When I was a teenager, Francine Pascal’s iconic series was an escape to a destination that I already knew my way around.
For so many kids coming of age in the 1990s, young adult books served as their entry into adolescence. Popular series like Sweet Valley High, The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Fear Street helped pre-teens understand themselves and the world around them—even if their lives and identities were nothing alike. Diversity was largely ignored in YA publishing at the time, but kids around the world managed to see themselves in these stories, grafting pieces of who they were onto the characters, as well as recognizing the universal “firsts” these books explored: first time lying, being ostracized, seeing parents as people, and, of course, crushing on classmates.
These books were everywhere, dogeared in school libraries, eagerly grabbed at Scholastic Book Fairs in the U.S., or secretly shared at boarding school in Nigeria (see our first story below).
Today, they loom large in our minds, as well as on the internet, where now-grown-up 90s kids have transcribed their impact into stories that go deeper than the original texts. We’ve gathered an eclectic mix of those pieces, essays that will activate your nostalgia and push you to think about these YA classics in new ways.
Image by drante/Getty Images.
For six years during my twenties, I worked as one of the principal ghostwriters for a mass-market series for teenaged girls called Sweet Valley High. Years later, I’m still trying to make sense of what these books meant to me—why I wrote so many of them, and why (eventually) I stopped.
In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, R.L. Stine’s horror series Fear Street—which featured ghosts, vampires, and killer cheerleaders, not to mention illustrated covers decked out with creepy fonts—terrified teens.
BONUS READ: Pleasure in the Pulp: The Tweenage Thrills of Early-90s Point Horror Novels, via The Spinoff.
R.L. Stine, the Giver of ‘Goosebumps,’ on 30 Years, Countless Nightmares, and a Lot of Luck [LISTEN]Endless Thread, WBUR
Stine discusses why he didn’t want to write a series of scary stories for 7-12 year olds initially, but why he now considers them the best audience.
BONUS READ: Goosebumps’ Covers Owe Their Weirdness to One Hardworking Artist, via Polygon.
Nancy Drew has always been a liminal figure, caught between girl and woman, masculine and feminine, traditional and modern...
BONUS READ: Nancy Drew Is Not Who You Remember, via Vulture.
There was absolutely nothing like K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs series back in the late ’90s and there may never be another series like it again.
BONUS READ: Here’s How a ‘90s App Made Those Transforming Animorphs Book Covers, via The Verge.
Launched 40 years ago, Alvin Schwartz’s spooky series pitted school administrators against PTO members pleading to ban the books.
How a best-selling series gave young readers a new sense of agency.
As a preteen Gabrielle Moss devoured books in “The Baby-Sitters Club” and “Sweet Valley High” series. She reread them for “nostalgic stress relief” and ended up writing a book on the genre.
BONUS READ: If You Have a Box of Baby-Sitter’s Club Books at Your Mom’s House, You Need This Book, via Bustle.
A deep dive into the history of the series, its fandom, and its future.
BONUS LISTEN: The Baby-Sitters Club, via Book Riot’s Annotated podcast.
If we had left Venezuela, it had to be because life in America was going to be better, but the BSC world didn’t seem inherently better—just different.
BONUS READ: I Didn’t Expect “The Baby-Sitters Club” Books to Be So Relatable in My 30s, but Guess What, They Are, via BuzzFeed.
How Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and even Stacey taught this Dad to live his best life.
Dig into the gossip, high jinx, and behind-the-scenes struggles that went into the making of your favorite 1990s classics, from ‘Clueless’ and ‘Independence Day’ to ‘Swingers’ and ‘Good Burger.’