Flashback: YA in a Time Capsule
It's time for a new adventure as we flash back to the past with these fantastic reads. If you missed the first post, which captured YA literature set in the 1950s through the 1970s, you can find it through DC Library's reading suggestions; look for Part 1. Otherwise, be prepared for the next stop: a land that begins with legwarmers and ends with a glimpse into the future.
Who isn't a John Hughes fan? The eighties have come to represent the glory of excess and teased hair, but they also illustrate a renewed interest in the self - not that that idea ever went out of style. Carolita Blythe's novel, Revenge of a Not So Pretty Girl ponders beauty, both inside and out. This Brooklyn-based story features Faye, who is not your average heroine; she mugs an elderly woman. This unexpected meeting, however, allows a tentative friendship to form, and perhaps a way for Faye to escape the borders of her own prejudices.
Eleanor and Park, the smash hit by Rainbow Rowell, illustrates all the wit and wonder of first love. Masterfully depicted, Rowell infuses the text with nods to the eighties, such as handmade mix tapes, without deviating from the main premise. Although it's totally worth it, prepare the tissues.
A decade that epitomizes the outsider, the wannabees and the uncool; do you own Doc Martens, too? Books like Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira embody the voice of a generation enthralled by Nirvana. Inspired by an English assignment, Laurel writes a letter to Kurt Cobain, since her deceased sister, May, loved the tragic rock star. Personal and moving, Laurel's letters help her move from an idolization of her sister to seeing her as a flawed individual – a move that mirrors Laurel's growth as an individual.
Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen is a bit different: verse rather than prose, this book dramatizes the AIDS epidemic from a family perspective. Mira is devastated to find out that her father has not only hid his sexual orientation but also to discover that he has contracted HIV. A text that illustrates both betrayal and forgiveness, this raw portrayal mirrors the author's own history.
As evidenced by Jay Asher's book Thirteen Reasons Why (recently made into a Netflix original series), the boundaries of this genre continue to expand as it becomes popular in diverse media. What cultural themes will pervade in the following decades? Novels like The Fault in Our Stars or The Hunger Games have certainly captured popular attention, but when we look back, will they also speak to the prevailing concerns or issues of the day?
TTYl by Lauren Myracle might be a possible example of current trends as it speaks to the growth of digital media. This book is written entirely in instant text messaging language and highlights the increasing power of social media in our lives. Featuring a trio of female friends navigating the highs and lows of high school. Interestingly, Myracle's books have often topped the ALA's list for challenged material.
Other novels might point to the effects that terrorism has had on world politics, and more importantly human lives. Cinnamon Girl by Juan Felipe Herrera was written shortly after the September 11th attacks. New YorCityty is buried in the dust of the Twin Towers, and Yolanda waits anxiously for news of her uncle, who was hurt in the attacks. Told in a non-linear format through free verse, this book is as evocative as it is unflinching.
If you've enjoyed these reads and are looking for more, try the Epic Reads "Age of YA" timeline; it covers all of these decades and beyond. Capturing a single moment may be but a small part of the past, but as these reads so aptly demonstrate, good books never go out of style.