Book Review: Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction by Gabrielle Moss

Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen FictionTitle: Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction
Author: Gabrielle Moss
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback (purchased copy)
Publisher: Quirk Books
Age Group: Young Adult/Adult
Genre: Non-fiction

Every twenty- or thirty-something woman knows these books. The pink covers, the flimsy paper, the zillion volumes in the series that kept you reading for your entire adolescence. Spurred by the commercial success of Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club, these were not the serious-issue YA novels of the 1970s, nor were they the blockbuster books of the Harry Potter and Twilight ilk. They were cheap, short, and utterly beloved. PAPERBACK CRUSH dives in deep to this golden age with affection, history, and a little bit of snark. Readers will discover (and fondly remember) girl-centric series on everything from correspondence (Pen Pals and Dear Diary) to sports (The Pink Parrots, Cheerleaders, and The Gymnasts) to a newspaper at an all-girls Orthodox Jewish middle school (The B.Y. Times) to a literal teen angel (Teen Angels: Heaven Can Wait, where an enterprising guardian angel named Cisco has to earn her wings “by helping the world’s sexist rock star.”) Some were blatant ripoffs of the successful series (looking at you, Sleepover Friends and The Girls of Canby Hall), some were sick-lit tearjerkers à la Love Story (Abby, My Love) and some were just plain perplexing (Uncle Vampire??) But all of them represent that time gone by of girl-power and endless sessions of sustained silent reading. In six hilarious chapters (Friendship, Love, School, Family, Jobs, Terror, and Tragedy), Bustle Features Editor Gabrielle Moss takes the reader on a nostalgic tour of teen book covers of yore, digging deep into the history of the genre as well as the stories behind the best-known series.
I am exactly the target audience of this fantastic book. I mean, I read at least 50% of the books mentioned in this pop culture study of what it meant to be a young girl reading teen fiction published throughout the '80s and '90s, which is mind-blowing.

There are also interesting tidbits of information that I wasn't aware of such as, if you look closely at The Baby-Sitters Club (grammatically incorrect, by the way) book #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, you may not notice that young blonde baby is actually a baby Kirsten Dunst! I mean, this book is absolute genius. It's a study on what was going on psychologically, societally, culturally, and financially that was either reflected or absent, from YA fiction of the times.

The table of contents includes chapters such as Love, Friends, Family, School, Jobs, Danger, and Terror. It's interesting to see how authors and publishers were working to sometimes push the limits (such as focusing on taboo subjects such as AIDS), or the alternative, completely ignoring the fact that not everyone was white and from upper-middle-class society (I'm looking at you, Wakefield twins).

But one of the "thesis" presented in this book is that you just can't get mad. The YA culture really began during these times (and the trailblazers stemming from the '30s) and young girls were eating these books up - whether readers saw themselves in the pages or not. It's an interesting look at the multiple facets of this time period as it pertains to "young adult" as a category and how it emerged and formed into something of its own in the publishing world.

Here are just a sample of covers you see throughout the book, along with the author's narrative:

Patti's Luck (Sleepover Friends, #1)Kate's Surprise (Sleepover Friends, #3)
You've Been Away All SummerSweet Valley High Collection: Double Love, Secrets, Playing with Fire (Sweet Valley High, #1-3)Roommates (The Girls of Canby Hall, #1)Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book
Mary Anne and Camp BSC (The Babysitters Club, #86)Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls (The Baby-Sitters Club, #2)Ask Me If I CareLove and Betrayal and Hold the Mayo
The Prom Queen (Fear Street, #15)The Overnight (Fear Street, #3)The Midnight Club

As the title implies, this book certainly made me nostalgic, as I was a young, chubby, latin girl living in a lower-middle-class neighborhood who ate it all up and wanted more. Like the book suggests, and all the inherent problems aside, these books really did introduce me to a lot of "issues" and "concepts" in the world that I wouldn't have otherwise known about if it weren't for these books I read during my formidable years. Yes, I also liked the classics, but I still remember my parents buying me the latest Baby-Sitters Club book and finishing it by the time we got home from the store.

This book is great for those who read these books as they were published and for the readers of today! It's a great historical perspective which makes me feel absolutely ancient but excited that I lived through the genesis of it all!

As always, happy reading!!


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