy next door Paul – with his sandy hair and piercing blue eyes – certainly made our summer a little sweeter. Dreamboat. What? Don’t act like you didn’t think the same thing back in the day.
9. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S Lewis
A classic series that we must have read a dozen times throughout our childhood. Little did we know that, when we jumped into the pool in the enchanted forest with Digory and Polly in The Magician’s Nephew, a lifelong love affair with Narnia would begin. Mythical beasts (Mr. Tumnus), talking animals (Aslan), a white witch and four brave evacuees became our constant companions, and are still a favourite to this day.
10. Flambards by K. M. Peyton
When Christina was sent to live with her bad-tempered uncle in his decaying country house, Flambards, we were besotted with her tales of rural country life, horse riding and early aviation. We were equally besotted with the three potential love interests of the series too; from cunning yet charming cousin Mark to his gentle, intelligent brother Will and Dick, the kindly and loyal groom. Team Jacob or Team Edward? Pfft. Team Will all the way.
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