Have you noticed that the 1990s seem to be popping up a lot recently in pop culture? YA lit is no exception to this and we here at the Hub have decided to take a closer look at the ’90s nostalgia that seems to be hitting us from every direction. Along with upcoming posts from Traci Glass and Katie Shanahan Yu, this is the first in a three-part series this month looking at this memorable decade’s persistent appearance and influence.
As someone who was a tween and teen in the 1990s, it does not really surprise me to see so much of this time period seeping into contemporary pop culture now. These years had a huge impact on my long-term interest in music, television, movies, and books. Now, many from my generation are at a point in our lives where we are not only creating the content found on television and in books, but we are also adults with some disposable income that we are willing to spend on these types of media.
Traci and Katie will be looking at examples of books set in or produced in the 1990s, but I have even noticed a good amount of references to this period appearing in contemporary pieces. For example, Ava Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead begins with a letter to Kurt Cobain, a grunge rock icon and tragic symbol of the decade. Soon after, a letter to actor River Phoenix appears; and while the majority of his films were made in the ’80s, his untimely death in 1993 was a memorable part of this time. This book is a contemporary story, but it had an undeniable nostalgia for pop culture of the ’90s.
One of the most obvious examples of targeting those of us with these nostalgic tendencies is the recent announcement that ultra cool girl Clarissa Darling will appear once again, this time on the pages of a new adult novel. Entertainment Weekly reported back in January that fans of the twenty year old television show Clarissa Explains It All can look forward to checking in on their favorite characters from the show in an upcoming book titled Things I Can’t Explain. While the book will be contemporary with the opportunity to gain interest from a wider audience, the show cannot exist outside of its time since everything about it screams ’90s. And if my friends are any indication, we are eating it up (heads up: pre-orders are available!).
And, finally, I have to mention the revival of the Fear Street novels by R.L. Stine. This series first debuted in 1989 and ran for the next ten years including various spin-offs. Back in 2005, there was a short revival and now the series is back again with a planned six part set of novels. Sure, Goosebumps are still widely read, but I have to believe that using the Fear Street name rather than kicking off a new series of teen horror novels plays into the nostalgia that many of us have. As adults we remember how much fun it was to scare ourselves with these books and we are excited to have that thrill again.
Be sure to check back next week when Katie Shanahan Yu takes a look at YA novels from the ’90s.
– Jessica Lind, currently reading I Was Here by Gayle Forman