Pa­per­back Crush: The To­tally Rad­i­cal His­tory of ‘80s and ‘90s Teen Fic­tion

Gabrielle Moss Quirk Books (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $22.99 (256pp) 978-1-68369-078-8

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Nonfiction - JAIME HERN­DON

Pa­per­back Crush by Gabrielle Moss is an im­mer­sive ex­am­i­na­tion and com­men­tary on teen and tween fic­tion from the 1980s and ‘90s. It’s sprin­kled with per­sonal opin­ions and me­moir el­e­ments as well as in­ter­views with au­thors like Christo­pher Pike.

The full-color graph­ics and myr­iad cov­ers of well-known se­ries like The Baby-sit­ters Club and Sweet Val­ley High; for­got­ten se­ries like Cheer­lead­ers and Camp Sun­ny­side Friends; and books like The Against Taffy Sin­clair Club and Sixth Grade Can Re­ally Kill You will evoke nos­tal­gia in ev­ery reader who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. Ex­am­i­na­tions of their for­mu­laic writ­ing, trends that worked (babysit­ting, board­ing school, hor­ror sto­ries) and those that were a bit more pre­car­i­ous (teen preg­nancy, teen sex, AIDS, and LGBTQ story lines), along with var­i­ous cul­tural ex­pec­ta­tions and back­lashes, con­tain re­minders that young adult fic­tion has al­ways been vi­tal to the lives of teens and has even helped to fos­ter so­cial change.

Reading the book is like hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with a close friend with a shared ob­ses­sion for young adult lit­er­a­ture. Moss pro­vides lots of de­tails with hu­mor and fresh­ness, though piqued fans might want even more in-depth dis­cus­sions of the ti­tles. The age ranges of the books dis­cussed are some­what blurred, with books se­ries like Pen Pals and Sleep­over Friends ap­pear­ing along­side Cheer­lead­ers, Sweet Val­ley High, and Class of ’88—ti­tles more squarely aimed at teens.

Though the book builds up mo­men­tum through­out, its end­ing seems abrupt, as if the last chap­ter ends in the mid­dle, without an epi­logue or a segue into con­tem­po­rary YA. Still, this is an en­joy­able book that will ap­peal strongly to mil­len­ni­als and Gen Xers who are eager to re­live some of their early reading years or to dive into com­fort reading.

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