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The Hub Loves the ’90s: ’90s Historical Fiction?!

The Hub Loves the '90sHappy end of April, Hubbers!  I can’t believe it’s already almost summer; time moves very quickly when you’re not noticing, I guess.  And, with that little rumination on the passage of time, I give to you the third and final installment in our The Hub Loves the ’90s series – great posts from Jessica and Katie have been featured in previous weeks, so be sure to check those out if you missed them the first time around.

The thing is, the 1990s were and continue to be the best decade that’s ever existed, and I’m not just saying that because that was when I was a teenager!  Like Katie said, I developed interests and favorites in the world of pop culture that still stay with me today.  I was just mentoring a teen the other day that was looking at the latest Rolling Stone that features Kurt Cobain on the cover.  She made a really quick comment to me about how great he is.  And, readers, let me tell you – that just sparked such a wonderful feeling in my heart because I could see that things I cared about (Nirvana being the #1 thing I loved as a teen) are still resonating with teens today.  As an adult, you want to think the art that shaped you will matter in the future, and a lot of 90s pop culture is still attracting teens, which is pretty great.

Well, enough with my sappy introspection!  With the influx of 90s culture into the current day, and like Katie mentioned, the influx of 30-somethings into the field of YA literature, we’ve got a bit of a ’90s revival happening in recent teen fiction.  Now, there’s no way I want to call fiction set in the ’90s historical fiction (how old does that make me?!), so how about recent past fiction, instead?  Good.  It’s settled.  So, here’s a list of some recent past fiction set in the 1990s that I thought I’d feature for all you Hubbers – first up, Facebook in the 90s?!

The Future of UsThe Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler:  In 1996, Josh and Emma are neighbors and former best friends – but, that all changed last year when Josh thought they could maybe be more than friends.  Now things are awkward, to say the least; Josh and Emma are more separate than they’ve ever been.  Then, one day, Emma gets a new computer from her Dad, a guilt gift she calls it, and hurries to install AOL using the CD-ROM that came with the computer – remember those?  Anyways, when she’s signing on to all the screens that pop up, one of them takes her to something called Facebook….and that’s when she sees herself in the future.  She calls Josh up to see if he can explain this; it was his AOL CD that she used, after all.  As they peruse the page together, they suddenly realize that this is a super big deal; every time they do something differently than they originally intend to or even when they just refresh the page, their future changes whether they like it or not.  They soon learn that they can use this to their advantage, working angles to get exactly what they want to be reflected in the status updates of their future selves.  Yet, as they work to get their future to exactly where they want it to be, they start to realize that maybe what they don’t want what they think they should.  That maybe their happy ever after is staring right back at them.  I really thought this was a fun take on the Sliding Doors/Butterfly Effect phenomenon mixed with some romance, as well.  A fun, fast read that will get readers thinking about what their future might hold.

Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho:  I first wrote about this book in my Realistically Speaking post from October 2014, so I’m just going to reiterate how much I love this sweet, quiet book that will appeal to readers who loved Eleanor & Park.  Here’s a synopsis, in case you missed it the first time around:  Set in the mid-1990s, Althea & Oliver have been neighbors and best friends for practically forever.  But, Althea loves Oliver – like loves him, loves him, and he’s just not sure he wants to be more than friends.  One thing that is really holding Oliver back is that he has some kind of sleeping disorder that causes him to sleep for days, weeks, months at a time.  With that much time spent asleep, missing all the great things that happen when you’re a teenager, Oliver can’t deal with Althea and the love for him that she’s no longer hiding.  No one can figure out what’s wrong with him much less how to treat him, but one day, Nicky, Oliver’s mom, sees a report on the news about a doctor who’s studying Kleine-Levin Syndrome and sees similarities between how they’re describing it and what Oliver experiences.  Everything seems to be looking up, but, then things turn sour between Oliver & Althea when she takes things too far with him one night and Oliver decides to just up and leave to go to the treatment facility where the doctor is doing a clinical study of the disease.  He doesn’t tell Althea.  She’s devastated and will stop at nothing to find him.  What she does find out leads her to New York City and it’s there that she realizes that her life might be more than just Oliver and North Carolina.  She discovers that the world is vast and her life is only just beginning.  A great book that’s melancholy, funny, and heartbreaking in all the right ways.

Paper AirplanesPaper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter:  We’re going across the sea for this one!  In 1994 in Guernsey, a small island located just off France, live 2 young women – Flo and Renée.  Flo is best friends with Sally, out of habit only, to be perfectly honest.  Sally is a jerk, treats Flo quite poorly and seems to only want to come round because of Flo’s handsome older brother, Julian.  Flo feels really alone.  Renee lives with her grandparents and younger sister since her mum died and her dad left.  She has a school friend in Margaret, you know the kind of friend that you only socialize with at school?  She also doesn’t understand why her grandparents won’t talk to her about her mum and why her sister seems to hate her and is spending her days crying in the bathroom at school.  Renée is quite lonely.  Lucky for readers, these 2 lonely girls meet and the rest is history.  This book is part humor, part melancholy, part painful – but, readers will root for Flo & Renée all the way to ending that they both deserve.  There are some rough roads along the way, but maybe Flo & Renée will see that true friendship is something that weathers the storm, and a true friend will be there for you always.

The Carnival at BrayThe Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley (2015 Printz Honor, 2015 Morris Finalist:  So, I really loved this book so, so much.  A bit of a personal anecdote – I’m back in the town I spent all of my teen years in taking care of a sick parent, and this book, along with being back where I made so many memories, is taking me right back to 1993 and the year I was 16 – just like the main character in our story, Maggie.  Maggie loves living in Chicago and she really loves her Uncle Kevin – he’s everything a cool uncle should be – into awesome alt-rock, he’s in a band, and he loves educating Maggie on politics, religion, and free thinking.  Maggie’s not so thrilled with her mom, Laura.  Ever since Maggie’s dad left, Laura has been falling in and out of love for years until she meets Colm.  Maggie thinks this will be another flash in the pan romance, but Colm asks Laura to marry him…and move back to his home country, Ireland.  Maggie and her younger sister are uprooted from Chicago and their grandma and beloved Uncle Kevin to start new in a totally unfamiliar country.  But, she gets care packages from Kevin and soon falls in love with a wonderful Irish boy.  Horrifically, tragedy strikes, and Maggie must do what she can to fulfill a final request bestowed upon her by someone she loves, and it leads her to places she never thought she’d go, literally and figuratively.  A beautifully written, touching book that will stay with readers long past the last page.  I didn’t want to leave Maggie behind.

So, readers, there you have it – the ’90s are back in book form and better than ever!  You know, I also wanted to included a longer reference to another book I’m reading, Tape by Steven Camden, but I didn’t quite finish it in time for this post – but, I’m really enjoying it, as well.  It’s set in England and involves 2 teenagers – 1 in the ’90s, 1 in modern times who are able to correspond with each other through recordings on cassette tapes.  So far, it’s a really engaging book that will be enjoyed by readers who appreciate dual narration in their stories.  I’ll be back next month with all next book recommendations that deal with something I’ve been noticing a lot when reading descriptions for upcoming books – feminist literature for teens!  Hope to see you then!

Traci Glass, currently reading Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten & Tape by Steven Camden