Are you of a certain age and wish to relive your teenage years through the angst-filled prose of a teen fiction novel? Do you have teens of your own and wish to give them a glimpse of adolescence sans Twitter, Instagram, and ubiquitous cell phones (can you believe that, at times, we were unreachable and didn’t always have cameras with us)? Look no further than this list of teen fiction set in the 80s and 90s:
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – A first young adult novel by the author of Attachments follows the year-long, star-crossed romance between two 1980s high school misfits whose intelligence tells them that first loves almost never last but whose feelings prevent them from remaining as practical.
Pop Culture References – The Smiths, Misfits, Joy Division, Karate Kid, etc.
The Future of Us by Jay Asher – It’s 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet. Emma just got her first computer and Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on–and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future. Everybody wonders what their Destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.
Pop Culture References – Dave Matthews, Wayne’s World, pagers
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – A rerelease of an acclaimed first novel by the screenplay writer for Rent finds misfit Charlie writing letters to an unidentified recipient that share intimate observations about a high school environment of first dates, relationship dramas and experimentations with sex and drugs.
Pop Culture References – The Smiths, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg – Just before her sixteenth birthday, Brie Eagan literally dies of a broken heart when her boyfriend tells her he does not love her, and she then must go through the five stages of grief, while watching her friends and family try to cope with her death, before her faith in love is restored and she can move on to the afterlife.
Pop Culture References – New Kids on the Block, Disney Princesses, the Bangles
The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos – Written as a college admission essay, eighteen-year-old Harry Jones recounts a childhood defined by the hideous scars he hid behind, and how forming a band brought self-confidence, friendship, and his first kiss.
Pop Culture References – Bruce Springsteen, Animal House, Blondie
The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford – It is 1982 and 19-year-old Laura Reid is spending a semester in Leningrad studying Russian, but when she meets Alyosha she discovers the dissident Russia–a world of wild parties, underground books and music, love and constant danger.
Pop Culture References: Neil Young, “Take This Job and Shove It,” McDonald’s
Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers – Sixteen-year-old Maria leaves her father and grandmother in Red Hill, South Carolina, to live with her mother, an artist who lives with her young boyfriend in a tiny apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Pop Culture References: Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, Pavement, Michael Stipe, and many more.
-Dana Tucker is the Teen Services Librarian at the North Branch Library and sometimes wishes she were unreachable. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.