My husband, Steve, is pretty smart. We had a conversation about my writing and what kind of projects I’d enjoy working on next. He asked, “Well, what kind of books did you want to read when you were a kid? Write one like that.”
It seems silly, but I never really put it into perspective that way. Of course in the 80s and 90s teen books were quite different than they are now. We didn’t need some super flashy action sequence or a hero’s quest in our books. We had nice, slice of life books that made you connect to the characters – at least that’s the kind of books I liked.
So here’s a small list of books that I remember enjoying.
- The Babysitter’s Club series
- Where the Red Fern Grows
- The Diary of Anne Frank
- Tiger Eyes
- Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
- Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade
- Pen Pals series
- Choose Your Own Adventure series
- A Summer to Die
- Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood
- Fear Street series
- Christopher Pike novels
- Flowers in the Attic
- Goosebumps series
- The Face on the Milk Carton
- The Girl in the Box
Bottom line: no fantasy. Yes, I liked some of the horror and mysteries, and as I was older the dark and emotional, but no dragons, wizards, elves, etc. I liked books that I could connect with, and books that dealt with “creatures” always felt weird and wrong to me. In fact, I remember being grossed out when we watched the cartoon version of The Hobbit, and they talked about the hair on their feet. And the dwarf peeing on the wall of in Labryinth? Grody to the max, man.
If you’d like to dig up your 80s and 90s teen book past, here’s a handy list of paperbacks to browse through. I know I recognize a lot of them from back then. Also, it just occurred to me – Where did we buy our books in the 80s anyway? Barnes and Noble wasn’t in our tiny Midwestern town, that’s for sure.