Flashback: YA in a Time Capsule
Be it longing for days gone by or for those proud unicorns among us who refuse to age, there are many YA books that evoke a particular era. So put on your favorite mood music and grab a comfy spot as we zoom through books that flashback to the past.
It wasn't all sock hops while singing “Greased Lightning”; the fifties also saw the rise of the beatnik generation and the emergence of cultural heroes like Jim Stark from Rebel Without a Cause. Ellen Levine underscores this social disjunction in her book In Trouble, a novel that dramatizes the era before Roe vs. Wade, through friendship and an unplanned pregnancy.
Hippies, Woodstock and bell bottom pants, right? Maybe. But underneath the calm of "flower power" was real cultural discord, as opinion over national topics inspired both debate and divisiveness. In My Name is Not Easy, Luke is sent to a boarding school miles away from his native village, where he experiences the pain of homesickness and the fear of losing touch with his Iñupiat culture. Told in a multitude of narrative voices, this text 's focus on cultural identity draws parallels with the civil rights movement.
Part murder mystery, part coming of age story, I'm Glad I Did features a unique writer, legendary songwriter Cynthia Weil. JJ 's parents are set on her following in their footsteps by becoming a lawyer, but she's drawn to the world of music and wants nothing more than to become a songwriter. Setting the background of the text in the sixties brings a lively, creative air as JJ struggles to find her own voice.
Often noted as the era of the disco party craze, the 1970s actually marks a shift in American culture from the turbulent sixties to the Reagan inspired eighties. Meg Medina 's Burn Baby Burn encompasses these elements: Medina wonderfully encapsulates the terror of the "Summer of Sam" as she portrays Nora, who is on the cusp between youth and adulthood, and the mixed emotions that this fragile balance brings.
A.S. King 's novel, Everybody Sees the Ants illustrates similar narrative complexity as it follows the story of Lucky, a young man haunted by the death of his grandfather in the Vietnam War. Bullied at school, Lucky uses his dreams of his grandfather's journey in Laos to escape. But as the dreams become wilder, Lucky is forced to wonder how long he can keep hiding by not confronting reality.
Not feeling nostalgic enough, or have we just not hit your favorite era yet? Check out Part 2 of this post as we cover the eighties and nineties before turning our eyes to the future, because to quote the good Dr. Emmett Brown: "Roads? Where we're going we don't need... roads!"