The death of Regina Morrow in Sweet Valley High #40 On the Edge influenced my life more than any other fictional event in the history of my entire reading career thus far. Twenty-five years after reading about her death, Regina is still the first person I think of when I hear about someone dying from a drug overdose.
Oh, I think. He/She must not have read about Regina Morrow.
Yes, my brain seems to believe that nobody would ever struggle with drug addiction if only they had read On the Edge when they were fifteen. Growing up in the Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” 80s helps too, I guess. Also, being inundated endlessly with the frying pan and egg “this is your brain on drugs” commercial every day of your teen years doesn’t hurt.
But even with all that, I still give the credit to Regina Morrow.
**SPOILER** (you know, in case you aren’t familiar with the world of Sweet Valley and want to discover it on your own)
In On the Edge, Bruce Patman dumps Regina (the beautiful, raven-haired used-to-be-deaf rich girl) to date Jessica’s blonde cheerleading BFF, Amy Sutton. The break-up devastates Regina and she falls in with a bad crowd. One night at a party, the bad crowd starts doing cocaine and Regina gives it a snort, and pretty much dies instantly. Instantly!
Someone in Sweet Valley died. Dead. From drugs.
Like, really most sincerely dead and not that bullshit-it-was-all-just-a-dream crap they pulled in the Winter Carnival Super Edition.
I don’t think I had been so devastated by the death of a fictional character since Johnny died in The Outsiders. After all, this was Sweet Valley, where the worst things that ever happened included your twin sister wearing your clothes without permission and worrying about a date to the Homecoming dance. Actual characters we cared about weren’t supposed to die (characters we didn’t actually care about, like Tricia Martin, didn’t count).
Plus, Regina was a good girl. She was a good student, beautiful, and a close personal friend of Elizabeth Wakefield. How could she die from using drugs? I vowed right then to never, ever, ever, ever, ever do cocaine ever, lest my heart explode right in chest.
Technically it was an undetected heart defect exacerbated by the cocaine that killed Regina, but I never let those details sway my Just Say No stance.
Would I have been a goodie-goodie without Regina’s death? Probably. But even now, as I rapidly approach middle age, I’m agog when I hear friends’ stories about experimenting with drugs. I look at them and am amazed that their hearts still beat in their chests or that their brains haven’t been turned to fried eggs or that they didn’t learn anything from the death of Regina Morrow.