Whether you're a millennial or Gen X'er feeling nostalgic and yearning for simpler times — when your biggest problem was remembering your locker combination — or you're trying to introduce your kids to your favorite books from your tween and teen years, these titles will help you remember the days of Sassy and Seventeen.
Reading through these classics for ‘90s kids — and some updates — you'll almost smell the dry erase marker and the lunch special in the cafeteria!
See what the Wakefield twins have been up to since their days at Sweet Valley High. Now, Jessica is a PR maven while Elizabeth is an indie journalist navigating life in their late 20s. There's a pretty big twist that readers will never see coming, but the book itself flashes back to a time when high school parties could include everything from school dances to kidnappings on cruise ships.
For those of us who were into the grunge and punk scene, you may remember Francesca Lia Block, author of the modern indie classic Weetzie Bat. In this collection of nine short stories, ‘90s subcultures in L.A. are alive and well, and Block's modern fairy tales serve as a fantastic escape into some gorgeously written magical realism. If you're trying to prove to your teenagers how cool you used to be, this book might help.
If you remember the paperback Nancy Drews from the nineties, you'll love revisiting Sinister Paradise, yet another mystery easily solved by everyone's favorite red-haired detective. While Nancy Drew was around long before the ‘90s, the series underwent a revitalization in that decade, adding dozens of titles featuring Nancy, along with Bess and George, and, of course, her dreamy boyfriend Ned.
If you're less interested in re-reading old classics and more into how the genre of teen fiction evolved over the years, Paperback Crush is for you. This cultural nonfiction book explores how teen fiction took off in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Back in the ‘90s, youth controlled a huge market share of the publishing world, and publishers responded accordingly. This led to some of our favorite series, along with some more questionable titles — but one thing was for sure: Girl power ruled.
If you loved the spooky stories that defined the mid-’90s, you absolutely must revisit the still-creepy Classic Goosebumps titles by R.L. Stine. The Night of the Living Dummy was as instrumental as Chucky at scaring the pants off an entire generation whenever we walked into a dark room and spotted a doll sitting in the corner.
We Are the Baby-Sitters Club: Essays and Artwork from Grown-Up Readers by Marisa Crawford, Megan Milks and Mara Wilson
If you recall starting a babysitting club (and then realizing the act of babysitting was nowhere near as interesting as Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacy and Dawn made it out to be), you're not alone. That's why these authors compiled essays and artwork from readers of the classic Baby-Sitters Club series into a book of essays. This book will make you nostalgic for kid kits, your first phone line, and the best friends a girl could have.
If the essays weren't enough, you can also check in with Dawn of the Baby-Sitters Club after her tough move back to California, and how she readjusts to life on the West Coast. Unlike the original series, these books are in first-person, and will make you feel a little cringy as you recall some of the things you likely wrote in a diary of your own at that age.
If you graduated from the Goosebumps series or were too old for it when it first launched, you may remember R.L Stine's Fear Street series as well. Think of it as a slightly more mature Goosebumps. The protagonists are high schoolers, the themes are a bit darker, and, frankly, these books are still scary as heck — maybe even creepier — when read as an adult. Besides, who doesn't love a book called First Evil that's all about cheerleaders?
Lois Duncan rivaled R.L. Stine for dark stories for young adult readers in the ‘90s. The New York Times bestselling author is known for I Know What You Did Last Summer, but she had dozens of titles that all fit into the same semi-supernatural genre that combined a bit of an otherworldly element with just plain bad people. Gallows Hill is a perfect example of this: Girl develops the power of prediction, but while that power is magical in nature, the real terror comes from her persecution by her classmates and eventually, the entire town.
If you're looking for YA literature of the ‘90s, revisit Speak. This instant classic is disturbingly just as relevant today as it was 22 years ago when it was first published. The book follows high schooler Melinda, who is dealing with not only the aftermath of being raped at a high school party, but is also rejected by all of her classmates for reporting it. The book should be a must-read for any teen — and is important for parents to revisit to remember just how important it is to listen to your kids.