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Is Nothing Sacred? 90's Tween Lit Gets a Facelift

Ann M. Martin's Baby-sitter's Club prequel, "The Summer Before"
Ann M. Martin's Baby-sitter's Club prequel, "The Summer Before"

When I was visiting NYC a few years back, I stumbled upon the production for the cover of a shall-remain-nameless teen novel.

“So, what’s the book about?” I said to the photographer, who was lingering outside of a bar in the Bowery. (Yes, they were shooting for a 16-something novel inside of a dive).

Underground orgies and drugs in L.A., replied the photographer. By the same author of [significant societeen novel]… so it should be a hit!

I nodded and went on my way. These were the strange days before Twilight and its preceding army of girl-meets-mythical creature facsimiles took over the bookshelves (anyone who’s scanned the book: did you catch that?), in a pre-Deathly Hallows world where Fred Weasley still lived and breathed (well, somewhere).

As any recent trip to Borders will reveal, we all know what happened next in the YA Fiction world, but the encounter had me pining for the chaste dimpled covers of my 90’s child/tweenhood, nary an ecstasy-induced gropefest or vampire in sight.

Maybe some of you weathered your elementary school years on a steady diet of Salinger, but I learned everything I needed to know from Claudia Kishi and co., (whose exploits are hilariously dissected in retrograde here and here) with a few cameos from Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. So when I heard that the Baby-sitter’s Club, Ann M. Martin’s decade-spanning series, was getting a millennial upgrade, and Diablo Cody was already scripting Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High, I was a bit alarmed. Michael Cera as Todd Wilkins? No thanks.

Gratefully, it looks like not much will change in the BSC, save for a few minor technology and wardrobe upgrades, Scholastic says. The series will be re-released this April, while a prequel, “The Summer Before,” is also in the works. So, what this will mean for the girls and their weekly gabfests - perusing nanny positions on Craigslist? Claudia eschewing leggings and side ponytails for something more au courant? Oh, wait…

Meanwhile, Cody isn’t the only one reimagining California’s coolest Fiat-driving duo. Random House rebranded the books in 2008 – the twins are now “perfect size 4’s,” (née size 6), have traded in the jalopy for a Jeep Wrangler, and run a gossip blog for the school paper, replete with a “sexier” new cover sure to lure in the Gossip Girl-addicted.

You see where this is headed.

Horror fans aren’t safe, either. R.L Stine's Goosebumps, a series I adored for its imaginative covers, fell for Photoshop’s charms when it was recently republished. There’s a lot to be said for demonic cuckoo clocks and egg monsters from Mars composed (I’m assuming) completely from scratch.

The studio execs behind Daybreakers will be handling Stine's’ “The Sitter” this summer, which could work, depending on your stance on slasher flicks. I’m sort of hoping they’ll take a campy cue from Sam Raimi (Drag me to Hell), and nudge the audience cheekily in the ribs over the tale’s all-too-conventional plotline, but we’ll have to wait and see. Columbia Pictures also acquired the rights to Goosebumps: The Movie in 2008.

I’d like to think my literary tastes have evolved past the 6th grade, but, well, I’m excited – though with trepidation - to see where this could lead. Tampering with the collective childhood of anyone born past 1981 is a very serious matter, but, if done right, maybe I’ll find myself in Stoneybrook again.

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